Tuesday, July 27, 2010

'The many aspects of mobile home living'

One of the funniest books I've read in the past decade was written by a lawyer and circuit court judge who graduated from Davidson with honors and who now holds court in his native Patrick County, Virginia. Judge Martin Clark has written three novels that have earned him accolades as the next Carl Hiaasen, only deeper, or the next John Grisham, only grittier, or the next Elmore Leonard, except funnier. (We've known his family for a while; his father, a longtime lawyer who had helped us with deeds and such for years, is a character right out of a Dickens novel.) Judge Clark's first book was titled "The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living" and it was more about goings-on in the legal profession than in, say, a mobile home or a trailer park.

Still, we've come face-to-face with some of the many aspects of mobile home living atop Belcher Mountain, perhaps 10 miles or so north of Judge Clark's home in Stuart, Va., ever since a fire reduced our retirement home to a pile of charcoal, twisted metal and crumbling block. The insurance company has sent 'round a 40-foot travel trailer that will be our high-altitude home for the next 8 or 10 months while the house is replaced, and we're relearning the skills acquired during the decade when we owned and sailed a 37-foot cutter recommissioned as the S/V Grace.

There are many aspects to sailboat living, too, including the fact that the home will move around you from time to time, floating as it does in a minimum of 5 or 6 feet of water, that whenever you move from one place to another aboard ship there's always something or someone to move out of the way or climb over first, and that there's a complicated process for doing anything. You have to get used to a small stove top, a tiny refrigerator, an impossible to reach engine room unless you're a contortionist, and heaven help you should the toilet need any repairs.

A 40-foot trailer, by comparison, is the apex of luxury. It doesn't bob around nearly as much, even in a high wind. There's ample floor space (about four or five times as much as a sailboat, I'd estimate), all of it flat and mostly square, and the walls are essentially perpendicular with real windows from which you can see quite a lot, not those narrow slots known as portholes. Sailboats are pointy at one end, blunt but narrow at the other, and curvy just where you want it to be straight.

We can't sail out to Cape Lookout or over to Ocracoke Island, but we have power, plenty of hot water, and using the head does not involve opening a through-hull, turning a valve, pumping a lever, closing a valve, pumping some more and then closing a through-hull so the trailer won't sink if an intake line pops off. There's a more or less full-size refrigerator, and a washer and dryer, too.

On the whole, it's not as much fun as a sailboat on a fine day with a 15-knot breeze, but it's a lot easier to live in, thank you very much, and it's hard to get cable TV on a sailboat. No complaints, and none of this jibe-ho-and-watch-the-boom nonsense, either.


Anonymous said...

For the love of God, Jack. I mean really.

Cedar Posts said...


Nice take on sailboat vs mobile home living.

As a captain running a 105 Hatteras yacht I'm often reminded that true sailors are different breed. While us stink pot drivers bash our way from point to point, blow boater knife through waves and wakes with little effort.

The roles reverse once tied to a dock. We stand tall in full sized showers and enjoy galley spaces the size of small commercial kitchens.

I suspect that living in a mobile home along the mountian side in Virginia isn't all that bad.

Anonymous said...

Jack, now trade the traditional walls for 18,000 lbs of dovetailed 4x12 logs and add a loft and we have a "barge" model to retire in NW NC. It is comfortable. Please post photos of progress as you rebuild so the spirit of restoration can be appreciated.

charles said...

Brother Bett's , I don't know. Having lived in manufactured housing I know where you are. Best of luck with the rebuilding and I hope it goes smooth. I still think that is a sign that you need to retire to the coast. Then you only have to worry about hurricanes and shifting shoals. Opps, forgot about the sandflies. But you can always get a used G/W and hit the water. I saw one for sale the other day and I was tempted, but I remembered the wife back home.
Good luck,good summer
Call your next case.
Charles Waters