There is no missing it. Autumn is here, and she's a-struttin'.
The geese have gone – squawking like traitors overhead for weeks. The plants have either died or been moved inside, and pumpkins replace the inner-tubes on the bow.
Around us, the marina's annual rituals have begun. One-at-a-time, boats are hauled out of the water – their hulls dripping with slime. They are pressure washed, shrink-wrapped, and tucked away for the winter on stilts along the treeline. Increasingly they resemble a line of crooked teeth, or tombstones.
At the moment, it appears that there will be 5 of us wintering aboard our boats this year. One boat houses the truest veterans of this life – Eric and Diane - a couple who has lived aboard at least 15 years. There's Melby and I aboard Toad Hollow, of course. This will be my 8th winter aboard, Melby's 4th. Two boats are in for their second winter: Don and Keith & Birdie; and then we have Kari, the newbie. 8 people, 9 dogs.
Everyone is lovely and I suspect the only asshole we're likely to encounter is Winter herself.
Already, aboard Toad Hollow, we are experiencing one aggravating seasonal tradition: mice. I've had mice as long as I've lived aboard a boat. Toad Hollow has, I suspect, had mice from the instant she was built. It didn't seem a natural infestation to me at first, but of course rodents and boats have gone hand-in-hand for centuries. They crawl aboard the same way we do - on the docks. Toad Hollow has the added welcome sign of a thick sturdy length of rope that is tied from our bow directly to a tree on shore... in the leaves...
We handle them the same way any household does. Hope they'll go away on their own and when that fails, indiscriminate slaughter. We are currently in the phase of hoping they'll go away on their own – both of us mired in a Disney-ism of the little darlings. I mean, few things are more adorable than a little mouse.
They can't stay, of course. We know this. Because what is decidedly un-cute is that they are shitting, fucking and dying in our walls. They have to go... eventually... somehow...
It's complicated when the cats catch one. We want them to catch the mice, we're glad when they have killed the mice, but we don't want to see, hear – or really even know about it. A few times it has happened in prime-family-time; during dinner or in the middle of a movie. There's a lot of hopping and whooping and grabbing for buckets.
If the mouse is near dead, we kill it. I'm still a farm-girl at heart and can do that. If it's alive and well, we take it to the woods and let it go (where we know and accept it may die an even more horrible death or come back aboard...) Once, last year, we got a mouse from Fuzzy Cat that was too well to kill; and too hurt to let loose – so we kept him in a lovely little cage for a week. Then he escaped and... well, went back into the walls, we guess.
(Pictured left: The only photo of mouse, Mr. Bates.)
We can neither confirm nor deny that the mouse tail we found in the middle of the living-room two weeks later belonged to Mr. Bates or one of his unnamed kin.
On November 15th, the experience of living on boat really shifts into Winter-mode. The shore water is shut off. This means we no-longer have the endless supply of water running to our faucets from the city's above-ground hook-up. From November 15th til April 15th, we ration.
We have a 100-gallon fresh water tank on board. We replenish our water from a 300-gallon tank that is delivered – on an irregular schedule - via a pick-up truck. Approximately every 10-15 days the truck arrives and (if you're home) you run a hose from the truck down the ramp and into your boat. It's an imperfect system to begin with, but made more imperfect by the fact that occasionally the 300-gallon tank is outside too long and freezes solid. It can take days of it parked in the shop before we can use it again. Sometimes it is so cold that the water freezes as it runs between the tank and your boat. Warm towels can sometimes save the day... sometimes.
But even in the best of cases, we only have about 8 gallons to use a day – between the two of us. To give that some perspective, the average 10-minute shower uses between 30-50 gallons.
This situation does a lot of things to our day-to-day lives. Most notably, of course, we don't shower at home. Friends and family are familiar with the gym bags that accompany us; stealing showers where we can. There is a shower in the marina; and laundry; and they're not bad. But they're communal and subject to the marina's priority list in terms of maintenance. We both find we go to the gym almost everyday.
We wash dishes like we're camping and save the water at the end to use to flush the toilet. For six months we wash our faces and hands in ice cold water because we don't have enough to let it run and get warm.
In short, it sucks.
Perhaps it sucks the most because it is somewhat avoidable. We've tried to convince the powers-that-be that we need water delivered more frequently, if not more reliably. But it's an old fight. Eight winters and this is the third marina manager since I've lived here. Each manager has had their strengths and their weaknesses – but they've all had this in common: The belief that the winter live-a-boards simply aren't important. And despite my obvious bias, I can sympathize with that.
There are very few of us, we provide no notable income stream, and serving winter live-a-boards is not a service they offer or advertise. There are very few places where live-a-boards can keep a boat (legally) in the water in the Winter. Although we pay them for the space here, it is not much more than they're being paid to keep boats on land; and those boats sit empty and undemanding.
(Pictured right: Toad Hollow frozen in last winter.)
I've used every tactic I got to fix the winter water situation: bitch, plead, flirt, threaten...
But they've always got this ace: 'If you don't like it, Dawn, move.'
And I can't even bluff my way out of it. They know and I know – this is my heaven.
This marina is on a nature preserve with miles of river-front running trails. I love my neighbors and the fire pit and Fort Snelling and Jonathan, the Beaver. I love the ducklings, and the carp, and the caves and mechanics. I love being 5 minutes from the airport and 15 minutes from either downtown.
Rationing water for six months out of the year it is. Break out the hats.
In other news:
It's the fourth anniversary of the Twin Cities Film Festival and Melby and I both have films in it! Melby directed and produced the feature, Bahamian Son, which was shot on location in Nassau, Bahamas in 2011. I acted in the feature, Ghost Light, which just won Best Ensemble Cast at the Best Actors Film Festival in San Francisco. Red Carpet here we come!
I'm also currently rehearsing a play called 'The Veteran's Play Project' with The Barefoot Collective and Mixed Blood Theater. It's an intense and beautiful process; an original script with a cast of half veterans and half professional actors. We're all learning so much – most notably for me, how to do a proper push-up.
Next Post>>: Feb. 14th, 2014: "Everything Sucks"
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