Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Lucky Seven

Before I got the"Ark", I was living on a boat. She was called the "Lucky 7" and you will hear me referring to her now and again in my posts, so I thought I would give you a proper introduction. Sadly, she is no more. Rot took hold of her old bones and she was put to rest before she could do the same to me. She was a wonderful old wooden rum runner built for smuggling booze from Vancouver BC to the United States during prohibition in the 1930's. She was built in 1933, got busted her first trip out ( not so lucky after all!) and was shortly thereafter retired from that line of duty.

Fast forward to the 1970's when a carpenter found her languishing in ruins in a chicken coop on a farm. I have no idea how she got there! He took her home and rebuilt her by hand, adding all kinds of funky details and carvings as he went. Unfortunately he got ill and never did get to spend any time on her in the water. Over the years, she passed through a number of owners until I finally got her in 2007.

Her previous owner had to move her from the marina she was in and, as he wasn't living on it and couldn't take her out ( no motor), he put her up in the free section of Craigslist. With some help from some friends I got her towed back here and promptly moved on board that same day. I spent the next year living on her and fixing up the interior while learning the ins and outs of living on the water.

The following year,  I took her out of the water and into a workshop to try and repair some serious rot damage in the hull. Over the winter as I continued to work on her, it became apparent that the rot was all through the boat, boards, ribs, deck all of it. A very painful decision had to be made and in the end she was crushed for scrap. It broke my heart to see her go but my reality is, I would have had to build a thirty foot wooden boat from scratch and I didn't have those kinds of skills or the money to rent the space to do it in.

I salvaged everything I could from that boat and have been storing it to incorporate into the "Ark". A few pieces have already found their way into my home and I look forward to seeing the rest of them again as I find their special place.

I really enjoyed the time I spent on the "Lucky 7". I so wish I could have got her back in the water and been able to use her as a floating cabin either for a summer cottage or as a rental unit for a B&B. The one thing it did make me realize though, was that as much as I enjoyed that experience and I learned a lot about downsizing and living with less, in the end, I need some space. I certainly got that with the "Ark". I went from 300 square feet on the boat to 3000 square feet in the house. I am loving the freedom of space to put out everything where I can see it.

Here is her story in pictures:

My first view of the Lucky 7 the day I went to pick her up.

Looking into the galley (kitchen for you landlubbers), the arched doorway leads to the head  (bathroom), it had a hand pump toilet and a claw foot bathtub squeezed in there.

Looking  from the galley to the back of the boat. There are two doors on each side, each with its own staircase. I eventually cut the treads and reattached them with hooks so I could remove them and access the space under the stairs for storage. There is a built-in desk with a cupboard on the left(not visible) and a clothes rack on the right (also not visible) The red blanket at the back is covering the door to the bedroom (Captains Quarters) which contained a comfy double bed with shelves on either side and a huge drawer under the bed which held most of my clothes.
 Ya ,that colour green in the bathroom was one of the first things to go!~

So now I've moved in and am starting to fix her up. I spent hundreds of dollars on the shiny new stainless steel pipe for the wood stove, but's a good thing!
 We ripped out the extra couch/bed and I replaced it with a row of drawers for sorely needed kitchen storage for food and dishes.

The desk area all set up

A new skinny TV was bought to fit on the shelf at the foot of the bed. I love the old wooden chest at the bottom of this picture, it just went so perfectly with the boat.

This is looking towards the shelves at the head of the bed.

I installed a ceiling fan in the 10 ft high ceiling to push down the warm air from the wood stove, it made a HUGE difference. Also the light that was there was the UGLIEST light fixture possible, right out of an institution, so I was happy to replace that with the stain glass shades. I bought a bunch of them and redid the whole boat in stain glass.

I eventually got rid of the seating option all together on the right side and used that space to expand my kitchen cooking and storage space. A girl has to eat!

I then went on to refinish the couch and cushions

It was about this time that the opportunity came up to get her hauled out of the water and take a look at some rotten boards in the hull. Little did I know at the time that this would be her last ever voyage :(

 It started off bad straight away. When we got it to the shop where I going to be working on her, she didn't fit!! We had to get her off the truck right away and with no other choice, David jumped up with a saw and tore the top cab off. I was gutted but now it fit, so onwards we went.

So this is what I thought I was dealing with, scary enough considering that hole was right at the water line and I lived with it like that for a whole winter. It did seem fixable though, I figured about a month and I would be back in the water.

So then we grinded off all the paint ( huge job)

Under the paint we found the rot was much more extensive than first thought. I'm daunted but, so far , I still think I can do this.
 Hmm, a closer inspection of the exposed ribs and they don't look so healthy either!

Now I kind of go into denial and go back to working on the interior. That's something I can handle, so I sand all the floors and counter tops for about a week straight. Aren't they looking lovely, just waiting for some varnish on them. I decide to wait until the construction is over as it is too dusty to do a good job.
 I  install a tongue and groove floor in the bedroom ( there was only a plywood floor in there before.)

Finally , I can't procrastinate any longer, so back to work on the exterior. The next project is to take out all the caulking between each board....there was MILES of it, I almost killed my arms ripping it out one inch at a time...never, ever again!!

I built all new ribs and painted them with lead based paint to resist rot.

I replanked the side with new boards.  Not a great job as technically I should have off-set them , not had them all finish at the same place. But hey, the hole was covered, I was happy!

Next it was time to take a look at the cabin structure. First thing was to take off all the rotten wood on the back deck. The screws were all rusted so they had to all be cut off with a saw, pain. in. the. ass!

Looking at the back window frame, what do we have here? You guessed it, more rot!

Front window frame, same thing. See those walkways along the sides? Check the next picture....

Oh yeah, way more rot. Argghhhhh. By now panic has set in. This was supposed to take a month or so, it's now been six months and the boat is still more in deconstruction mode, then construction. We are paying $3000.00 a month to use the shop and we can't afford the bill anymore.

In desperation we cut the whole cab right off. My new theory is to rebuild the top to look like ....

... this boat

In the end though it was too late. I would have needed about a year to do all the work needed on this boat and I was done. Done physically, done financially, spirit broken. In the end , this it what it came down to. All that hard work, all that money, all that time, and in 15 minutes she was reduced to a pile of rubble and tossed in a garbage bin. I cried like a baby.

This is all I have left, a memory of her reflection in the water and a bunch of carvings and portholes to remember her. My first home, like a first love, not one I will ever forget. I learned so much about boats, life on the water, myself and how strong and capable I can be when needed.

Would you live on a boat? What do you think some of the obstacles would be? Whats the smallest space you have ever lived in?

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  1. Living on a boat sounds so romantic, but only a dream for me. Too much upkeep. I really enjoyed reading about this journey, and getting to know about your spirit. So sorry for your heartbreak, but you really are one tough cookie.

  2. Having been "along for the ride" on the whole journey, it was meaningful to see it all summed up in a story, albeit with a sad ending. I got a bit choked up when I saw the remnants on the shop floor & I remember clearly the moment I showed Brock the hull where you had planked it. I think that was the moment he knew you were in over your head (as anyone would have been) with this dear old boat. Lessons learned, always valuable. Cheers to the Lucky 7 for what she taught you - much love, J

  3. What a story. I know it was a learning experience, but an expensive one both economically, but physically and emotionally. - Margy

  4. My friend lived on a boat and the way she decorated it with French Doors you had no idea that you weren't in a house. The smallest place I have ever lived has to be in ONE room ( even the shed I lived in last yr was begger than the 'one' room places I have 'had' to survive in ! Once again I am in a 'small' space a little RV but the outside is where I want to do most of my living and the challange will be at 67yrs old to still LIVE my dream of living large in a small space, living as much as I can outside, living with less items than ever, living as tho it 'is' my first place.
    Ah but living ... is the 'key' word

    PS I too have a baby when my 'other' little rv I had lovingly gutted/re-done was torn apart by the storm of 04 in PA no less !!

  5. Loved this story and your life .My smallest space I stay at on occasion is my husbands cabin at his family's farm in St Elizabeth is 10 by 15 no running water we do have electric no phone service or TV but we love it I would spend every vacation there if I could get him too he loves his computer and his 47 Studebaker Truck to much not to hit the road on vacation. Check out my Jewelry on Facebook "Mary's Eclectic Art" its made out of all old watch parts and broken jewelry think you will dig it. Best of Luck in life Peace


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave me a comment, Rhianna

The Eclectic Ark