Settling into their new home at sea

Posted 9/11/19
After losing “Bertie” at sea earlier this year, Peter Bailey and Heidi Snyder have a new boat to call home.

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Settling into their new home at sea

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After losing “Bertie” at sea earlier this year, Peter Bailey and Heidi Snyder have a new boat to call home. The two recently purchased Moccasin, a 36-foot sailboat built at Cape George Marine Works in Port Townsend. “It is late-30s-early-40s style sailing yacht with more modern rigs and aluminum masts,” Bailey said during a recent tour of the boat. “It is like switching from a semi-truck, which Bertie was, to a sports car.” Bertie was a 40-foot heavy yawl that extended out to 65-feet with her mizzenmast and bowsprit, Snyder said. “Bertie was basically a 19th century workboat design that I modified when I was in my 20s,” Bailey said. “I know a lot more now and would have done some things differently but it is what it is and it lasted me over 30 years of abuse.” Bertie’s keel was laid in 1976. It was built by Bailey, at Gate 3 Boat Coop on the Arques property, Sausalito, California, and launched in 1984. Bertie was lost to a white squall at about 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on May 29 when Bailey and Snyder were about 12 hours away from New York City, just off the Jersey Shore. They were rescued hours later by the United States Coast Guard and their beloved boat is gone. The couple had left Port Townsend in 2016, and traveled south along the Pacfic Coast, crossed over through the Panama Canal, and were heading north to New England. They are now anchored in Port Townsend Bay while upgrades are made to Moccasin, which was launched in 1977. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done on this boat,” Snyder said. “It has antiquated systems. Every system is old. The weathering is really old, the plumbing is really old.” There is also no refrigeration on the boat, and no modern electronics. “That is why we got the price we did, which was low, because we probably have $20-25,000 worth of upgrades,” Snyder said. Bailey said the toilet that came with the boat was deficient, so one of the first priorities was to replace it. “It was like going from a Yugo to a Cadillac,” he said. There are other issues to address, too. “Some boat owners were capable,” he said. “Some were shortcutters. I have found places where they have just cut off a wire and left it. Is it connected on the other end? It is going to cause a fire.” Custom built Moccasin was custom built as a salmon troller for a former mayor of Sitka, Alaska, Bailey said. “That is why it has this rather odd layout, a deep cockpit. These are fish holds,” he added, pointing to compartments in the rear cockpit. “They originally had insulation and were filled with ice and could hold 400 pounds of fish in each one.” The boat was not built as a permanent floating home, Snyder said. “The mayor never lived on the boat, he just kind of camped on it for two weeks here or there. He loved it. It was his baby. But when you live on a boat, you need to have your systems dialed in. You need to create your own power. You need to have all the proper wiring and plugs for offshore sailing or sailing in the fog.” The hull of the Moccasin consists of one-piece hand-laid moldings of fiberglass bound in vinyl ester-based resins, according to the company’s website. The deck beams and carlins are of laminated Port Orford Cedar, a premier species for boat building with excellent resistance to decay. The deck and cabin structure is heavily sheathed with fiberglass mat and roving, combining the low-maintenance exterior of fiberglass with the interior beauty of a wooden vessel. But, Mocassin has less living space than Bertie, Snyder said. “It is smaller for a living space, but Bertie was weird. There was a lot of storage, so this seems to have more living space than she had in some ways.” Original tiny home Long before tiny homes were a thing, people living full time on yachts were already learning to live small, Bailey said. “Yacht designers developed tiny homes long before the tiny home architects. This one is pretty highly finished.” The two don’t ever worry about getting cabin fever, they said. “We just got done living in a van,” Bailey said. “Believe me, this is palatial. There is a hot water shower.” And, they can always go on deck. “You have the whole outside which extends the whole environment of a boat,” Snyder said. “You get that whole other experience.” Still the two are crammed together in a small space for weeks and months at a time. “We have been together 24-7, seven days a week for a long time in a small space,” Snyder said. While it works for Bailey and Snyder, such conditions probably wouldn’t work for every couple. With that in mind, Snyder is considering writing a book about how to live such a lifestyle, she said. The two are still learning the personality of their new boat, Bailey said. “Every person is different and every boat is different. Even the ones that come from a manufacturer have differences in systems.”

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