Ahoy - Guest column

by Steve Collins

Editor's note: The following was originally posted to the Yahoo group "boat camping". Dave Hahn, the moderator, has graciously allowed us to reprint it here.

Boat Camping to Me

It was the end of a long cold week at work and the weekend forecast had cold and rain all week end long in store. Took my umbrella and headed out the building. I had been planning on going boat-camping all week long and had my boat packed and ready to go on its trailer.

Made it to the van in the parking lot managing to soak my shoes in a puddle. As I open the door of the van and got in with my cold wet foot. I did not get upset because I knew I would be on the road with my boat and on to some really good boat camping.

The trip home though short was time consuming. Traffic a 5:00 PM on a Friday with everyone out at the same time was a bit frustrating. It was already dark and raining and a full overcast gray and black sky. If it wouldn't have been for the weather and overcast the street lights would not have been on yet, I even had to have my headlights on a 5:00 PM.

Arrived home and backed into the driveway up to the garage door. Got out and opened the garage and reviled my floating camper for the weekend.

My boat was at that time a West Potter 19 I had bought second hand. I hitched her up and went back to the van and pulled her out into the dreary dark wet night and closed the door behind her.

Hooked up the lights and safety chain and went inside to change. Got in and took off my wet shoe and sock and the dry one shed my clothes and got into some sweats and my two piece slicker suit and my rubber boots and got my groceries together and put them in my ice chest and locked the door behind me. After getting my ice chest in the van and my self in the drivers seat I paused for a second and looked out the windshield and reflected at how great this is going to be.

I only live 35 miles where I wanted to launch which would normally take only about 45 minutes to get there but with the way the weather and conditions are I allowed a hour or more to get there.

Had the road almost to myself and pulled into the marina and backed up to the launch ramp. Removed my teardown straps and got in the van and backed up to the water got her off the trailer and walked her down the dock and tied her to the pilings. I wet and parked the van. I had already dropped the ice chest on the ramp so I picked it up and brought it to the cockpit and put the motor down and started it to let it warm up.

No one was around in that weather to collect for the charges and I had called reserving a slip on the very end by the bay ahead of time though I do not know why with this weather and rain the place was deserted and empty. Just the way I like it. I would settle up when I was ready to leave. I knew they all knew me anyway so there was not a problem.

I un-tied form the dock and went to the far out slip there was by the bay entrance. I put bow into the dock and tied off on two pints on the bow and two on the stern. I open my locker and retrieved my shore power line and attached it to my waterproof shore power input on the cabin and went carefully plug it into the power outlet on the dock I have a multi plug in for a/s power in the cabin.

Returned to the cockpit where I put up my homemade boom tent I made out of blue throwaway tarp that I cut and added grommet eyes to and attached it with some burgee's I had rigged up for it. I than moved my ice chest and removed the top of my rain jacket and hung it up under the tent to the boom. I than opened the hatch and let the bib part of my rain gear fall to my boots which I step out of and let there fireman style in the cockpit.

Turned on my dome interior light and reached for my ice chest and slid it inside and behind the two quarter-births and re installed the entrence ladder and closed the hatch.

I than got both ceramic heaters I had acquired and plugged them in to the a/c strip and got them going. I adjusted the fan and thermostats to high to drive out the dampness and cold. I have a XM Satellite radio and I plugged it in also. I than put on some thick socks on top of my cotton ones and fired up the stove so I could make some hot chocolate.

After just a little bit those heaters had to be adjusted to low it got hot fast I had to open the hatch and let in some cold air but I got them adjusted to a comfortable level and all was right with the world. I took off the lights and with only the red light of the XM radio and the red glow of the ceramic heaters as I listened to an old edition of what I call radio of the mind (old time radio stories) I listened to the rain poring down and the wind driving it even harder as I sat warm and snug in my little cocoon with good entertainment and though tied up at the dock away form it all. This is going to be such a great weekend get away.

I have made a board that fits between the two settee births and have a cushion for it that way I can sit up and stretch across. I found my self realizing I had fallen asleep and it was 10 PM. got up and went forward to the v-births and rolled my self up in my heavy flannel blanket. As the wind howled and the rain raged out side my little warm cocoon and the gentle rocking of her hull in the water lulled me back to sleep I was a goner to the Sand Man.

Saturday morning found me stretching and than lying there listening to the rain and wind. No change it was still dark and dreary outside. I was warm and toasty in side and I got up and used my Porto potty tuned to the weather channel on my XM radio and than to the NOAA radio on my vhf and got the coffee going, things would be better with coffee.

Sitting up and having coffee I looked out port and starboard windows but everything was a blur for all the rain and wind. I finely got enough nerve to open the hatch and peek out side boy was I stunned by the cold it must be 32 degrees wind chill out there. This is really cold for the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. I immediately shut the hatch and grabbed some more hot coffee. I guess its good to change the air in the cabin once in a while but I will not be doing that again unless I have to. I put the heaters a little higher to re warm the cabin again as I shut down the radio and got out a good book to read.

About noon Saturday it stopped raining and the wind started picking up. Wind switched to NW and than was blowing 45-50 mph and the tide started really dropping fast.

I realized that I would have to go out and slack the lines and give my floating camper a little more room to drop. I turned the heaters to full and opened the hatch and grabbed m rain gear I waited 30 minutes for them to warm up (ha-ha). Put them on and a thick watch cap and threaded out into the cockpit. I decided to remove the tent because I felt there would be no more rain. And proceeded to slack the lines which were already straining for some slack.

The tide had already dropped one and a half feet and was still dropping. I wondered if I would be left high and dry by morning. I hope not because if it does the centerboard will come up and restrict my living space in the cabin.

I just a little while my hands were numb. I jumped into the cabin this time with my rain gear on and closed the hatch. I could feel the heat blast me as I opened the hatch.

The rubber slicker suit help keep the wind off me and kept me half way warm. I removed the gear and stowed it aft under the cabin sole. Got comfy and instead of coffee I made some hot tea with lemon juice and honey.

There I sat savoring the pleasures of a warm cabin no phones no communications unless I want to let them in. you see I have learned that you can get away even if you camp out in your boat in the garage if necessary it is all a state of mind.

Though I knew I had to go back out tomorrow and put the boat on the trailer and get back home I was enjoying right now. Now is what counted to me right than and I was enjoying now for all it was worth.

That evening I enjoyed a warm soup and crackers warm snug cabin good radio adventures on theater of the mind and a good warm night sleep.

Sunday morning I awoke and fixed coffee and looked out to find most of the marina was dry except the last three slips.

I put on my warm watch cap and slicker suite and ventured into the cockpit. I was surprised to find I hat to climb up to the dock to disconnect power and ropes.

Back in the cockpit motor down and running I had to be careful to come out of the dock and go and stay in the channel. I raised the centerboard full up came the loading dock and hit bottom.

Tied off and got the van and loaded the boat on the trailer. As I pulled out the marina I stopped at the office which still had not opened. I left an envelope with money and a note in the slot in the door and rode off with the van heater on full blast.

I smiled as I pulled away onto the highway home relaxed and ready to face the world I had been camping I had gotten away for the weekend and not the weather or any thing was going to spoil it for me and I was not disappointed.

This may not sound like camping to some, but remember camping is a stat of mind and this last weekend had been great.

Steve Collins

Afterword: Hear are some demographics you may need to help place the area:

  • The trip happened last year in February and I was at Grand Isle Louisiana.
  • I live in an industrial oil related town with Bayou Lafourche at my door step in the heart of Cajun Country.
  • There are fishing boats, industrial supply boats, tugs, and a few sport craft types. There is boat traffic day and night in this section and the bayou leads to the gulf about 17 miles down stream. With Grand Isle only 35 miles form Golden Meadow.
  • The road that leads to this area which is Louisiana Highway 1. We are about 45 miles to the S/W of New Orleans, La as the crow flies
  • The Potter-19 was for a dear friend that went to work overseas for a couple of years and was left for me to use and keep it in my garage so it would be under cover. He had gotten killed and his family came and picked up the boat and I think sold it. If I knew they had intentions of selling it I would have purchased it my self. But things did not happen that way.