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Tag: boat

How to make friends, cat and dolphin style

A rowboat is home for Three Stars and Lulu

You know we can’t pass up a homeless person and dog story — whether it’s one we stumble upon, or one somebody else has.

Erik Lacitis, of the Seattle Times, came across such a pair living in a 14-foot aluminum rowboat, anchored in a foot of water, under the pillars of the Highway 520 bridge.

There, William Kaphaem — who prefers his Mohawk name, “Three Stars” — lives, cocoon-like, with his  dog, Lulu, under a brown plastic tarp that, inside, affords a few feet of headroom and, outside, blends in with the muddy shore.

The story appeared in the Times yesterday.

Inside his rowboat home, Three Stars, who is 51, reads by lantern light and listens to baseball games on a battery-powered radio. Across the boat’s benches, he has laid a sheet of plywood that serves as his bed. Three Stars has five spinning rods he uses to catch perch, bass and the occasional trout, and a collapsible trap for catching crawdads.

Among the some 2,400 homeless counted living outside this January in the Seattle area, the newspaper says, his one of the more unusual living arrangements.

Three Stars told the reporter he moved onto the rowboat because he needed someplace to store his stuff.

“I’ve got a lot of stuff. I didn’t want to schlep it around town like some tramp,” he said. “I’ve got more dignity than that.”

He lives on $636 a month SSI, and until last year he was renting a room. But when the owner of the home died, he had to look for a new place.

Three Stars told Lacitis he’s prone to talking too much. He said he has held ”40 jobs in two years, and I got fired in all of them … Burger King, grocery store … sometimes I can’t shut my face.”

He grew up in Massachusetts and Florida, and came to Seattle to be a street musician. He used to play, with Lulu at his side, on the sidewalk outside of Pacific Place in downtown Seattle — until his wrist started falling asleep. Three Stars says Lulu is a mixture of wolf and husky, and is almost 10 years old.

Three Stars says he likes the solitude of the living arrangement he shares with Lulu.

“It’s a very peaceful experience.”

(Photo by Mark Harrison / Seattle Times)

Dog spent week with head stuck in cooler

Police and firefighters rescued a dog in south Florida Monday whose head was trapped in a discarded bait cooler — possibly for more than a week.

Passersby spotted the dog in western Miami-Dade County and called authorities.

Police, firefighters and animal control officers joined in the rescue, injecting the dog with Valium to sedate her, then using a reciprocating saw to enlarge the hole in the fiberglass boat cooler, TV station WTSP reported.

An animal control officer said that, based on the severity of the dog’s wounds, she might have been trapped for a week.

The dog is a 40-pound female Labrador mix, according to Firehouse.com. She appeared to have recently given birth, authorities said, and her extra body fat may have helped keep her alive. No puppies were found in the area.

The dog was taken to Miami-Dade Animal Services, where she was treated by veterinarians.  She has been named Lucky and will be put up for adoption.

The best part of being a liveaboard

What I’ve liked most about being a liveaboard are the visitors — be they friends or fowl.

There’s a family of ducks that pops by regularly.

Egrets? I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. Just one actually, who, while making croaky-clicky noises from somewhere in that long and winding throat, landed softly on the edge of my boat, then took off the second I started fumbling for my camera.

And then there was this guy (top) – you tell me what he is — who didn’t seem to mind being photographed at all. Perhaps he’s an egret, too, though he was much smaller than the giant croaking one.

They were all welcome on the ark, with the exception of members of the rodent and snake families who I’m happy to report we saw none of at all — for which I thank the feral cats.

In our week living aboard a friend’s 30-foot sailboat in Baltimore, we’ve had a few human visitors, too, and I’ve enjoyed sharing what’s not really mine — the river, the boat, the sunsets … pretty much everything I offered except for Ace’s company, my beer and my now empty box of Cheeze-Its.

While offering little, I received much and thanks go out to the friends we’ve tried, tested, sought favors from and shacked up with. Maybe it is home, after all.

I think I’m actually moved — and it wasn’t just the bobbing of the boat. My return visit and the kindness Ace and I were shown by the friends, former Baltimore Sun colleagues, new liveaboard acquaintances and the occasional sea bird has meant a lot.

Once again, it’s hard to leave. The urge to nest is growing stronger. I’m wondering, how can I go back to a lonely Motel 6 after all  this? Do I have another three months on the road in me? Does Ace?

I guess we’ll see. Because it’s time to go — gotta fly.

Last day on the — ouch! — boat

As much as we’ve enjoyed life on a boat, both Ace and I will disembark with a few bumps and bruises.

Speaking just for myself, I think I’ve bumped almost every body part I have: head (four times), knees (three times), toes (two times), elbows (two times).

For Ace, I think it has been even tougher. He’s fine once he’s settled on the deck, or ensconced in the cabin on a cushion, but — being sneakerless — getting around on the boat’s slippery surface has been more difficult for him.

He has become adept at turning around in tight spaces, climbing up and down the ladder-like stairs to the cabin, and getting on and off the boat by crouching to fit under a railing and then leaping to the pier.

For the most part, he obeyed my commands to “stay on the boat!” when I ventured off to hit the bathroom or bar, but the other day was an exception.

The boat’s owner, Arnold Sherman, had come aboard. I had taken some photos of the boat’s interior and exterior, so he could use them in his attempts to sell my temporary home. After passing them on, we persuaded each other to go to Nick’s, where the boat is docked, for a beer and some of their happy hour, half-priced, fist-sized fried oysters.

“Stay on the boat!” I told Ace. The way the boat is tied, there’s a gap of one to three feet between it and the pier and, given the railing in the way, I worried he might end up in the water if he tried to get off when I wasn’t there — a bad thing because once one falls in the water, there aren’t a lot of ways out.

And at 130 pounds — him, that is — I’m relatively certain I wouldn’t be able to hoist him up.

Arnie and I had walked 100 yards down the pier, turned left and were headed to the gate when a dog head suddenly brushed up against Arnie’s leg. Ace, in total silence, had somehow managed to get off the boat, tippy toe up behind us and nonchalantly fall into step, with a look on his face that said, “Where we goin’, guys?”

I walked him back to the boat, put him in the cabin, gave him a mild reprimand and a pile of treats — mixed message, I know – and put a barrier at the top of the stairs.

Other than that defiant moment, he has adapted, once again, magnificently.

He loves walking along the pier, watching the birds, humans and other goings on, and sitting on the boat’s deck with his head draped over the side.

In the early evenings, he’ll climb up on the deck while I’m writing and position himself in a way he can see all that’s going on at the marina.

When he gets tired of that, or knows it’s almost dinner time, he’ll rearrange himself so he can peek through the entrance to the cabin, watching me — until dinner is served.

His only truly anxious moments were on Sept. 11 when the city saw fit — though it seems somehow wrong to me … a bit too festive and explosive — to have a fireworks display.

We sat in the cabin, his head on my lap, until it was over.

I’ve made sure to take him to nearby Riverside Park everyday, so he can enjoy some time on solid ground and sniff some grass, and yesterday — having some errands to attend to — I dropped him off for doggie day care at the Downtown Dog Resort & Spa, just around the corner.

Five hours later, I picked him up, along with his report card: “Ace was a little shy at first, not knowing any of the dogs. In the afternoon, he loosened up and played with Kallie (a Lab), Coby (a boxer) and Mocha (a pit mix) in the pool. He and Mr. Brown (his favorite playmate) seemed inseparable.”

From there we headed to Ace’s favorite bar, where he got his requisite human attention, and then some.

We stopped and picked up a cheesesteak and fries on the way back to the boat, and he bounded down the stairs to the cabin, not wanting to miss out on that.

As Ace sees it, home is where the cheesesteak is — no matter how cramped and slippery it (and by that I mean the home) might be.

Tomorrow, we’re off to Philadelphia — home of the cheesesteak, home, once, to me. After a couple of days there, we’ll move on to New York, in search of John Steinbeck’s Long Island home. There, in the backyard of a cottage in Sag Harbor, under a willow tree, Charley — the dog he toured America with — is buried.

That will be the starting point for the next few months of our journey, in which we plan to retrace, at least partially, the route Steinbeck and Charley took — starting with three ferry rides to Connecticut, then heading up to the northernmost tip of Maine, then moving west.

You can stay on the boat, or come on along.

Dockside Encounters: Chopper

Name: Chopper

Age: About 5

Breed: Ummmmm, let’s just say a terrier mix

Encountered: On the docks at Nick’s Fish House and marina in Baltimore

Backstory: Chopper made the transition from desert dog to boat dog several years ago — relocating from Kingman, Arizona to Baltimore, Maryland, where he now  lives aboard a huge yacht (compared to mine, anyway), in the process of being restored by Travis Guthrie and Magdalena Sudnik.

Travis, a boat builder and yacht carpenter, and Maggie, an artist, are both living on the Lucy Maru — and, as of very recently,  in official wedlock, we can be among the first to report.

(They also do a blog called “Dog on Boat,” which tracks their lives on board, the progress of the two boats they’re restoring and the hijinks of Chopper and a cat named Billy.)

Maggie was painting a mural as part of an art project on on Route 66 when Chopper, as he would be named, came running up from out of nowhere. They’ve been together ever since.

Every day, Chopper – he’s one of at least half a dozen dogs living with liveaboards at Nick’s — runs off the boat, down the pier and into the parking lot at Nick’s where he’s happy diving into the water to chase his ball.

While doing so he, literally, becomes a different dog. When his fine white coat gets drenched, it all but disappears, revealing a dog with black spots. Once he dries off, he’s white again.

Travis and Maggie, who have been together about eight years, can be seen toiling on the Lucy Maru just about every day — though one gets the feeling it’s more than just toil.

Their plan is to finish the restoration and do what they’ve long been contemplating: Sail off into the sunset.

More adventures in freeloading

After three days in the South Baltimore home of Mister Kitty, who never seemed to warm up to our presence, Ace and I are packing up for our next destination — a boat.

Since returning to visit Baltimore, we’ve already been bobbing around a lot — from Federal Hill to Dundalk to Federal Hill again. Next we’ll be bobbing in the Patapsco, in the sailboat of an old friend, who used to live on it himself.

I met up with Arnie last weekend, and was more than willing to help him work on his boat when he mentioned the possibility (or perhaps it was I who mentioned it) of living on it with Ace for a few days.

I agreed to help him install a cleat and a stanchion, having no idea what those things were.

But I was able to hand him tools, when I could find them.

“It’s behind the bulkhead,” he’d say.

“What’s a bulkhead?” I’d respond.

“Hold that screw on the aft side.”

“OK. What’s aft?”

I did help him make a little progress, though, on a boat that hasn’t been away from the dock for close to three years, one that, since he moved off it and into apartment a year ago, had become a bit of a mess, filled with tools and numerous parts I don’t know the names of. It had become sort of a floating toolbox.

I wasn’t entirely sure Ace — being 130 pounds — could get on board, or get down the ladder-like stairs into the cabin. Nor was I sure that we could squeeze in among all of the assorted tools and marine stuff tossed here and there.

Yesterday, we returned to make sure Ace would be willing and able to climb aboard. With a little maneuvering of the boat, named Grendel, he jumped right on. I followed and — after opening the mandatory can of beer — checked out the cabin upon Arnie’s advice.

It was a different boat. Totally cleaned up. Everything in its place. As if Martha Stewart herself had boarded and directed her staff to make it spiffy and shipshape.

We’re looking forward to a few days floating dockside at Nick’s Fish House, and reporting on the adventures that I expect will ensue — none of which will involve actually leaving the dock, as Arnie’s motor still needs work, and my skills as a mariner, while Titanic in some ways, don’t qualify me as an old salt, or even a salt substitute.

But, knowing Nick’s, and having met a few of the colorful characters anchored there, I’m sure that — in addition my own ineptitude as I make my first solo (except for Ace) overnight stay on a boat– there will be some grins ahead.

As for the cat we’ve been feeding, Mister did stick his head out from under the chair today, getting a little closer to Ace, who seems to be dying to meet him. But then he hurried to his other hiding place upstairs.  Mister, unlike Ace, doesn’t want to rush into a relationship.

He sought my attention, it seemed, only when I went upstairs to use the bathroom. He would stick his big white paw underneath the crack at the bottom of door, get a grip, and tug and tug until it opened. Then,  he’d come in and brush back and forth across my legs until my mission was completed.

Probably, were we to stay a few weeks longer, Ace and Mister would become good friends. But the occupant of this house (thanks, Tobey) is coming home, and we have a boat to board. Stay tuned for some dockside drama.

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