You would think that I would know where to start this one, after the last one ended at the perfect launching point.  But the truth is that the next few moments were so insane, they are difficult to explain.  I was at the point where JM was coming out of the gate and Zombie Mom and Zombie Son were coming down to meet me and tell me what a horrible person I was.  Actually, at this point, had she not raised Zombie Son, I would have felt very sorry for her for having this poor excuse for a human as her family.  As it was, she came down to tell me to put the dog on a leash, and her son started screaming obscenities about me to JM.  It is doubtful most decent people have ever heard the words that emerged from his mouth as he described me.  In fact, the only one that can be repeated here is that I was fat, a fattie, fat wife, fat see-you-next-tuesday-wife, etc.  As JM riled up at the more vitriolic phrases, I was still stuck on ‘fat’.  Obviously, all those other wordy-dirds were much more acceptable to me than calling a lady ‘Fat!’  How dare he?!  Meanwhile, as I stood there in shock over my weight being called into question, JM and Zombie were in each other’s faces.  I stood by proud as JM refused to touch him first, 10+ years in law enforcement will often create certain aggressions, but it also teaches restraint.  His restraint even stood as the Zombie spat his Zombie spittal on JM.  Other than the bodily fluid (which, as it turns out, is assault in MD), they refrained from exchanging blows on the Tantallon property.  Which is really good since that guy was REALLY FAT.

We went back to the boat and called the cops and our captain.  At this point we had two priorities, move out to live with decent people sooner than expected, and see what protection we had from the Zombies.

Yesterday we had a party at our house.  It was wonderful and really nice to be able to have people over.  When at Gangplank, it was convenient to have friends over, but at Tantallon we rarely had visitors.  Mostly this was due to the location – getting people to drive out to Fort Washington was a hassle.  However, another issue was that anyone on the dock had to be escorted.  It is incredibly difficult to have people over to your house and then have to walk them everywhere they go.  I realized this to be a problem when my sister and her family came to visit and we had to explain all the rules to them.  How ridiculous is it to be in your thirties and forties, make a great living, and be treated like a child?  And why did we put up with it for so long?  I never will completely understand why and how we made the decision to stay there as long as we did.

We knew we were leaving at the end of our lease, but expected to stay for a month longer than we did. We had paid for the last month and weren’t due to move back to Washington Marina until the end of the month.  However, circumstances arose that forced us to, thankfully, leave much sooner than we’d expected.  And by circumstances, I mean the zombies finally attacked us.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning.  I had taken Siku out for a walk and stupidly stayed down near the water when I saw the Zombie son out for a walk with his illegal and aggressive Pit Bull.  Zombie Son was 30 years old, didn’t work (though his wife did), and lived for free in the marina.  He bullied everyone on the dock with threats of eviction.  As we passed each other on this fateful morning, Siku slid out of her collar and leash and over to the Pit Bull.  As they started tussling, he began screaming at me, “You B!tch, put your dog on a leash!!”  I was hollering at Siku to come back, but of course, she doesn’t listen as well to me as to JM. He continued screaming at me and finally Siku came back to me.  “If I see your dog off her leash one more time, you’re out of here!”  I hollered back, “She was on a leash, she slid off.  And besides, if your dog weren’t illegal, you wouldn’t be so worried.”   Not that anything was the right thing to say, but that certainly wasn’t it.  He went through the roof.  “I own this place and will have you thrown out.”  To which I replied, “You don’t own this place,  Blah-Blah does and your mom just manages it.”  It is never good to refute a Zombie, they take it as a personal offense.  So of course he continued hollering obscenities at me as he ran off to tell Mama Zombie to kick me out.  I decided it might be smart to tell JM what mess our dumb dog had just gotten us into and he was walking out of the gate about the same time.  Meanwhile Zombie Mama and Zombie Son started down to tell me what a horrible human I was, and JM was introduced to Zombie Son hollering in the background “Tell your fat b!tch wife to keep her dog on a leash.”  And that was when things began to get out of control…..

If that first phone call from Zombie Mama hadn’t been enough to deter me, you would think that the events the following week would have, but neither did.  I was committed, we were committed, and this year of living aboard was absolutely going to happen, despite all signals that we should have pulled the plug.

We were not even there a week before our cars were broken into.  As we were getting ready for work, we heard frantic knocking on our door – a sound that for the following year would immediately cause me to return to this moment.  We answered the door only to be told that eleven cars had been broken into, our two Jeeps among them.

We immediately went up to the parking lot to a sad scene that made me wonder whether the people who decided to break into our cars knew and ignored that we would feel this way, or else didn’t know the damage they’d caused.  They broke into eleven cars to steal radios and other “valuables” and stole one car.  I figured it was approximately $45,000 worth of necessary repairs, all for probably $1500 gain for them.

The Prince George’s County cops were conscientious, but resigned to the truth of law enforcement in Prince George’s County.  They filed police reports and left to deal with  the rest of the break-ins, robberies, and murders that we came to realize was life in this notorious county.  Meanwhile, Tantallon management refrained from showing up, because why should they?  Their cars weren’t broken into, so why show any type of concern for the residents?  There were a couple of video cameras, but they were so cheap and poorly lit, nothing could be deciphered from them.  And even if there were anything that could be picked up, by say, my Federal Special Agent partner, Tantallon Management wouldn’t let anyone other than the Establishment Zombies view them.  Because what’s the point of indecipherable footage if not to further obfuscate the truth?

Shortly thereafter, in much the same fashion as the useless cameras, they began putting in access-controlled gates.  Without permits.  Because why should they obey the law in a lawless county?  When the county came to enforce building permits, any motivation Tantallon management had to protect their paying residents dissipated.  So a year later, when we pulled out of the marina under duress, the useless cameras were still in place and the gates were still in the same inoperable position they had been in a year prior.  And the residents still lived in fear of hearing that knock on the door that meant their property had once again been stolen, or having guns pointed at their heads when they went to take their dogs for an early morning walk.  Such is daily life at Tantallon Marina in Fort Washington, Maryland.

So our year as a full-time liveaboard is up and I’ve finally detoxed enough to discuss it without a mental and emotional relapse. The boat was awesome – it had its ups and downs- but was a mostly positive experience. We still have the boat, though it is up for sale, and now that we no longer need it as a liveaboard, we’re ready to sell and get something smaller to play on. So the boat was a fun experience, living aboard was an experience, and doing something a little outside the norm was fun. The part I needed distance from was Tantallon Marina. Since the amount of negativity there could fill entire chapters of a book, I will just summarize here.

There’s a popular sci-fi movie that came out a couple of years ago called “The Book of Eli.” And in it, there is this couple called Martha and George, both of whom from initial appearances are a normal couple, but end up wanting to trap and eat Eli and company. The management and establishment zombies at Tantallon are just like this. I swear they would carve you up and eat you if they thought they could get away with it. And since I have no evidence they have gone this far yet, they do everything they can but make General Tso’s chicken out of your fingers and toes.

The first indication I had that something was off came only after we’d given our deposit and arranged to move the boat to Tantallon. After the check cleared, we received a phone call that we now owed $500 to retrofit their electric pedestal to fit our boat (half of which went to the managers brother to complete the work). Now keep in mind, we’d had the boat for a year before this, at multiple marinas, and the previous owner had owned it twenty years before that, without any such issues. When I told Zombie Rhonda I didn’t understand or believe that, she then told me if I wanted to back out, she got to keep my deposit. I vividly remember my mother telling me to just back out already, that since I felt undue pressure before moving in, why go through with it. Because we desperately wanted to liveaboard though (for financial and personal reasons), and because there were no closer liveaboard marinas, we went through with it anyway. I frequently think back to that moment in my previous apartment’s kitchen, and wonder why I didn’t go with my gut. That first phone call was only a tiny sample of the year to come……

I’m sure you’d think the last place you’d like to be during a hurricane is on a boat, but I am convinced otherwise. Most of the things that worry other people about hurricanes are not worrisome to us – not that we don’t have worries, but just that they’re different than what most land dwellers worry about. Below are the top 5 reasons to live on a boat in a hurricane:

1). You don’t have to worry about power. While most living on land have to worry about their power going out, most on boats don’t. This is a huge relief – I know that when the power goes out, we just rev up the generator and have power. When we move back to land, that’s one thing I’m going to insist we have.

2. You don’t have to worry about flooding. Pretty obvious, right?! No matter how high the river gets, we float. Just call me Noah.

3. We always have clean water stockpiled. Because we don’t drink the shore water (ugh, it comes through a water hose), we have two five-gallon jugs of water delivered each month. If we’d lived on land, we probably wouldn’t do this, but again this is a habit I will make sure to carry with me once we move back to land.

4. We don’t have to worry about trees falling on our roof. Because the boat is in the middle of the water, we never have to worry about a tree coming uprooted and crashing in on our heads.

5. Hurricane shopping was easy. We didn’t have to worry about buying the same foods everyone else was competing for, because we can heat our food. Also, because we didn’t have to buy water, it was just a regular shopping day…with the exception of the line of hundreds of shoppers weaving through the aisles for checkout.

So far, the neighborhood has been busy preparing for this storm. We’re all determined to stay aboard during the storm, with the young’uns encouraged by the 7-20 year boat veterans. We had trouble out of our generator last night and couldn’t get it to start, but after a night of rest and liberal applications of starter fluid, this morning it cranked right up. I never knew the sound of a generator would be so pleasing to someone who is generally only this excited by shoes and clothes.

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We also winterized our water lines yesterday, with multiple trips to Home Depot, where we acquired two 30′ heat cables, eight tubes of insulation, and three rolls of Gorilla tape. This, we’re told, will keep the lines from freezing this winter. And yes, under all that black tape is a regular garden hose wrapped with a heating cable…pretty nifty!!

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So far, it’s very calm, the water more so than normal. If we didn’t have all the warnings on the TV and Internet, I suspect we’d still know something was amiss, simply by the stillness of the water and air.

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Three years ago my sister and I braved Snowmegeddon together in Alexandria. We stayed in the house only up to the point when we knew we wouldn’t die by stepping outside, and then proceeded to spend the next several days walking around the shuttered city. When we weren’t walking, we drove (the Jeep can go ANYWHERE…..almost), or rode our bikes (Jania was not especially skilled at this skill). The whole event was a blast.

Now, three years later, I understand we’re under the watchful eye of a Frankenstorm. Except this time, I live on a boat. I’m a little worried about how this will play out, but my neighbors are all confident and excited. I bribed one of them with stockpiled water in case I get scared and need to escape to the comfort zone of those who look forward to once-in-a-hundred-years event. We have secured a location for the poochie just in case we need to escape to my dads, but at this time, it looks like we’re going to see what Sandy has in store for us.