We are spending the holidays in Merry Olde England this year (actually, we’ll be in Merry Olde Wales, but that’s another story), so last week, Benn and I made the journey from Louisiana to Ipswich — where Pas de Deux lay patiently awaiting our return.
Even though we bought her three months ago, I still had yet to see Pas de Deux in person, and walking down the pontoon to meet her for the first time was more than a little nerve-wracking. After all, not only is she supposed to be our home for at least the next several years, but she is also the central element in a not-so-practical, high-risk life plan with the remarkable potential to be far more exciting in theory than in reality. Pas de Deux is the boat that is supposed to take us around the world — or, at the very least to France — and we’re not even totally sure that we’ll be able to navigate her out of Ipswich harbor.
I can’t say that it was love at first sight — it was too dark once we arrived at the dock to see much of anything at all. But, after spending one night aboard Pas de Deux and waking up to the sun shining brightly through the hatches and portholes, all of the plans and possibilities we’ve been brewing for the past 6 months seemed suddenly, miraculously achievable.
Pas de Deux is a wonderful boat — sturdy and capable and only in need of a tiny bit of attention in order to be a perfect home.
We spent the next few days after our arrival poking around Ipswich, looking in the windows of abandoned Tudor houses, drinking ale, and visiting every antique and charity shop within a one-mile radius of our marina. It was fun and exciting, and Benn was happy to be able to share with me everything he’d discovered in the past 3 months, but we were clearly avoiding the immediate tasks at hand — i.e., unpacking, cleaning, and dealing with the staggering amount of condensation streaming down the interior walls and windows of our boat.
Apparently, heavy condensation is a common problem among fiberglass liveaboards in cold climates, and little Pas de Deux is no exception. Human beings exhale and perspire approximately 400ml of water per day (unfortunately, there is no data on the amount of H2O exhaled by huskies), and, unless your boat is well-insulated and ventilated, all of that breath/sweat-water collects on the walls and window panes and in the form of condensation. Not only does this create a wonderful environment for mold to grow, but, in our case, the water that collects on top of the shelves and around the grab handles has also washed some of the wood varnish away, leaving long, orange streaks along the walls and thick, brown stains on the fabric cushions and countertops below.
The two most important means of combatting condensation are insulation and ventilation, neither of which are quite up to standard on Pas de Deux. After all, until now, she’s been a fun-loving girl, spending most of her time coursing along gentle, warm summer winds. The demands of two humans and a husky during the brutal English winter are a bit more exacting.
When we bought her, Pas de Deux was already well-lined with cork, which is an effective and fire-retardant insulator, but not heavy duty enough for winter liveaboards. Benn has already insulated most of the deck area with Recticel, a foam core insulation panel, but the sides of the hulls are some parts of the deck have not been treated yet. We’re hoping that once that’s done, the condensation will be much less of a problem, but the biggest issues are really caused by the windows and hatches. Pas de Deux has lots and lots of windows — plus two hatches right above the berths that drip cold water onto the beds below all through the night. For the time being, we’ve covered the windows with bubble wrap, but in the future we will need to find another, more permanent solution. We are open to suggestions, if any of you happen to have some.
When it comes to reducing condensation, ventilation is even more important than insulation. We have two vents on Pas de Deux — some of our neighbors have seven. Even though we leave the door and portholes open as much as possible, it is impossible to ventilate the boat well enough. We also have a dehumidifier, which doesn’t really solve all of our problems, but is better than nothing. This spring, we will probably have to install more vents (Benn likes the solar powered ones) and possibly a fan heater.
Unfortunately, it is too late to deal with most of these issues this winter. So, we’ve invested in quite a few sponges and have embraced the fact that sometimes we’re going to be awoken in the middle of the night by water dripping from the ceiling. Everything that we don’t want to get ruined is packed up in clear plastic boxes or shoved in places that are far away from windows and walls. As Benn keeps saying, this is probably the worst it will get. And, even though it’s cold and wet, it’s still wonderfully fun.
Luckily, there are no other major issues that need to be dealt with. Every change we have to make to Pas de Deux is a choice rather than a necessity. The surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom are nice and clean, there are plenty of shelves and storage lockers, and there are lots of classic boaty features everywhere that minimize the awful, slick, spaceship design of most modern catamarans. Of course, we still have tons of changes in mind — both of us favor a design aesthetic that tends more towards 18th-century-admiral’s-cabin than 2001: A Space Odyssey, but happily we can make these changes step by step as we find the fixtures and furniture that suits us best. Besides, we are both inveterate (re: compulsive) antiques hunters, and it would be a shame to have to make all of our purchases at once and deprive ourselves the pleasure of spending the next several years rooting around shops and warehouses in search of unique and affordable decorative elements.
Our first step in the 18th-century-admiral direction was the purchase of this beautiful antique writing desk, which will replace the folding chart table next to the navigation station. Please note the slim, elegant legs, the practical rolltop enclosure, and the charming and inventive retractable writing surface, complete with tilting slope and leather covering. We have yet to figure out a way to fix the desk to the boat without destroying it (bolting it to the wall seems too cruel), but we will surely find some sort of solution eventually.
Whether or not we will find a solution for the rainstorm of condensation flooding our cabin is another story, but we are confident. It isn’t too bad, anyway. No matter what, it still beats living on land.