Friday, June 03, 2011

Raining Cats

Our patience with cruising life is never challenged more directly than when it rains. The last time rain factored regularly, persistently and drearily in our cruising world was in the Pacific Northwest. There we learned the wonders of wet. A cruising boat in a rainy climate is never dry. It is never dry on the outside. It is never dry in the cockpit. It is never dry in the salon or the companionway or in the heads. The curtains, cushions, and counters are not dry. The floors, beds, and cupboards are not dry. Clothes are not dry and sponges are sour. The cat is in a really bitchy mood, and the place between your legs just a few inches above your knees where the fat in your thighs rubs gets sticky, sweaty, salty and painful. Boy howdy this cruising life is FUN.

As we sit in steamy French Polynesia, quite literally stewing in our own juices, we can't help but reflect on our lives in New Zealand. It rains all the time in the Auckland area. As near as we can tell, the dry season is roughly two weeks long in mid-January... during a drought year. Unlike our homeport of Seattle, when it rains in Auckland, the weather gods are serious about the enterprise. It is never more apparent that New Zealand is just a really big island in the middle of the ocean than when it rains. You can literally see the rain bands as they pass over your head in squall after squall. Don't like the weather? Wait 10 minutes. Squall, sun, squall, sun. During a squall, the rain comes down hard enough to be painful, the water runs in rivers down the sidewalks, the tin roofs sound like so many tin cans full of pennies being rolled down a steep concrete driveway. So the short answer to what it will be like to live on Don Quixote during a New Zealand winter is: hellish. Unless we undertake some rather serious renovations, repairs and changes, we'll spend several years gradually dissolving.

Our to do list for arrival in New Zealand is an increasingly frequent topic of sundowner conversation. As with all South Pacific cruisers, our first priority must be to "fix broken shit." Everyone breaks stuff. Everyone wears stuff out. New Zealand and Australia are the golden zones to get this equipment repaired and replaced. Both countries are expensive, but there are options, expertise, and outstanding shipping. The priority on Don Quixote will of course be to fix those items which are issues of safety and/or longevity of the boat. So far, fortunately, our list of brokenness which meets this category is limited to the dinghy motor, which presumably we must solve in Tahiti anyway.

Next level of repairs are those that dramatically improve comfort. It is into this category fall many of the changes we will undertake to waterproof the boat. Ridiculous as it might sound, it is almost impossible to keep the inside of a boat dry. In fact, one of the singular luxuries of owning a boat is that when it gets really dirty inside, you can just pull out the bedding and the books and take a hose to the thing. It's generally already wet anyway. However, for the long haul of living aboard, we must keep things drier. This requirement will no doubt result in moving up in the priority list items such as replacing the hatch lens and seals for the three cabins, replacing the dodger and rain covers, and upgrading the fans throughout. Ventilation is one of the best ways to reduce interior humidity. I have this from an expert. We'll install outdoor carpet in the cockpit, establish "transition zones" for shoes, wet clothes, etc. and find a way to desiccate cat paws and fur. Somehow.

In the meantime, I'm working on flexible hatch covers. The idea is to use a vinyl sheet to cover the hatches so that water is repelled and rolls of the sides without pooling in the hinges. However, I don't want to block light, and we need to be able to open and close the hatches at will. I have a prototype I'm rather pleased with. If this works, I'll make a full set so we can all pop the hatches open without fear of drowning in the run off.

There are many other projects to undertake, some cosmetic, some maintenance, some enhancements. They will probably dominate this blog next year, in fact, so I might as well hold off writing more about them.

No comments: