Skip to main content

Power Hungry and All Wet.

A few weeks ago we were sitting on the aft deck on a Friday night, enjoying a lovely evening, and suddenly the power went out.  We looked around and saw that it was just our boat.  Kevin did some investigation and found the cord that brings power to the boat, called "shore power" was not right.  It had melted the plug on to the socket attached to the boat.  It was a bitch getting it off, but once it came, Kevin found it to be messy.  One of the metal contacts on the socket was loose, and the plug was quite knackered.  Is it our boat that has a problem, the cord, or maybe the pedestal on the dock where we plug in?  We didn't know and there we were without power.  Well, that's not quite true, see we have a fancy Kohler generator, we just fired that thing up and all was well.  The generator runs the systems of the boat when you aren't plugged in, the refrigerator, water heater (which can also run off engine heat when underway), stove, microwave, ice-maker, etc.   Of course we don't run it when we aren't around, or at night, so the refrigerator and hot water heater have to keep themselves cold/hot overnight and through the day when we're at work.

Full power!

If you have a power outage in your home you call the emergency service to come out, boats are not really like that.  We waited from Friday night until Monday morning since no service facility was open.  On Monday parts were ordered and they arrived Friday and were installed.  We went one week with no shore power.  What we did have however is A/C since they are separate inputs.  When running the generator we could watch TV, charge our phones, etc. but the entire time we could crank the A/C to ice cold and sit wearing sweaters if we wanted.  The fix wasn't cheap, but not ridiculously expensive either.  It's been three weeks since it was fixed and all is well.

Last night it was the water.  Kevin noticed a small leak in a T fitting on one of the water lines. Access to the line is ridiculously difficult (Damn you Carver engineers!) and he couldn't reach to fix it. Colette to the rescue, she was able to slide her lanky body far enough in to put some plumber's epoxy over the leak.  We waited 30 minutes for it to cure and found it hadn't worked.  We put more on, waited 30 minutes, and nope, still leaking.  Tonight we'll try again.

You can never be too tall or too thin for boat maintenance

Other than the irritations with getting things fixed and small jobs often being much harder than they should be we are starting to experience the downsides of living aboard.  Space is always an issue, but one we manage well.  When we bought furniture we needed to make sure it not only fit in the space, but that it could fit through the door.  Your front door at home is probably three feet wide and it's tough to get furniture in and out, ours is two feet wide.  Bulky objects can be a challenge.

We also have what Kevin considers the equivalent of the barking dog.  At our house we didn't have a dog next door for many years.  When our neighbors did get one he was well behaved, after his adolescence, and didn't bark much.  We have no dogs of any kind at the marina, just the dogs from the building getting walked in the lot next door, which make little or no noise.  What we do have are asshole boaters.  The Chicago River is full of boats during the day, from huge gravel barges, to tour boats, to private vessels of all sizes.  Most of these are polite, some are not.  The tour boats never cause much of a problem, we get to hear the same sections of the tour with every boat that floats by, the Chicago Fire, Bertram Goldberg, Willis Tower, etc but it's not bad.

Most private boats are very respectful of the NO WAKE signs on the river and go slow.  Some don't, and when we see them and ask them to slow down they won't.  They are scum of the earth, the types of people that want to do 12 miles per hour past our marina instead of 8 even when they know their wakes could damage every boat in the marina, knock someone off a dock, and cause general discomfort for everyone.  There are a lot of these people and it's sad that they would treat other boaters this way.  The barges are fine in the daytime, they go slow and take care.  At night, when the waters are clear and people are sleeping, it's a different story.  We wake up often with our boat rocking and rolling from the wakes of these behemoths in the middle of the night.  The boat slams into the piers, rocks back and forth, doors swing open and closed, objects fall.  It keeps Kevin awake at night, he worries about Cygnet.

Not quite slow enough

So Water We Thinking about our issues?  Well another boat in our marina is named "99 Problems" and our numbers aren't that far away.  This may seem like a pessimistic post but we are still loving the life.  It's the little things that you don't think of that can drive you crazy or make you love it more. Right now the positives are strongly outweighing the negatives.


  1. Your article is something I can personally relate to. I once had a job in Spain to carry out maintenance and fix parts that were damaged in boats. It can be very challenging at times, especially working in such a tight space. Thank you for telling your story, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    Levi Eslinger @ Capital Plumbing


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Stolen! How Chicago Ribber was taken for a ride.

If you missed the last post you might not know that we purchased a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) to use as a runabout on the river.  Since Cygnet is such a big yacht we find that there are times we'd like to go out on the water but just don't want to deal with the hassle of taking our home away from its home.  So we found a BRIS brand RIB on ebay and purchased a few add-ons and an outboard motor to putt around the river whenever we want.  We love it and it has been a great addition to the fleet (now up to 2)!

Shortly after we had Chicago Ribber we started exploring a bit.  We took a trip to Whole Foods and REI for some shopping, we've gone for Saturday brunch and fireworks, and down to Chinatown to watch movies in the park.  One night we invited a couple friends to ride along with us to Island Party Hut.  It's a fun place along the Chicago Riverwalk that has drinks, food, picnic tables, lounge chairs, live music, bags, jenga, great people watching, and many ways to ente…
We've passed the four year anniversary of living on Cygnet and one thing we've realized in that time is that she's is too big.  We don't mean she's too big for living aboard, she's just about perfect for that, but for taking her out for a casual cruise.  We've done trips with just the two of us before, like our trip to St Joseph, Michigan, but those cruises are generally because we are doing something special and we don't have a crew available.  Having a third person aboard makes a huge difference in what we can handle.  If you are thinking about living aboard as a single or couple you need to be aware of this.

Docking is a challenge.  Our home slip is a pain to get in and out of since it is a very small marina. We have a boat about 40 feet in front of us and about three feet next to us.  The way the marina is designed we actually have to back out of it, something we don't recommend but there isn't enough room to turn around.  The river can be q…

Dreaming is good, we shall keep dreaming of a different life.

Recently we've been dreaming again.  When we first started thinking about living on a boat it was an amazing thought and seemed like such an adventure and we were excited by the prospect of a different lifestyle.  Lately we've had a similar thought about traveling in a van conversion.  We've looked at videos on YouTube of Sprinter conversions and seen the blogs of these (mostly) young people in gorgeous locations with their bicycles, surfboards, climbing gear, etc. and that sounds like fun.  But when we turn off the TV or put away the phone or computer and sit in our floating home we realize we have all that already.  Sure we don't have many rock climbing opportunities in Chicago but if you see Kevin on the sheer face of El Capitan please call for help, he shouldn't be there.  We have careers we need to be in Chicago for, so wandering North America isn't an option for us right now.  Plus we love this city and want it to be our home base anyway.

Kristin Bor give…