Call me Ben. Ben Dover. Parents can be thoughtlessly cruel, sometimes.
I've always been a fairly smart guy, at least until I started drinking to get to sleep.
I got interested in computers early on and made a living out of programming them, installing them and fixing them. I've averaged about ten years per job. Lately I've been holding down a gig that's taken my shop through the conversion of a busy server room to three machines. It's called virtualization: One company's interpretation of it is called 'VM-Ware'.
Let me tell you that the conversion process is not the neat and clean or sanitary thing that the salesmen describe. We lost our Exchange server-cum-domain controller mid-imaging and had to recover everything the hard way. My doctor put me on ulcer medications so fast it damned near made my head spin. Everything after that was been greeted with a expectation of immediate failure if not absolute collapse. I was not very damned happy with our vendor.
A server image went sideways and I had to go in after hours to recover it. While driving home during a sleet storm a woman that had no business being on the road T-boned me. If I'd been a younger model I'd have shrugged it off with no problem. The difficulty lay in the fact that I was definitely not a younger model. At fifty-four and having two different heart problems as well as full-blown diabetes my quality of life generally sucked.
Well, guess what. It was about to suck a little more. The doctors agreed that my leg had to come off just below the knee as the compound fracture would never heal: witness the diabetic lesion that I'd been sporting on my left shin for the last fourteen years. As a counterstrike I employed a lawyer and did my level best to skin that woman alive--financially.
Oh, she was rich enough to afford to throw a few million dollars my way. The trouble was my lawyer anticipated taking over eighty percent of that. I smartened up and hired another lawyer to recover my judgment from the first lawyer, limiting the fees and expenses of each lawyer to fifteen percent of any dollar value in question.
The judge must have thought me a breath of fresh air as I won the judgment, and retained over seventy percent of the initial damages, i.e. there were no taxes. In Illinois legal damages are not taxed while penalties are. I "walked" away with just over 7.7 million dollars. These days that's not one hell of a lot of money. Granted, it's more than most will ever see but since I had to live on it for the rest of my days I got a squirmy feeling every time I looked at my bank balance. My one consoling thought was the old broad that T-boned me had to give up her license and be driven everywhere after that. I spent a good while in the hospital recovering from major surgery then going through rehab, learning how to use and care for a fake leg. I was told that it would be over a year until I felt comfortable with it. I was ecstatic that I'd talked my boss into keeping me on the books on extended medical leave. My insurance would cover everything after the first thousand dollars. An uninsured year in a hospital would have eaten all of my funds and left me in debt until I died.
I couldn't drive, I couldn't walk without a pair of crutches, I couldn't afford a 24x7 minder, driver or live-in for the rest of my life. I had no damned idea what to do with myself. All I knew was staying where I was would bury me fast. I reduced the huge piles of crap (stuff I'd previously decided that I couldn't live without) down to a couple of duffle bags' worth, a long rolling steamer trunk for my firearms and kitchen gear as well as some computer equipment that fit into a big Samsonite suitcase. I also kept two aluminum-cased tool kits that made up my electronics lab.
I bought a high-end titanium-cased laptop with a 'bullet-proof' keyboard and copied all my porn, stories and electronics data into it. I kept a high-speed switch and a big buffalo-box (external RAID-based on-line storage unit). Regrettably I sent my stereo equipment and enormous monitor to a resale shop. I kept my movies and CDs. I could always buy a new monitor and stereo. Storage would cost more in nuisance value than replacement would cost financially except for the few items that were irreplaceable.
I moved south on general principles. When you're shy a limb ice and snow are your mortal enemies. Atlanta is huge, and one more guy in a wheelchair just blended in. I rented a wheelchair-friendly first-floor efficiency apartment with available Wi-Fi. (I hacked my neighbor's encryption and paid him forty a month not to squeal. He was happy to have his Internet underwritten by yours truly. We occasionally had beer and pizza on Sundays.) We were sitting around pounding down the suds and sucking up tomato pie when I bemoaned my lack of options. Todd, my neighbor, brought up a coastal option--houseboats. Once you owned it the slip rental was (relatively) cheap and if you didn't like the neighbors you could flip 'em off and move!
Houseboats come in three major classes. First, there's the redneck special: put a house trailer on floats and party on! Naah. It wasn't my idea of fun. I didn't want to die with my last words being "Hold my beer and watch this!". Nope. Nope. No way.
Next there's the factory built houseboat that is massively underpowered and steers like a drunken water buffalo. Meh. I've got to be able to do better than that.
Next we get into the naval engineered solutions. There's a whole spectrum of offerings. If you start with a catamaran you can go longer, wider and higher as your budget and ego demand. A builder out of Sydney, Australia has sold multi-floor catamarans that look like they would cover a city block. A one-story catamaran with staterooms above and storage in the two hulls gives you a lot of options.
If you look for vessels under 50 feet long and one diesel per hull there's a lot of used boats for sale out there. The parameters appear to be age, repair (general condition and hours since last overhaul), number of bunks, engine size (hence fuel consumption), bunkerage (fuel capacity) and last but not least appeal. Since I'm not a gold-faucets type of guy I looked for a 'commercialized' boat. Slip rental fees are tied to the length of your craft. Things go up fast at the fifty foot point.
I bought a used 48-foot diesel-powered catamaran registered out of New Orleans. I didn't have the skill or dexterity to run around trimming sails on a sailboat, even though the fuel costs would be dramatically reduced if I relied on wind-power for my travels. I would use the engine or engines when needed. It was diesel or nothing for me. There was no way I'd want to be out on a big body of water with a gasoline fire.
The boat was built in 1984 and was "showing some age". I found it up on blocks at the back of the broker's yard. The deck was a disaster. The interior stank of moldy carpet padding and decaying foam-backed upholstery. It was difficult to see through the helm windshield as it was hazed over from the sun. It needed a lot of work inside and out. What sold me were the seven-foot-six ceilings. The thing felt open. Some clod had named her the "Argosy", what must be the most used and abused name in naval history. I found the keel plate and looked up the original manufacturer. From there I managed to track down a set of the original plans.
She had four staterooms, a generous helm and a nice salon, all built into one large cabin above the water-line. I had the whole thing gone over with a fine-toothed comb and paid the broker for what it was worth. He was so amenable I think he just wanted the damned thing off his lot. It was then towed to the contractor's shipyard in Mobile Alabama.
Outside, the hulls were re-painted and the zincs were replaced. (Zinc anodes keep your rudder and propellers from oxidizing and crumbling away from an electrovalent reaction enabled by the sea water. The metallic zinc decays first, thus the term 'sacrificial zincs'.) The penetration seals were inspected and if needed, renewed. All windows were replaced and waterproof seals replaced everywhere. The superstructure was repainted as well. The deck was torn up and replaced with synthetic materials, not wood. The fly deck was torn out and roofed over. A permanent table was mounted on the aft deck and a retractable Bimini (sun shade) was installed to cover everything aft of the cabin. (The fore-deck was just big enough to get around the cabin so the windshield could easily be cleaned and the boat tied up or brought to anchor--I believe a catwalk is the term.)
Inside, all four heads were consolidated into one and the staterooms were expanded. All the carpeting, bunks and upholstery were ripped out and new installed. Each stateroom received a queen-sized bed. Most of the wood trim was replaced by fireproof synthetics. The electronics were brought up to modern standards and the engines were rebuilt while a propane-fired water heater and galley equipment were installed. The ship's head was big, airy and sported a six foot by six foot spa with a hand-held shower. I'd been informed that LP gas lines aboard ship invariably leak due to repetitive stress, and LP gas tends to accumulate at the lowest available point. Rather than owning a floating bomb, blowers were installed in both of the hulls.
.... There is more of this story ...