Yes, living in a power boat of some kind would cost more in fuel than living on a sailboat, but not as much more as we had believed. And there is this brute fact; rivers and the ICW are power boat territory. Big open water and the Islands belong to sailboats. Since a slice of the Atlantic and the Islands are still our primary place to play, Kintala will likely be our home for many years yet. But if Deb's and my life has any running theme it is that things change, what were once challenges become routines, and there is always something new to try, to discover, and to do. So when the chance came to take a ride on a live-aboard power boat, we jumped at it.
Moon Struck is a classic, tug style trawler. Classic as in having a wood hull, pretty lines, and those forward slanting wheel house windows that we think make for the best looking boats out there. She resides in the shed next to Kintala's pier, her owners have become friends and, yes, I have done several jobs on her.
It doesn't take long to get a power boat ready to leave the pier. Unhook the shore power, hit the starter button, let the big motor warm up a little...ready. A bow thruster looks to make backing out without rubbing something less of a gamble, and soon the waters of the Manatee River were flowing smoothly past the hull. The diesel rumble in the wheel house was about the same as that in Kintala's cockpit and at cruising rpm we were doing just slightly better in the speed department. We were doing slightly worse in the fuel burn department so, oddly enough, fuel mileage was nearly identical. Of course Moon Struck doesn't have the option of shutting down the engine and still being able to move with a purpose. Should her single 250 HP engine decide it is done for the day, Tow Boat US becomes her only “get home” option.
I was surprised at how very different the experience of being on the water turned out to be in the power boat. Navigation is “point and go”. The hydraulic steering was stiff but felt right for the mass of boat under my feet. Moon Struck, with her rounded hull, rolled noticeably in the many wakes. Noticeably, maybe, because the waterline was well below my feet as well. Since this was a maintenance “shake down” cruise, we didn't go very far down river before turning around. Turning Kintala around is a bit of a chore, one that becomes geometrically larger depending on how many sails are flying. On Moon Struck, one takes a good look aft (there is a lot of boat back there to look past) and turns the wheel. The channel was a bit narrow at that point so we did slow a little, even doing a “three point” by going into reverse for a moment.
Pointed toward the barn, a rain shower caught up with us, one heavy enough to have water washing down the decks. In the wheel house we...didn't do anything at all. No reaching for foul weather gear, no adjusting sails in the shifting winds, we didn't even need the wipers since the windows slant forward. I took another sip of coffee and just kept going.
I'm still processing this first real brush with a power boat. One thought is, so long as there was water, food, and fuel on board, touching a dock would rarely come to mind. It is like its own floating little island. It has twice the holding tank of Kintala, nearly as much water, and much more room for storage. (The fridge is full sized, as is the stove.) Being completely self contained for as much as a month wouldn't be any kind of challenge at all. Kintala simply can't carry that kind of stores without turning the interior into a warehouse. (The constant state of the aft cabin as it is.) There is even air conditioning available so long as one runs the engine. An hour's run before going to bed would go a long way to making for a comfortable night at anchor. Consistently being away from docks for months at a time is a goal we still haven't reached on Kintala.
A concern though is, well, me. Ensconced in a wheel house with RADAR, navigation, autopilot...protected and warm and dry; wind blowing? Who cares? Thunderstorms? Cool, sounds like fun. Rain? Cold? Heat? Ah, just another day. Keep going. Find some new place to go, some new things to see. It would be easy for me to get myself in trouble in a boat like that. And, of course, "going" means burning fuel, and I suspect I would want to "go" a lot.
It was interesting though, and fun. Hopefully we will get more chances to see how the other side lives.