One Girl’s Treasure

Anyone who knows me well, knows I have to work hard to project a professional image. Having jewelry that matches my clothes, and hair that doesn’t stick up at odd angles does not come naturally to me! Nonetheless, before I became a liveaboard sailor, I’m pretty sure I would have been voted Least Likely to Dumpster Dive. (Heck – I doubt I’d have believed it myself!)

This transformation has come about because of my new jobs as Chief Engineer, Bosun and Purser. The first I got by acclamation, as I am literally the only person aboard who can physically fit into the engine compartment!

As bosun, I am in charge of everything to do with the lines – their use, maintenance, storage and repair. This includes everything to do with knots, so I am continually adding to my repertoire. (I think I am up to 10 now).

But it is the position of purser that takes up most of my time. I am in charge of the ship’s stores. That means I need to know what is on board, where it is located, and whether we need to stock up on anything. The food is easy. It’s the tools and all the parts and supplies that keep me on my toes.

Every time we do a project, or even some routine maintenance, My Beloved looks at me hopefully and asks, “Do we have anything that might work for this?’

Thom, about to go boat spelunking!

Case in point: Yesterday’s project was to install a new USB outlet in the cockpit. This project had me sifting through our hardware collection (which I have meticulously separated out by type and size) to find a screw the size of an eyelash. Then we found that the electrical connectors we bought didn’t fit the wire we salvaged from another project. This sent me diving through bags of bits and bobs, to find two connectors that would serve.

When my work as purser was done and all the parts were in place, I switched hats for a moment and concluded that, as the bosun, I wasn’t thrilled with how exposed these new electrical connections would be in a locker intended for lines. Lines are something which I often need to grab in a hurry. One could easily catch on the connectors and rip them out. So how to protect our new socket?

We considered a number of options that would use materials already on board: bits of teak, plywood, starboard (a kind of plastic), etc. But the best option was something I’d seen the day before while we were out walking. We were passing a house under construction and I couldn’t help myself – I just had to know what was in the dumpster parked in their driveway. Peeking in, I made a mental note that it contained solid two by fours and some sweet pieces of PVC pipe. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the new me!

While waiting for a bus from the local Trader Joes!

It all started in New Jersey. We were walking through a boat yard, and something prompted me to climb up a dumpster and look inside. Lo and behold! Someone had thrown away a perfectly good fender! I felt like I had won a prize! Now I can’t walk by any boatyard or construction dumpster without taking inventory (if nothing else).

Recently, I scavenged an antique iron weight that used to be part of a window sash and repurposed it as a dinghy anchor. Now I have my eyes peeled for some old garden hose, to use as a chafe-guard for my mooring lines. I am also scouring marina laundry rooms (which often have book lending libraries) for a discarded copy of Ashley’s Book of Knots!

There is only so much we can carry on a small boat at any given time. And we can’t just hop into a car to get what we need as problems arise. Knowing what resources are free and close at hand ups my MacGyver game considerably. Suddenly, I understand why people love storage locker shows. Trash is my new treasure!

With the socket installed, but not protected.
After fitting and gluing some PVC pipe that we scavenged, the socket is now well protected!
Here’s the USB connector as seen from the cockpit. It’s waterproof!


  1. I would knot have taken you for a knotty girl but I do appreciate all your new skills…especially Dumpster Diving. Your have absolutely arrived…very clever. . Great Blog entry Kath!


  2. Dear Kathleen,
    Great blog entry but I never had any doubts that you and Thom were and are survivors and scavengers at heart! The veneer of your professional business suits don’t fool me, I would absolutely want to be on Team Hounsell and Therriault in the event if climate change and world apocalypse!


  3. Lovely writing. I know the first two sentences should have been the giveaway, but I read the whole thing in Thom’s voice.


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