Back to Work

Aug 27, 2014 by Dena in Boat Projects, Dena's Blog Posts, James' Blog

Remember way back when?  We built a new galley and we gutted the locker on the starboard side, forward of the galley.

Our original plan was to put the stove in that locker.  It didn’t fit.  We decided to put our new refrigerator there.

The remaining space, we’d use for trash, tools, and laundry.  We’ve been keeping trash and laundry there in entirely makeshift arrangements.  We tied the trash cans down to the loose boards across the fridge braces and looped the laundry bag’s straps around the braces to keep it in place.  It worked.  It wasn’t pretty.

Two weeks ago, we had a major flood at the Whole Foods Market where I (James) work.  Everything that was in the sub-basement was very quickly evacuated and put into a dumpster.  That’s where I discovered this beautiful triple-decker pallet made out of the most exquisite ash.  It’s a wood I’ve used in the past and loved working with because it’s soft and malleable, but not as porous as pine.

Hamper Pallet

Why haven’t we done this project before?  We needed materials but we didn’t want to slowly collect a bunch of shit and store it on the boat until we had enough for the project.  We don’t have room for that.  When I saw this pallet, I instantly knew that there were enough pieces of really nice looking wood to frame and build everything we needed to do in that space, plus frame the new battery compartment.

I took a drill to work and, on my lunch break, I disassembled the pallet and very neatly stacked the wood in a safe place in the basement.

Last week, we borrowed a co-worker’s van, loaded up the wood, brought it back to the dock, piled it into the dinghy, and rowed it out to the boat.  We returned the van with, “It doesn’t matter how much you hate somebody, don’t ever let them borrow this van.” Wow, what a death-trap.  We survived.

Over the last week, I (Dena) have done measurements and drawings, conceptualizing exactly what we wanted to do in that space.  The concept is this: a hamper that slides out on tracks next to a double-bin trash compartment, also on tracks, both under the brace for the refrigerator.  Above, we will put three shelves for tools, two set back so that we can use the bottom one as a work surface.

The concepts have been around a while.  The measurements and precise plan had to wait on materials.  When James scored us these ash planks, I had the last piece of the puzzle.  I mocked up a couple ideas, measured and drew some more, and yesterday, we made the first cuts.

Trim first.  The fridge is set back a bit and we didn’t want to lose that space.

Hamper Trim

Not only did I (James) have to cut it to size, I also had to notch out the vertical supports for the refrigerator.

Sometimes it’s easier and more of a sure thing to build things in place.  So we started the dirty clothes hamper on the forward side by attaching the first slide.

Hamper Slide with Dena

Then we judged the width of the whole thing by putting the actual planks together.

Hamper Face Pieces

Because we were working with a jigsaw, we didn’t want to make any long cuts with the grain (ripping the plank).  So we just went with the width of the wood as our guide and used five planks.

Once we had them cut to length, we fastened them together using a tie piece and reinforced that with another half-way down.

Hamper Support

The wood is so beautiful that we didn’t want to use any glue on the face.  That’s why we decided to go with the tie pieces on the back, where we won’t see them.

With the width precisely known, we installed the second slide support and had a mock-up of the final hamper.

Hamper Track

We now had a lovely face, four sides screwed together making the rectangle shape at the top, and the sliding mechanism.

It worked, but it wasn’t very strong.  We’d known it would need to be reinforced, so we pulled it out of its new home and cut, drilled, and screwed two diagonal support beams.

Hamper Framed with James

Back into place with it, and we added the linen bag that came with the slide tracks.  Voila!  A clothes hamper that holds clothes and slides in and out.

Hamper Finished

Whew.  And it only took two years.

The trash bin is next.

We choose this

Aug 20, 2014 by James in James' Blog, Life Under Sail

What a week!

I show up at 4:30 in the middle of the fucking night after a six and a half mile bike ride to find I still have a trashcan full of water on my desk, I’ve asked my “team lead” four times to fix the leak in the ceiling above my computer… It still isn’t done. There’s a box on my desk it’s addressed to Dena Hankins, C/O James Lane, C/O Whole Foods Market. It’s Dena’s advanced copies for her novel Blue Water Dreams.

I do my job, I let my country steel my tax money, I smile, I work like all the rest and then I step out of my wage slave gig, it’s Friday afternoon, my Monday and I notice I have two voice-mails on my phone.

I dial up the VM and of course I get the second one first…

“Everything’s okay, I got the boat anchored in the little cove in front of the rehab center, we’re fine. If you want to go to the gym to work out,  go ahead, really, we’re fine!”


When I get to our new anchorage Dena is sitting in the cockpit, she rows out to the water-taxi dock and I pull the box out of my pack and hand it to her…


She did it! She published her first novel, they printed it, put ten of them in a box and sent it to her and when she opened that box this is what she looked like!!!

Everything else instantly became insignificant, well, for the moment anyway.

We went out for a very nice dinner and showed the copy she gave me to our waitress and we got a free desert out of it, it was sublime.

What had happened was, the Coast Guard had to bring a giant propane tanker up the Mystic River, just a few hundred yards from where we were anchored, evidently, to make some kind of emergency repairs and they had to clear the area of any potential hazards… That would be us I guess.

Anyway, we ended up staying in that anchorage through the weekend and on Monday evening just as we were settling in for the night a Harbor Master boat came up along side of us with a po-po woop-woop. The guy that did all the talking was over fed, under exercised, lightly educated and seriously late for his tea party, in other words: the dude had missed his calling as one of Ferguson’s finest and ended up getting stuck hassling us that evening, an unfunny clown, armed to the teeth.

Him and Dena had a few moments of absolute misunderstanding before he gave us the bottom line, which was… “Because of 9/11 you are only allowed to anchor in designated anchorages and this is not a designated anchorage.”

Because of 9/11?! You fucking piece of shit, that was 13 years ago!!!

We did not get shot that night and the reason being, I (James) did not open my mouth. I stood there in the companion way with a smile on my face the entire time, making him very nervous by not showing my hands.

“You need to pull up anchor and leave, right now! Do you need assistance?”

“No! (We said in unison, okay I did say something), we’re rather good at this, thank you, goodnight.”

After the “Dock-Boys-with-Glocks” motored away we made reservations at one of the pricey Boston waterfront marinas, pulled up anchor and sailed away. After grabbing a mooring ball we caught a water-taxi back to where our bikes were and rode back to the Boston waterfront, rowed the dink back out to the boat and very quickly went to sleep.

About an hour after going to sleep I woke up violently sick to my stomach so I ended up working the next day on about an hours worth of real sleep. My only explanation: Yes, fascism makes me ill.

We left the waterfront the next day Tuesday, my Friday, and motored back to “our” anchorage up the Mystic River where we’ve been now, unmolested, for two beautiful nights.

Yes, we choose this, this is the way we live! We are free citizens of the planet Earth and we are not going to give up that easily.

Hook Down in Chuck-Town

Aug 13, 2014 by James in James' Blog, Life Under Sail

One last sail! What was I thinking!?

Okay here’s what I (James) was thinking: If you’re a fan of this site you probably know that we’ve had our boat for sale for quite some time. Well, we’ve had some pretty serious potential buyers as of late and this time I really thought that one or two of these guys just might put some money on the table before we even had a chance to move the boat to another location. Well, two days after we blogged “One Last Sail” one of the women from the office of the Boston Ship Yard caught up with Dena in the marina lounge and told her that if we were going to “take advantage” of all the amenities that the marina had to offer we were going to have to pay like all the rest, the going transient rate… $75.00 per day


There is no way in hell that we’re going to pay 75 bucks a day to park our dinghy on the end of a (falling apart) dock just so we can use a (shitty) shower three times a week!

That evening we went for a bike ride to spot potential anchorages and found a few promising sites that looked to be a little closer to my new job so we decided to weigh anchor the next morning. The two potential buyers that I’d been talking to just kind of evaporated into non-responsive-email-land so we pulled up the hook and went exploring for our new digs.

We sailed east from East Boston into Boston Harbor proper with two reefs in the main on a starboard tack in about 18 knots of freshening breeze, it was incredible! It was a warm Saturday morning so of course there were boats all around us. There were packed ferries with pointing gawkers with plastic-destroyers jumping their wakes, there were multimillion dollar cruising sailboats going out for their one sail this year and there were tons of pretty little sailboats over stuffed with friends-of-the skipper wearing type-I PFD’s and looking a little purple.

About two hours into it we decided to get out of the summer traffic and get serious  about finding our new home. We went back into Boston harbor and looked over the one site that we found that was most promising, a snug little spot right next to a water taxi dock in front of a large rehabilitation complex in Boston’s Shipyard Park.

The day before when we were riding by on our bikes we spotted a guy rowing up to the water taxi dock in a very nice little home-made dinghy. We waited for him to tie up and as he came up the gang plank we asked him where he had rowed from. He told us he’d rowed across from a marina in East Boston and he never had any issues with parking his dink on that dock. We ended up talking to Jake, the guy in the dinghy, for quite a while getting the low down on a few potential sweet spots in the area.

…Anyway we sailed straight back to that snug little anchorage and buzzed in to check the depth and it looked pretty good. On a whim we figured it couldn’t hurt to sail up the Mystic River, being as though it was so early in the day, to see if there were any other sweet spots before anchoring. We found a little spot just behind a college in Charlestown that had a dock that looked like it was never used by anyone but fishers so we pulled up, tied up and went up to the top of the dock. We found a sign that told us that this used to be the site of a sailing club that had moved a few years back… Perfect!


In less than an hour we were anchored and settled and that was three weeks ago!

We’ve been Hook Down in Chuck-Town using the free dock at the college as a base and a bike rack for all this time and no one, cops or legal types, have come by to ask us any questions.

It’s good to be home again!