About Us, Boat, Family Fun

A Black Friday Story

We have a very cushy life, even though we live on a boat.

We have apartment-sized furniture and appliances, Iliana has her own bedroom, Rob and I share a queen-sized bed, we have our own shower, and, once they are repaired, we will even have our own laundry facilities.  Living on Loco Lobo is a lot like living in a small mobile home.

Yet our lifestyle is not without adventure.

We lose electricity whenever the tide is too high, which usually happens at least once a year during a storm surge.  Last winter we had a deep freeze, which caused us to lose water for many days after the pipes froze.  We take these challenges in stride, because they are just a part of living on a boat.

However, this Thanksgiving, we had an adventure that was equal parts horrifying, baffling, and, in the end, kind of funny.

Meet Popcorn, the (Somewhat Lazy) Cat-of-Prey

This story begins with our kitty cat, Popcorn.  We rescued Popcorn when she was about 4 weeks old, in the Amish country outside of Mount Pleasant, Michigan.  Her mother had been run over, and she was sitting, lost, in the middle of the road.  We posted ads, but nobody claimed her.

After a few years of being an indoor kitty in Harrison, Michigan, Popcorn joined our family on our move to Texas.  A year later, she was living on a sailboat, and we started allowing her to go outside.

At first, Popcorn enjoyed hunting.  Everyone on the pier loved her, because she killed a large number of wharf rats.  Occasionally, she would leave a rat by the door, for her family.  Rob tried to humor her, and pretended to eat the rats, but that was not enough.

In order to better feed her family, Popcorn decided a more aggressive approach was necessary.  On Easter morning, while Iliana was hunting for hidden eggs, Popcorn triumphantly jumped through the open hatch, delivering a dead rabbit and depositing in in the middle of the floor.  Luckily, Iliana was just starting to get into science, and excitedly proclaimed, “Popcorn has captured her prey!”

As Popcorn got older, we moved onto Loco Lobo, on the marina’s very laid-back island pier.  Everyone adored her and started leaving out snacks for her.  A family on a catamaran nicknamed her “Poppy,” and she became somewhat of a celebrity.  Our neighbors keep a box with a blanket in it out on their aft deck, so she can come over for a nap and a snack whenever it suits her fancy.

Loco Lobo came with a cat hole cut in the companionway door, so Popcorn frequently enjoys going outside.  Instead of hunting down rats and bunnies, however, she likes to lie down on the main pier and wait for her admirers to come over the pet her.

In the winter, however, there are fewer people staying in the marina.  So Popcorn has been keeping herself entertained by playing with the rodents once again.  One morning, she surprised us by leaving a litter of dead baby rats on the side deck.  More recently, when Rob came home for his lunch break, she had brought in a still-alive rabbit.  She had lost interest in it before killing it, so Rob let it go and boarded up the kitty door.

The fall is a lovely season in Texas, where we need neither air conditioning nor heat, and we love to leave the companionway door and hatch open most of the time.  Our aft deck has doors on the sides, so our dog can’t escape.  But Popcorn is nimble enough to come and go as she pleases.  We enjoyed a number of pleasant nights, with the boat open as we slept in the fresh, fall air.

A Nighttime Visitor?

The first time it happened, Rob noticed a horrible cut on Iliana’s pinky finger, when he woke her up in the morning.  There was blood all over her sheets.  She had two puncture wounds on the front of her finger, and one in the back.  We googled “rats” and learned that rats  do not carry rabies, but they can carry other bacterial infections.  Iliana had just finished an antibiotic for an ear infection (one of the few antibiotics she is not allergic to), so I continued giving it to her, until we decided what to do.

Our boat has a headliner, like a car, for the ceiling.  In Ili’s room, it was torn in two places, where she had kicked it from her bed.  We in in the process of replacing it.  We figured that the creature who bit her, must have come in through the tear, since it was so cold outside.  There was no evidence of a rat living in our boat, so we figured that it was a freak incident.

We repaired the tear and had Iliana sleep facing the other direction.   We all figured that the problem was solved.

Until Iliana woke us up at night, screaming.

Right next to her eye, she had two deep bites on her face, bleeding a great deal.  Horrified, we immediately cleaned it with an antiseptic wipe and gave her a band-aid.  She brought her favorite stuffed animals into our bed and fell asleep quickly.

In the morning, her face was bruised and swollen.  Which meant that whatever bit her was strong.

Stronger than a bat, was my immediate thought, because bats are the primary carriers of rabies in our area.

That day was Thanksgiving, and we called every urgent care clinic in our area.  Nobody was open until Friday.  I gave Iliana some antibiotic ointment and another dose of her antibiotic.

Black Friday, Part 1

We allowed Iliana one trip into her bedroom during the day, so she gathered up every single one of her Beanie-Boos.  Then we set up rat traps and closed the door.  Iliana surrounded herself with Beanie-Boos and fell asleep in the middle of our queen-sized bed.  The dog and cat took their usual places at the foot of the bed, leaving Rob and me a miniscule amount of real estate.

Which is fine, because I couldn’t sleep.  I woke up at night a couple times, and continued researching rats, rabbits, bats, and rabies.  Which didn’t make sleeping any easier.  What I did learn, is that whatever we did, we had a little bit of time to decide.

Urgent care opened at noon, and Iliana had her heart set on shopping at Black Friday.  In my minimalist blogging years, I extoled the virtues of Buy Nothing Day and urged my readers to “rethink Christmas.”  I encouraged them to make it about more than the mountain of gifts.

And then, in the wee hours of the night, I would make sure that Santa delivered a mountain of gifts to our house.  Because….Christmas….

Back in those days, I also said that only children were not spoiled.  So I was wrong about a lot of things!

Grateful that Urgent Care opened so late, and that an animal bite was not an emergency, I excitedly took my only child to Black Friday.  We scoured the ads ahead of time, and just ended up overwhelmed by it all.  Then I remembered that I had gift cards for Macy’s and Nordstrom’s.  I saw that Kohl’s had a sale on toys, so Iliana agreed that we would look for Beanie Boos there, and if they didn’t have any, we would go to Five Below.

Together, we eagerly hit the mall!

Iliana’s first find was a sequined pillow at Macy’s. She has wanted one for a long time.

Before heading to Nordstrom’s, it was time for some Dipping Dots!

And, of course, a mirror selfie on our way out.

Here is Iliana, all gussied up with her new hair and fashion accessories!

We ended the day with a Happy Meal, and got ready for the next leg of our adventure.

Black Friday, Part 2

While Iliana and I were shopping, Rob texted me, saying that he had done some investigating and found lots of rabbit poop throughout the bilge…and a few newly deposited next to the dog food dish.  His googling told him that rabbits in the wild are very aggressive and territorial.  So it still looked like we were dealing with a non-rabies carrier that was unlikely to spread infection.

We made plans to set a live trap, baited with dog food, and after lunch, I took Iliana to Urgent Care.

Iliana had a lot of health problems early in life, but, before this year, she had only been to the doctor twice since we moved to Texas in 2013.  One of those times was for a check-up and vaccines.

When I left my job, Iliana qualified for Medicaid.  We have been navigating the bureaucracy of that, trying to figure out how to keep her current doctor (which we likely will be able to do).  In the meantime, Iliana has been to Urgent Care twice, with pink eye and with an ear infection.

Doctors become very stressed when Iliana needs an antibiotic, because she is already allergic to Penicillin and Clindamyacin.  She had a mild reaction to the first one, and a serious reaction to the second.  For her ear infection, she was given a Penicillin derivative, which did not cause any problems.  That is what I continued giving her, after the bites.

So off we were, to our third Urgent Care visit, the day after Thanksgiving.  I expected it to be quick, which maybe a Tetanus shot, but not much else.

Of course I had to tell the story about how she got bitten by a feral rabbit in our home.

I told the story to the receptionist when we checked in.

And the nurse who took Ili’s vitals and triaged us.  She was very concerned, and said that this sounded like a rabid animal, and we may need to go to the ER.  She said she would be right back.

Twenty minutes later, we had still not graduated to seeing the doctor.  The nurse returned with a map and Mapquest directions to the nearest pediatric ER, which also happened to accept Medicaid.

Iliana was very displeased.  As we pulled into the hospital parking lot, I reminded her that she used to love going to the hospital.  She went there a lot when she was younger, and she would start smiling and laughing when we pulled into the parking lot.  She loved the nurses who paid attention to her.  I used to joke that she wanted to have her birthday party there.  When we lived in Michigan, Iliana had three ER visits and two hospitalizations, all of which she enjoyed.

Ili wasn’t buying it.  We were scheduled to visit her best friend at 5:00, and Ili remembered how long ER visits often took.  It was already 3:00.

We were triaged as soon as we walked in, and they directed us to a gurney sitting against the wall (next to pirate decals!) in front of the nurses’ station.  I took it as a good sign, that they didn’t expect us to stay long enough to even get a room!

Iliana was unhappy, but I did get her to put on her sunglasses for one “diva” picture…

It was 10 minutes before the (rather attractive) doctor arrived.  I got to tell yet another person our bunny story, and he seemed unphased.  “Well, you did the right thing,” he told me. “We would have prescribed the antibiotic she is taking and given her antibiotic ointment.  You don’t have to worry about rabies with rabbits and rats in this area.”

He made sure there was no bat evidence in the boat and directed me to keep giving Iliana the antibiotic until it runs out.  And he gave us the name of an infectious disease specialist to call if Ili starts having any symptoms, which he said, she likely will not.

10 minutes later, a nurse showed up with our discharge papers, and Iliana and I were on our way!

Here she is, ready to visit her bestie!  She ripped off her hospital bracelet as soon as we arrived!

Meanwhile, Iliana is banned from her bedroom while we try to catch the crazy bunny.  Stay tuned…

 

 

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About Us, Boat

365 Days Ago, Today

When you live on a boat, there are milestones that you know are inevitable.

You will have pleasant things, like your first long-term cruise, your first time breaking hull speed, your first time partying with total strangers who are now your best friends, your first time seeing the stars without the light pollution of the city, and so on.

There are also unfortunate milestones, that come with the boating lifestyle.  Your first time running aground.  Your first time making port for repairs while taking on water.  Your first distress call.  Your first small craft advisory.  And, if you are living on the ocean, your first hurricane.

Rob and I frequently discussed that last inevitability.  We decided that it would be ideal if we could experience our first hurricane at our current marina, which is very sheltered.  We are on a very sheltered bayou on a lake that feeds into a bay that is part of the Gulf.  This would help us to be much more prepared if we encountered one while cruising somewhere else.  After talking about it, we decided, as a rule of thumb, that we would definitely stay if the projected wind speed was in the double-digits.  If it were in the triple-digits, we would play it by ear.

Since we moved to Legend Point, there have been a lot of false alarms.  We got all excited about Tropical Storm Bill, which dissapated and was nothing more than some rain and wind.

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While our friends were visiting from Michigan, everyone was getting panicked about “potential tropical storm Cindy.”  People were hunkering down after fighting for the last case of bottled water (yes, there were actual fist fights in stores!).  I checked the forecast and assured my friends that this was nothing.  Sure enough, it didn’t even rain for an entire day.

I was feeling a little cynical as I made my way out to my car for 6 am yoga on August 24 last year, during the suckiest first week of the suckiest school year ever.  One of our neighbors asked me if I was worried about the storm.  I laughed and said, “There is another one?”  He said, “Well….it’s heading for Mexico.”  Then he slowed his speech for dramatic effect, “But it might turn.”  I laughed and continued on my way.

After yoga, I made my commute down the freeway.  The signs all read, “Disturbance in the Gulf.  Fill your gas tank.”  This was unusual, but I was still skeptical.

At work, my department chair immediately asked all of us if we were planning on comiMy ng into work the next day.  I said I would, as long as I could make it through any flooding.  She said she was not planning on coming in.  We received an email from district stating that if we stayed home, it would cost us a sick day.

At lunch time, the department chair said that it was now a hurricane and they were talking about evacuation.  I was still skeptical, because she had alarmist tendencies.  Then Rob emailed me and said we needed to prepare that evening.

S*** was getting serious. I was walking home on August 23 last year, after another sucky day of the suckiest first week of school ever.  As I made my way to my pier, bottle of wine in hand, one of our neighbors asked

My day ended horribly, with me considering resignation for the first time of many.  I got home late, but as I pulled into the marina, I saw a rainbow in the sky.  Then my phone gave its notification beep, and I saw that school was cancelled for both Iliana and me.    I ran to the boat, excitedly proclaiming that something good had happened in my life!

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We went to Walmart, with my prepping list that I had written at work.  I was thinking bagels, sandwiches, and Mac and Cheese.  After everyone had picked through everything, we got gluten-free bagels and bread, fancy organic meat, and Annie’s Mac and Cheese.  Fortunately, we had a water tank, so we did not have to fight over bottled water.  We waited in line at Spec’s, Texas’s favorite discount liquor store (which was already boarded up, but open and busy!), and we thought we had enough “hydration” to get us through the storm!

Part 1

The morning of August 25, 2017, Rob and I walked out to the aft deck as soon as we woke up.  A very dark, low-lying cloud blew over, and then the sky opened up.  It rained the rest of the day.

Rob went into work, and I was at home with Iliana.  We decided to keep her with us, since my parents were not evacuating.  They live in a mobile home on stilts, so we felt better having her on the boat with us, should there be high winds.

She chilled and enjoyed her day…

Yes, we were recently moved onto Loco Lobo, so we had not carpet or wallpaper. Iliana’s room was finished, but the main salon and aft cabin were not.  We slept on a Futon.  And Popcorn, our cat, was quaranteened to the boat.

The power stayed on all day, as the water rose from the storm surge.  I knew it would likely be cut at 5, so I washed a load of laundry and cooked a vegan lasagna.

By 5:00, I was unable to get off of the boat.

After the power was cut, Rob helped me get off the boat for a walk, and then he set up our alcohol stove.

I watched the water level throughout the day.

First this…

Then this…

Then, by 11:00, this…

The docks went underwater overnight, then the next morning, we got what I called “intermission.”  The rain stopped for an entire day.My parents came to pick up Iliana, and Rob and I decided that we really needed to make Harvey Wallbangers.  Unfortunately, Spec’s was closed and boarded up, as was every other business in town.  We returned to the boat, sure that the worst was over.

 

Before bed, Legend Point lost its first two boats, both unmanned.  Obsession was the first, and another followed shortly after.

The lake began receding before we went to bed.

Then it woke us up at 4 am…

Part 2

It was hard to take a picture in the dark, but the docks and most of the power pedestals were completely submerged, as was our dinghy.  I posted on Facebook, writing, “Helllllooooo, Harvey!”

In the morning…

It was during this time that we committed our first act of piracy on the seas.  Our dinghy had sunk, so we had no way to get to shore.  Since this was a potentially life-threatening situation, we decided to “borrow” the neighbors’ inflatable boat.

Rob put on an orange “camp snoopy” life jacket, jumped into the water, and boarded the neighbors’ boat.  He grabbed a large stockpot that happened to be floating by and used that to bail it.  We used that boat to get to shore for the rest of the storm.

Our dinghy, after we rescued it and dragged it to shore!

Rob made breakfast, then while he was at work, I kept myself occupied with cooking!

After work, Rob and I decided to walk to docks (he helped me get off the boat!).

For the next 3 days, our life was lived on the boat, with a once-daily excursion to shore.  We were advised not to walk in the flood water, but the grass was so infested with fire ants, that I always stood in the water while tying up the dinghy.  My feet were constantly covered in ant bites, which I lanced with a razor blade in order to stop the incessant itching.

Our pier had the only bath house that was not flooded, although it had no power.  Using my phone as a light, I took a shower everyday during our shore excursion.  The water was nice and hot the first day, but everyday it got colder, until it was just a cold shower by day 5.

More boats sunk everyday, all of them unmanned.  Altogether, the marina lost 6 boats.

We ventured out to our road, which flooded and receded everyday.  We didn’t leave the marina, because we didn’t want to be unable to get back to the boat.

By day 4, we were getting burned out, and I did what I could to make our lives less miserable.  Rob was no longer going into work.  Still, we were constantly wet.  I tried having one set of clothing that we would wear outside, so that our other outfits would stay dry, indoors, but that never worked.  I tried setting up a drying rack in the office area, but in the humidity, only one article of clothing ever “graduated” from it.

Facebook was jumping with stir-crazy Houstonians, and I had a few friends that I was chatting with constantly on Messenger.  The morning of day 5, I jokingly posted, “Today I think I will take a bike ride and maybe go out to eat.”

One thing that wore on everyone was the constant darkness.  No matter what time it was, it always looked like dusk.  The last time we saw the sun was the morning of day 1, before the clouds rolled in.

On day 5, there was a lot of speculation on Facebook.  Rumors were flying, that it was going to stop raining that night.  My friends in Michigan were insisting that the storm was predicated to come back through, and that we had a lot more rain coming.  I turned off my computer and created my own sunshine in my mandala coloring book.

“Here Comes the Sun”

Before I went to bed on day 5, I looked over the side of the boat and saw this:

And in the morning of day 6, this:

And finally, this!

 

By noon, we could see the docks again.

But our adventure was far from over.  Our power boxes had been submerged, so we were still without electricity.  My parents brought us some more batteries and invertors, and our living space looked very post-apocalyptic.

Rob was going back into work, and working extra hours to repair the damage.  He would bring a battery or two with him and charge it while he worked.

One of my friends let us borrow her Yeti cooler, which was wonderful!

Stores were beginning to open, with police officers at the doors, allowing a limited number of people to go in at a time.  There were long lines waiting to get in.  I was glad we were so well-provisioned, so that I could avoid this.

Two days after the storm ended, we had a yoga class.  The studio had flooded a little, but there was not a lot of damage.  With fans running to help things dry out, Cass led us through a restorative class.  It was a wonderful piece of normalcy.

Friends wanted to know how they could help, and I said that meals would be wonderful, since our cooking options were limited.  We were also unable to do laundry, since we had no electricity and the marina’s laundry machines had been ruined in the flooding.  Various friends helped me with that, and I even enjoyed an actual hot shower while doing my laundry at one friend’s house!

By the weekend, we needed a break.  On Priceline, I found a great deal at the local Extended Stay America hotel.  It may as well have been the Hilton!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We watched a Harry Potter marathon that weekend, which seemed to be especially fitting.

Back on the boat, the lack of air conditioning was definitely adding to the misery level.  It had not been hot during the storm, but afterward it was back to typical Texas August temperatures.  One day, I was determined to help someone who had been flooded out.  I needed the diversion…and the a/c!

Cass, my yoga teacher, had posted on Facebook that her son’s house had been flooded, and people were asking if they could help.  She posted the address, and Iliana and I made a beeline over there!  I was rewarded with air conditioning and was more than happy to help clean up sheetrock, while Iliana played with the kids.

School was cancelled the next week, but a martial arts studio held an extended day camp.  This gave Iliana some structure and got her out of the heat.

I was glad I had obeyed the highway signs and filled my gas tank, because it was a week before any gasoline was available.  The stores, which no longer had police acting as “bouncers,” were very poorly stocked.

Then, finally, on September 11, it was time to go back to school.

I wrote on this paper, “Harvey ate Iliana’s homework!”

Going back to work meant that I could do my laundry before school, in the machines in one of the classrooms.  I also kept water bottles in the freezer at work, so that I could bring them home and have cold water to drink.  I had to hurry home everyday, because Rob was working long hours, putting the marina back together.  After 19 days without power, he finished single-handedly repairing the electrical system.

Boat

Loco Lobo

That boat you see at the top of the page, is our Chris Craft Commander 47, named Loco Lobo (Spanish for “Crazy Wolf”).  “Loco” is the fourth larger boat we’ve owned and the third boat we have lived on.

We began our adventures the summer of 2011, aboard Moonraker, an Islander I29 sailboat.

 

That summer was cut short when we ran the boat aground, but the next summer we sailed and lived aboard for 93 days.  We sailed from Bay City, Michigan (on Lake Huron) to Grand Haven (on Lake Michigan).  It was a wonderful experience, and we weren’t excited about returning to our house.

So the next summer, we moved to Texas!  We lived in an apartment for a year, then we bought our next boat, an Ericson 35-Mark 1.  It was appropriately named, Breaking Tradition.

 

On Breaking Tradition (or BT, as we called it) we had about 100 square feet of living space.  Iliana had the v-berth, where she had room for a youth matress on a platform, and some play space, also on the platform.  She practice piano on a partial keyboard, on the kitchen table.  Rob and I converted the dinette at first, for our bed, but eventually we upgraded to a twin mattress.

Sharing a twin mattress got old, by the time a year was up.  So when we had the opportunity to purchase Morning Mist, an Irwin 37 center cockpit ketch, we jumped at it!

 

Morning Mist was a huge (or as we say dow​n here, “Yuge!”) upgrade to our lifestyle.  We had a decent sized kitchen, Iliana had her own bedroom, complete with a desk, which would hold a full-sized keyboard for piano practice, and Rob and I shared the V-berth.  We lived on Morning Mist for 2 years.  It was about 400 square feet.

Across from Morning Mist, was an iconic boat in our marina, a large power boat named Loco Lobo.  Our first summer on Morning Mist, a friend knocked on our boat at 4 am.  He said he needed Rob, because Loco Lobo was sinking.  What ensued was a battle that took the rest of the night, but they were able to save the boat.  It had been partially submerged, however, so the carpet and wallpaper were stripped.

A year later, we had the opportunity to buy Loco Lobo, for the same price we had paid for Morning Mist.  In the past, we would have been hesitant to move to a power boat, but Rob had been working as harbor master for two years, and it seemed we would be in port for awhile.

We had intended to fix up Loco Lobo while we lived on Morning Mist, but when Morning Mist’s a/c quit working, we moved onto Loco full-time.  We had no carpet, but we slept on a Futon in the living room.  Iliana had a full sized mattress in her room, on a loft bed.  Loco saw us through Hurricane Harvey, and after the storm we began fixing it up.

We have approximately 480 square feet of living space on Loco Lobo, so while it is still considered a “tiny house,” it is nearly 5 times the space we had on our first boat!

So are you ready for the grand tour of our “floating mobile home”?

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Here is our cat, Popcorn, enjoying some television in the living room!  In the winter, we put a fireplace video on the TV.

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Our main salon is large enough that we can use apartment-sized furniture.

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Iliana’s keyboard has a permanent home, and the mirror has become her art gallery.

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The stairway to the aft cabin.

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Rob’s mom made this sun catcher, which has been in every place we have lived.

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Our dining room table and fish.  (His name is Luke Skywalker).

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This “Collector’s Casseroles” sign, which was made by my grandma, has also been in every place we have lived.

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My Fly Lady calendar!

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We do have a small galley for a boat this size, which is why we have so much space in our main salon.  The refrigerator is apartment-sized, and we have a large dorm-sized refrigerator on the aft deck as well.  The stove is electric, but we also have an alcohol stovetop for when we lose power.

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If there is a camera, Rob is in front of it!

So that is the main salon.  Iliana’s bedroom is in the bow of the boat.

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This preteen’s room is girly pink and modern.  And notice the sign that says, “Captain’s Quarters.”

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Ili’s bed, with her pile of emoji pillows that she inhereted from a live aboard kid who was leaving the marina.

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Her desk is underneath the bed.

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Her desk, aka creation station!

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And of course, a video game chair!

The aft cabin of our boat is the least finished, since it was submerged when the boat was sinking.  However, we have been plugging along at it!  It now has carpet, but not wall paper.

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The view from the stairway.  As you enter, there is an office area to the right, with a large desk and closet.  Right now, that area is storage for our washer and dryer (which currently do not work, but are fixable) and construction materials.

But to the left…

After nearly 4 years of sharing the bath house with the other boats, we have a working head!  The shower is the absolute height of luxury.

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We have a queen-sized bed.

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A rather large closet.

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And a very ugly dresser that will be removed to make room for the laundry machines!

As you can see, our decluttering is a work in progress.  I have been following the Fly Lady system, which I will tell you about in another post.

We look forward to showing you the improvements we make to our floating home, as they happen!