Thursday, March 5, 2009

Manatees are awsome & clutter isn't

So all of us have now had the chance to glimpse a small portion of a manatee. They are just amazing creatures. I don't know what it is about them, maybe it's that they are so huge and still so graceful, maybe it's the fact that they won't eat you (they only eat veggies), but manatees are just lovable and we feel honored each time we see them. A couple of days ago one swam right behind the boat while we were in the slip. Everyone ran to the back of the boat to glimpse it from head to flipper. Everyone except Kaitlin made it in time. Then, yesterday Casey saw the full body of another one and followed it as it swam under docks and boats. He was so excited to see them for so long. Kaitlin was extremely jealous. So, today I took Kaitlin out so she might get a chance to view a whole manatee. Lo and behold, within the first 5 minutes of watching, those oh so familiar uprisings of water appeared. You see, the way to sight a manatee is to watch for a glassy spot of water that moves in a straight line. That is the uprising of water from the manatee's tail as it swims. So now everyone here has had the chance to see the full head, body and mammoth tail of the beautiful manatee.

Now for the clutter part of the blog. Provisioning was awesome, nerve wracking, fun, and tiring all at the same time. We had one day with the car, and a long list of items to get. My original calculations had us at 6 stops with 1 1/2 hours of travel time. The car had to be back at 6:00 pm, so that gave us approximately 45 minutes at each stop. I had looked up the addresses for our stops online, but google gave me 2 identical addresses for sams club and walmart that were on the opposite sides of Fort Lauderdale. I didn't have much faith in finding these places. We lucked out and found Sams Club right away. We got cheeses, meat, canned goods, soda, fruit cups, choc. syrup, ketchup, and a few other things there. We then went to the nearest walmart, only to find out that it was't a super Walmart. After spending about 15 minutes there and finding nothing we needed, we decided to find a super Walmart. I was kicking myself for wasting precious, precious car time.

We finally found a super Walmart and split up our list. Chris handled the non-grocery items, and the kids and I went after the food. Things were tense. We had spent too much time at Sams, and lost a lot of time at the regular Walmart. The kids were getting in the way as I tried to zoom the shopping cart around the isles. I kept chastizing them for hindering instead of helping. They were having fun, and I don't think they realized the gravity of the situation. This was our last chance to get the bulk of our food for the next 2-3 months! I think I was also a bit nervous about missing something and wasting more time.

We met up at the checkout counter and double checked our list. Things were looking good. Most of the list was done and it was about 3:00. Three hours to go. Chris drove us back to the boat and we quickly unloaded the car. He took the car to West Marine, while the kids and I loaded the food onto the boat and put the parishables away. The kids were absolutely amazing for this. They carted bags and bags of food, heavy canned goods and 3 packs of 32 sodas from the parking lot onto the boat. I loaded everything onto the boat and put most of the meat into the freezer. Not all of it fit, which made me a bit nervous. I still had 6 family packs of chicken breasts that had to be left on ice in my sink. Kudos to Casey for running to the marina office for ice! Vacume sealing would make more room, but would it make THAT much more room? We would have to see when it came time to seal all the meat.

Chris came back from West and we headed off to the dive store. We all got new snorkeling sets, and they even had flippers that fit Chris! A few days earlier we talked to someone about snorkeling, and she commented that she hated it until she got a prescription mask. The prescription mask made it so she could actually see and enjoy the underwater animals. So, Chris asked about prescription masks at the dive store, and they had them! I insisted that he get them, and saw our previous encounter as a sign. He picked up the goggles today and said they worked well. I can't wait to try all of our new equipment out! I've tried to explain what snorkeling will be like to the kids, but I'm sure they're still going to be blown away.

By now it was about 5:30, plenty of time to go to the Bass Pro shop right around the corner. Ok, we had about 20 minutes to spend there, but it was worth it. We got a lot of friendly advice and a new fishing rod for when we cross the gulf stream. We'll get that big tuna yet! Look out Mahi Mahi, here we come!

When we got home the meat packing began. By the end of it all, Casey and I were pretty sure that we never wanted to see meat again. We did learn that the food sealer doesn't like to seal wet things. Therefore all of the meat had to be patted dry before sealing. And, let me tell you that family packs of chicken are pretty gross to pat dry. By the end of it all we had about 14 pounds of chicken, 6 pounds of ribs (the only meat with a bone I bought because bones take up unnecessary room) 8 pounds of hamburger, 6 pounds of lamb, 6 pounds of pork, 8 pounds of sirloin, 5 pounds of hot dogs, smoked salmon, and some sausage. We *just* made it to the top of our freezer.

Now our boat once again looked like it was hit by a hurricane. I've noticed that it's easy to clean such a small space, but it's equally as easy to get it dirty again. Cans and bottles were piled high on the table. Oh, and it turns out that the linnen closet (to be referred to as the pantry from now on) wasn't as big as I thought it was. I fit as much as I could in there, but there was still a large pile. After reorganizing the storage areas behind the couch, a bit more of the pile was gone. Reorganizing some other spaces ate away a little more. So now we're down to about 30 items that need a home. It doesn't seem like much, but all the cabinets are bulging as it is! I still have one more area to rearrange, and I'm praying that that will take care my pile. Until then, our dinner/school/work table is home to sourkraut, olive oil, dried berries, shortening, artechoke hearts, dill pickles, rasberry jam, drink mix, chickpeas, and muffin tin liners.

Right after getting the provisioning done, things were further complicated by having to move things around to get ready to install our new batteries. This meant pulling 2 bins and miscelaneous items out of our storage area and cluttering up the cabin with them. It would be worth it for the added power from the new batteries. Well, just any power would be good since our old batteries were basically dead.

Because we didn't have the necessary tools and expertise, we decided to hire an electrician to help with the install. He came on Tuesday. It was quite a grueling day. Each of the four new batteries weighed 150 pounds. Each one had to be carried onto the boat and down into the cabin. Because Chris's back was out, it was pretty much up to me. Everyone was quite eager to see how the new batteries fit. Our battery box is 11" high, and the batteries are also exactly 11" high. It was the moment of truth. I knew that the rear port side of the battery box was slightly shorter than the rest, so we lined up the first battery there. We closed the top to the box won't close. It turned out that it was only 10 3/4" high in that corner.

Never fear, out comes my chisel and sander! A little chiseling and sanding and I'll make that battery fit. I'm not letting 1/4 of an inch keep me from all that new power! *Chisel* *Sand* *Heave battery into box to check fit* Darn, not yet! *Chisel* *Sand* (I sure hope this isn't lead paint) *Heave battery* Shoot! Then I stepped into the box to lift the battery again and *crunch* my foot goes through the floor. You have GOT to be kidding me! Well, it was only the middle front part of the floor. The rest of it is ok. Eventually I got the battery to fit. YAY! Now came the cabling part. That was the electricians job.

He had about 2" of space to cable up over 8 half inch cables. And, let me tell you, these babies do NOT like to bend! It ended up being a two person job. The electrician would hold the cables, and I would screw them into the battery. By the end of that day, my fingers were raw, my back was aching, and for some reason I felt like a million bucks! I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the heavy lifting that loosened up my muscles, but I actually felt better after a grueling day of work.

The next day Chris and I had to work some more on the batteries and work on installing the new satelite weather system. He had to go to West again, so while he did that, I took the kids to the local art museum. The Fort Lauderdale Art Museum was amazing! They had an exhibit presenting art from 1850 to 1950. It showed the progression from realistic painting to abstract. I'm not usually an art buff, and Kaitlin was the one who pushed to go, but I actually enjoyed this museum! On the second floor they had more abstract art, and another exhibit of art by high schoolers. The kids and I were quite amused at the guards who followed us around and constantly reminded us not to touch anything. By the end, we were rapidly pointing at art, just to get their goat! It was an amazing experience and we both learned and had fun at the same time.

I hurried back to help Chris with projects, but he hadn't made it back to the boat yet. So, I busied myself with putting more food away. When Chris arrived we worked on the batteries, cabeling the weather system, and I worked on an unfinished cabinet project. When I got to the point where I couldn't fit a shelf in unless it was sawed in half (it was 10:00 at night and you can't use a saw that late) I hit the sack.

Today is Thursday, and the electrician was back to help out today. Lets just say that the last cable was connected to the battery at 8:00 PM tonight, and I had only zapped myself once with AC power and once with DC. I was wiring a new outlet (upon heading to bed on Tuesday, I was so tired that I din't notice the vacume plugged into it, and kicked out the plug along with the outlet) while the power was completely off. I took a break and came back to the outlet. Hmm, that's funny, I think one of these connectors is a bit sharp. *ZAP* *spark* umm, did someone turn the power back on? The second shock came when wiring up the very last battery connector. The electrician warned me not to connect the black to the red. I was connecting a yellow and a black to the battery. Then the bare end of the yellow wire fell on a black wire. *zap* *BIG SPARK*. Hmmm, maybe I should tape the end of that wire while I'm trying to connect the other end? The electrician said I'm now and official electrician myself! YAY!

Nothing seemed to go right for these projects. Chris had trouble with cables, the batteries were quite a bear, and everything is taking 3 times longer than it should. But, now the batteries are done, and we have power. The kids game cabinet is back together. That had gotten taken apart with the whole bilge pump fiasco and never put back together. Things are still all over the place, but work is almost done and then we can put everything back.

On a boat, life is thrown into a major uproar whenever work has to be done. You can't do school, you can't make food, you're tired and cranky, it takes hours of bus riding to get parts, and you can barely move around the boat. The work is tough and in cramp spaces. It's basically awful. But, it's still all worth it and I wouldn't trade this life for anything. We tackle everything together as a family, and that's what its all about!

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