“Well girls, do you want the good news or the bad news?” Asked a lovely man by the name of Kirk Hathaway. Who had just hauled himself out of the water, looking like a coral reef after scraping Louise’s undercarriage.

“Neither?” we are both thinking.

“The bottom of the boat is all clean, I put a new zinc on, but your propeller is chipping away, and you might want to look into having your cutless bearing replaced. I can move the shaft around, and hear that there is metal on metal, which could be the cause of your recent tiller vibrations”

What the hell is a cutless bearing? He motioned us to the dock, where he continued to give us a lesson on zincs, electrolysis, cutless bearings, and potential repercussions, if in fact, our cutlass bearing is worn down. Sitting indian style, we nodded like bobble heads listening to information we wished we weren’t hearing. Katie whispered she was happy she had just taken a xanax. I had a hard time processing it all, considering it was not long ago that I was in the water inspecting the region. Had I not been noticing the things I most importantly should have? Apparently not.

Kirk referred us to SailCraft, a boat yard a few days away in Oriental, NC. We spent a few days, discussing our options, making phone calls, getting opinions, and dreading the thought of getting hauled out. We of course took a look at the situation for ourselves, before making any decisions. The propeller did in fact, look like it had been dug up from a 17th century shipwreck. The the prop shaft did indeed have play where it passed through the strut. Kirk, you were not lying.

“Yah what do ya want?” My father finally answers the phone.

“Cutless bearing. Tell me about it” I come back.

“It’s very important” He responded.

There are certain things that come out of that man’s mouth, I know to trust. If anything, it’s boats, and diesel engines. All I had to hear him say was “it’s very important”, to understand that there was no possible way of avoiding this situation. We knew better than to try and make it back to Michigan under such circumstances. When compromising the blood pumping heart of your boat – Louise’s “little engine that could” – the least we owed her was a minor, yet costly operation.

Watching a large metal machine with a man pressing buttons and pushing levers hauling your house from the water isn’t relaxing. Somewhere around 9,000 pounds, suspended in two straps, swinging in directions Louise would not normally choose to swing. 7,800 pounds of haul, and the rest in toiletries and Budweiser. Louise was power-washed, and carefully blocked in our new neighborhood for the week.

Spending time in a boat yard is a odd thing to explain. It’s confusing. It’s contradictory to a boat’s real purpose. It compares a sailor’s version of “house work” to one’s average idea of “house work”. Fiber-glassing, sanding, barnacle-scraping, waxing, painting, varnishing, is nothing but a sailors version of mowing the lawn, watering flowers, sweeping the deck and washing the windows. It is a place for dedicated dreamers, and diligent workers. A trap where time disappears, and your tentative plans to be a fish out of water extend for days, weeks, months, and for some, years. No one really believes each other when they say they are getting “splashed” (put back in the water) in a matter of days. Everyone knows our kind of yard work happens slowly. If anything is to be learned in the yard – it is patience. Day by day things get accomplished, but it seems that with each day passing, comes a new reason for not being ready to begin the real journey.

In the yard, you awake to footprints, electric sanders, hammers and voices. You climb a ladder to reach your cockpit. When you step aboard, the boat does not react to your foot placement. Instead, her stability high up on jack-stands sits still with weight shift. When you lay down to sleep at night, the hull is not cold from sitting in the water, but is still warm from the heat of the day. There is no water lapping the sides, no swinging in circles, and no breeze finding its way through the hatches because you are not pointed into the wind. When you pump water in the sink, you can hear it fall out of the bottom and hit the rocks below. Everything feels different, sounds different, smells different, but inside the boat, it looks exactly the same. In the yard, we are not living in boats, but in tree-houses.

This tree-house community however, holds something remarkable. We are all working towards the same thing. We all have the same goals. Competition does not exist. With like minds, equal frustrations, comparable victories, and close quarters, you are connected to your neighbors whether you want to be or not. When you don’t have the right tool, the guy next door does. When you are not positive about how to go about something, the gal over there is. When your irritation is noticed, someone tosses you a cold beer. When your mission is accomplished, smiles and recognition come out of the bones. I interacted with our neighbors more in 5 days, than I ever did in the neighborhood I grew up in for 18 years. The amount of borrowing we did could not be compared to the cup of sugar you ask your neighbor for as a kid. Proof, that the boat yard, tree-house living life will connect you to something you didn’t even know existed. By the time we had to say goodbye, it was actually sad. Hugs given, information exchanged, and sincere wishes of fair winds.

The cutless bearing was replaced. We found a propeller at a consignment shop, with the same pitch, but an inch too long in diameter. We waited three days to have it machined down to the right size. In that time, we spent some long, sweaty hours scraping barnacles off the bottom in preparation for a new paint job. Temperatures in the high 90’s lingered until we left. The sky rocketing humidity had us moving very, very slowly. It wasn’t until we were mid-way through painting the bottom, that it started pouring. Just our luck.

The better half of the week had passed before us. That big metal machine came and re-situated Louise back in the water were she belonged. Happy with the week’s accomplishments, and even the size of our bill. I highly recommend SailCraft for any work that you need done – in or out of the water. The employees are beyond knowledgeable, and are not looking to rape you of your funds. Ask for Allen, tell him “the girls” sent you. Obviously the people who live there, are the cherry on top.

Thanks guys. Time to hit the road in our new spaceship.


Ladies know how to work too.


The uneasy moment.


Big, scary machine.


Power washer. I want one.


Where’d our bottom paint go?


Was that thing really making us move forward?



If you ever get repairs done at SailCraft – ask for Daryll. Daryll’s the man.


Safety gear. Don’t get “ON-OFF” acid wash on your skin. It burns.



New cutless bearing/old cutless bearing. This brass thing, is lined with grooved rubber to self lubricate with the surrounding water, where the prop shaft passes through it’s supporting strut. Learn something new every day.



Prop we found at a consignment shop for 35 bucks. Plus an additional $90 to send it off and have machined to the appropriate diameter.



New paint job ended up being successful, even after the first attempt getting rained out!



7 thoughts on “Living in a treehouse.

  1. As always, I am impressed. Two years ago you wouldn’t have been throwing around terms like “prop pitch” and diameter with such great aplomb.

    We spent a month in a treehouse in Demopolis, AL, and Oriental is definitely a better deal –although the Alabama State Barbecue Championship was pretty awesome.

    We knew our cutlass bearing was starting to go in Annapolis, but stretched it out until we got home to Connecticut — which cost us a grand for a new shaft. So you are doing the right thing..

    Sounds like I need a tee shirt, though.


  2. Great stuff “guys”…I enjoy reading of your experiences, especially since you are LEARNING!! something new and challenging. I truly hope that my kiddos have a spirit of adventure! Speaking of adventure, you need to tell Pat and Cindy Bonish that they need to ditch the hotel and get BACK ON THE ROAD! I followed them for a couple of years, living vicariously through them, which I now get to do with you two. Thank you both for the updates and for giving me a chance to experience the life of a sailor!

  3. Hello Katie and Jessie,

    I see you have been in Oriental getting Louise repaired. About 8 to 10 miles north of you is a marina called timber dunes. It is one of the two nicest marinas on the east coast. Kind of out of the way but a great place to rest. $1.50 per foot daily. As you head further north the other “nicest” marina is St Johns Island marina, just south of Charleston. I also recommend that you chose the great dismal swamp route into Norfolk , Va. Also make sure you stop at Elizabeth City which is just before the Great dismal swamp. The Slips aren’t great (it’s a wall for the most part) but the town is the most welcoming stop on the entire east coast. Flowers for all the “ladies” and free wine and snacks. You are also right down town for groceries, laundry etc. a good place to stop foe fuel is Alligator River marina.

    Sent from my iPad


  4. Katie and Jessie—We love the title. Keep on adventuring. Ordered the magazine with your story. We can not wait to read the article. Scallywag is still at Hidden Harbor. Had her bottom cleaned and was told everything looked great. That means she will not be hauled this year. Yea! Loved the pictures and your commentary. Can not wait for the next update. How is the alternator belt?

  5. Hey Gals,
    You plan on making a detour to the Long Island Sound at all? I could steer you in the right direction possibly depending on what you were trying to do, and (hopefully you don’t need anymore work) but I live and work in yards and marinas fairly close to NYC just outside the Throgs Neck Bridge and could help you out with anything that may need to be done. Good luck and safe travels. I look forward to your posts, It’s motivated me to finish working on my boat so i can go adventuring soon!

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