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Saturday, September 28, 2019

DIY Grab rail for Sailboat

So we continue in our adventures in getting Constellation ready for travel.  The boat sat neglected for a few years before we got her, so there have been some projects that really, REALLY needed doing.

Along these lines, we discovered on one of our fist sails that, for reasons the surpasseth understanding, someone at some point had removed both of the grab rails from the top of the dog house, leaving nothing to hold onto when working with the sails, going forward, etc, etc. . .

Had to fix that.

I wasn't wild about drilling even MORE holes in the doghouse.  I looked around for some teak or composite handrail that fit the current, caulked-in hole pattern to no avail.  I thought about getting a plank of teak and cutting out some new ones, but with only a small selection of battery powered hand tools, that seemed like a recipe for frustration.  Accordingly, we decided to go with a grab line in stead of a grab rail.
These are stainless 8mm "shoulder" eyebolts, sometimes called lifting rings.

We drilled out the old holes that were used to mount the old grabrail and installed the eyes.

So, on them interwebs, we found some rather nice shouldered eyebolts in the right length.  I drilled out the old caulk plugs from the original hand rail and bolted them in.  Then ran some excess bow line we had down each side.

It makes a great grab line, and is easy to connect things to if you need to do so.  Just one more project out of the way.
Locknuts and washers inside the cabin ceiling hold them in place.

Add some nice braided line and you have your hand holds.
More shortly,  Projects, projects, projects. . . .

M


Some more from our trip to the Sassafras River.
looking smug at Worton Creek

We weren't the only ones who thought the place lovely.

ALL of the sunsets along these West facing inlets were spectacular!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Making a Floor for our Intex Seahawk2 Dinghy

So for the last several years we've used an Intex Expedition 2 person inflatable kayak for puttering around.  Frankly, we loved the thing.  It let us do work on the boat(s) and do some fun exploring up and down the Middle River.  We weren't exactly gentle with the thing, leaving it in the water most of the time, generally in direct sun.  It's durability has been remarkable.
The redoubtable Intex inflatable Kayak. Love it.
But with our acquisition of Constellation, we began to consider if this was exactly what we needed.  Intending to travel, we will occasionally need to anchor out and find a way to get to shore (this was pointed out rather strongly in a recent trip to Betterton on the Sassafras River when we realize we drew to much to dock at the town dock and had no way to get in to . . .well. . .lunch.).  The Kayak is wonderful, but it's also ten feet long, which is pretty hefty to drag aboard a thirty foot sailboat.  Then there was the issue of the fact that we'd abused the poor thing and it was no longer staying particularly inflated.

So we began looking about a replacement.  Something smaller, lighter, and easier to handle.  Something just for use as a tender and to get from anchor to shore.  We finally settled on a really inexpensive solution in Intex's Seahawk 2 inflatable.

It's simple, lightweight, and has room for 2 people and a bag of groceries, just what we wanted.
From the moment we inflated the thing, we realized it would probably fit the bill.  It weighed a LOT less than the kayak, had room for both of us, and would fit across the bow if we needed it to, or could be hauled up under our solar panel on the stern.  The 20 Mil vinyl seemed stout, and it rowed pretty easily, despite the frankly lame plastic oars (we'll be dealing with that later.).  It was perfect. . .

. . .almost.

When we went to get up onto the boat from the thing with our gonzo boat ladder, it proved difficult.   Let's be honest, getting up into any boat from a dinghy is a potential comedy act.  Everything in that equation can move, each in it's own heading, and coupled with one of those wobbly over-the-gunnel ladders and sinking into the squishy inflatable floor when you try to stand on it, it was an issue.

Turning to them interwebs, we came across a common and easy solution:  Build a solid floor for the thing.  A solid floor means you can put some weight on your feet when boarding, and makes the whole little boat ever so much more rigid and stable.

So we inflated the thing, dragged it up onto the dock, and took some measurements.  The interior of the inflated boat is about 52" (1320.8 mm) long, and around 19" (182 mm) wide, tapering to 17" (432 mm) at the stern.  Since I didn't want to lunch a full sheet of plywood to make the thing, I went to  our local Lowes and got a 2' X 4' "Project panel" of 1/2" exterior plywood.

Trimmed, tapered, and dutch-mended project panel.
I cut the sheet to 19" wide, tapered it down to 17" at the end from the mid-point, added a cut-through handgrip (which will also give a place to tie it on) and rounded the corners.

To keep the wood from splintering into the vinyl and turning it into a floppy submarine, I did a process often called "dutch mending" to the edge.  I took some waterproof white glue (in this case Titebond III, with which I've had really good results), added it 50-50 to water, and saturated a 5" wide strip of unbleached muslin drop cloth in the glue solution, then smoothed it along the edges and let dry.


Muslin strip "dutch-mended" (glued) along the edge of the plywood.
If you want to hinge the bottom, the glued fabric will also work as a hinge, just apply to both sides of the cut.    Once dried, you'll have a smooth continuous edge where the ply meets the plastic.

Three coats of a decent exterior paint.  Be careful to saturate the cloth at the edges.
We gave the new bottom a few coats of some exterior paint that we had on hand, taking care to saturate the cloth really well.  Then it was ready to test.

Bottom in place.
Because we used the project panel, the bottom is a bit short front to back, but that doesn't seem to make much difference.  We partially deflated the sides of the dinghy, popped in the bottom, and re-inflated to lock it in place.  You may find you have to let a little air out of the inflatable bottom so it will sit well into the sides, but the results have been really pleasing.

Now I just have to stabilize the junky ladder.  Stay tuned.
This has been a whole week of additions to and work on the boat, making ready to travel again.  We've done some cool stuff, including new grab lines, work on the ladder above, and other things, which I'll post in the coming days, so stay tuned.  Will also be putting up some of the more spectacular shots from our wonderful trip up to the Sassafras River.

More shortly,
Stay Tuned.

M


A ketch comes into Worton Creek at sunset. This was a result of me realizing it would cross the sun and madly scrambling to find the camera.  Turned out really pretty, though.


Friday, September 20, 2019

Five Days on the Water

Back from five days aboard Constellation, not touching shore the whole time.  We've some wonderful pictures which I'll post shortly.  Here's a tease:
Sunset at anchor on the Sassafras River

Friday, September 6, 2019

In High Panic

So we've been enjoying sailing in our new (to us) 30' Pearson "Constallation" these last few weeks, getting the thing ready for some fall travel and doing minor tweaking to systems that had . . .well. . .deteriorated over the three something years the boat sat on the hard.  It has been a mercifully small amount of work, and not a lot of things we've found that needed fixing, which is great because we're both looking forward to doing some fall travel.

Was that just the bilge pump going off?  No worries, it's been raining.

Anyway, between that and getting my new book out, we've been a bit. . .

Was that just the bilge pump again?  Well, I just moved back to the cockpit, so the boat shifted, that was probably it.

Anyway, with the new book and the weather finally cooling. . .

Um, that was just the bilge pump again.  Um.  Okay, so maybe we need to check the. . .

<<Pump kicks on again>>

AAAAGH!  OMIGODOMIGODOMIGOD what's going on?  We're TAKING ON WATER!!

It has to be the stuffing box.  Everything else is fine, so it MUST be the stuffing box.  It was dripping a little when we first splashed but I figured that was just because it was dry, but. . .

<<Pump kicks in again>>

AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!  So we jerk all the carefully stacked boxes out of the quarter berth, pull out the teak slatting that closes off the engine compartment.  I grab a huge pair of water pump pliers, and, with a flashlight in my teeth, I crawl into the dank, uncomfortable space to find. . .

. . .nothing.  It's dry.  It's absolutely dry.  Dry as a bone.  Mojave dry.  Sahara Dry.  Dry Martini with a sawdust chaser dry.  Dry.

To quote Deadpool, "What the actual hell?"

We begin working methodically from the stern forward.  Engine throughhull is dry.  Water jacket is dry, muffler is dry.

Sink drain throughhull is dry.  Water line is dry.  Head water intake is dry. . .

Head waste throughhull is dry.  Head sink throughhull is dry.  Dry Dry Dry.  WTAF?

What's left?  Are we holed?  What's left?  I remembered there was, all the way forward, a transducer mount.  Maybe that.  I pulled out the drawers under the Vberth and played the light on it.

Dry.  But right below where I was looking was the head sink foot pump.  That was NOT dry.  It turned out to be the culprit, slowly leaking all the water in our fresh water tank into the bilge.  I pulled it out.  I've a rebuild kit on the way.  Whew.

Really?  The foot pump?
My point of bringing up this little exercise in aquatic panic is this:  With apologies to George R. R. Martin, Winter is coming.  A lot of us will be putting our boats on the hard (we liveaboards, of course, will not) for months on end.  Boats do a lot of things brilliantly, but sitting around not being used is not one of them.  This might be a great time to consider replacing washers, gaskets, hoses and the like so your spring doesn't include episodes like the one detailed above.

Aside from the minor heart attack, it's shaping up to be a really fine fall.  My new book, "Zarabeth's World" is out, (I know, I know, I keep posting this.  We're excited.  Gimmee a break) and the proofs from the publisher were unexpectedly lovely.

Just in time for fall reading.
Feel free to rush over to Amazon in a buying frenzy (but if you love it please make sure you leave a review.  We live and die by those things).  At any rate, the weather has finally cooled a bit, the winds are freshening, and we're looking forward to what are usually the two or three best months of sailing on the Bay.

M

Got the proof today

Got the proof of the physical copy of my book today.  I'm ecstatic, it's really well done.
Wild Shore did a great job on this one.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

All my books on sale (almost)

Just a quick note, Wild Shore Press is celebrating my new release (Zarabeth's World) by putting all my other novels (or the electronic copies of them anyway) on sale for just $.99 on Sept. 1st.  So you should definitely go over to my Author Page on Amazon on the 1st and download  yourself some fall reading materials (that is, assuming you like my writing.).
I love the cover art for this one.  Odile did a great job.
Anyway, the sale starts at 8AM PDT on the first and ends at 8AM PDT on the second.  Just wanted you folks to know.

M

Friday, August 23, 2019

Solar system is in effect!

So as we ease into the new boat, we've been installing our new solar system using components from Tesla's Revenge and The Floating Empire.  The biggest challenge is to site the rather massive (6 1/2 foot, 325 Watt) solar panel in a way that it will work and still not get in the way of running the boat.  We finally hit on the idea of installing it on the stern, braced off the stern rail.

Rich working on the rather hefty aluminum supports.
So we drafted our friend Rich who is talented at such things and contrived a set of rail clamps and supports for the panel, and after much wrestling, the beast is in place and hooked up.

It's the only place we could find that wasn't in the way or in the shade.

Yeah, it's a freakin moose.

We just have to be careful docking
So the system now is comprised of this monster, 6 100AH deep cycle batteries, an 1100 watt inverter for 110, and 40 watt MPPT controller.

Art making on our first anchor out.
So our first anchor out, in blistering hot weather, the system performed beautifully, running our freezer, interior (USB) fans, lights, and keeping the phones and computers charged, all without a glitch or draining the batteries.

One step at a time, we're getting there

More shortly.

Oh, hey, Wild Shore Press is putting all my Kindle editions on sale on Sept 1.  If you like my writing, it's a great way to pick up some cheap reads for the fall.  Mark your calendars and wander on over to Wild Shore Press for details.

And do check out the new novel.  I'm quite proud of it.

M

Monday, August 19, 2019

The NEW NOVEL IS OUT!!

Available in ebook and hardcopy form
The new novel is out and available.  I'm so very proud of this one, folks.  It's available on Amazon as both a kindle ebook and as a regular hardcopy quality trade paperback as well as at Wild Shore Press.  Free, of course, if you have Kindle Unlimited.  If you do decide to get a copy (and by all means do) don't forget to leave a review.

The Amazon link is HERE.

Yay.  Finally!

M




Saturday, August 17, 2019

New Book comes out in 72 hours!!!

And boy am I stoked.  I'm really proud of this one, guys.
Stay tuned, bragging to commence shortly.

M

Thursday, August 8, 2019

But on What shall we cook?

You know, It's rather odd that I get asked that question so much, especially from wannabee liveaboards, but it does rather seem to be a matter of concern.  Cooking is one of the ties that bind, and has, especially in America, become a bit of an obsession with a lot of folks (us included, I'm afraid), and the idea of just what to use to make a glorious meal in the confined and energy-limited space of a boat is a matter of some concern to folks.

But never fear, gentle reader, because we aboard The Floating Empire/Tesla's Revenge/Constellation have tried just about every freaking thing you can imagine to make a decent meal.  Here's our rundown of cooking aboard and the stuff to make that happen.

First up, Electricity:

The humble hotplate can solve a host of ills when at the dock.  At sea, not so much.
Of all the fuel sources for cooking, electricity has the distinction of being about the only one that stands a chance of being carbon neutral or even carbon negative (depending on where your marina gets it's power).  Electrical cooking comes in three varieties:  Resistance (hotplates, electric skillets, and the like), induction cooking, and microwaves.  Of these, the resistance devices are the most versatile (they'll heat up absolutely anything.) and the cheapest, but the most energy inefficient.  They'll work fine at dock, but don't plan on using them from your solar array (unless its huge) and using it from a generator is flat out wasteful.  The induction cooking hotplates are more efficient, but require magnetically conductive cookware (your cast iron will work, your aluminum pots and pans will not).  A low wattage microwave might work off your battery system (some are in the 500-750 watt range) but not for very long.  Still, if you're heating or reheating prepared food, they'll work fine.

We use a hotplate (resistance) when at dock. It saves on using other types of fuel and works just fine, thank you.

Alcohol

 Alcohol stoves were the bomb on board for years (no pun intended).  The pressurized alcohol stove was a standard on boats and in ice fishing shacks for decades, as well as for campers and backpackers.  More recently, non pressurized stoves from companies like Origo have dominated the market.  Alcohol has a lot of advantages.  It burns clean, and is wildly available in many forms, from isopropyl alcohol from the pharmacy to denatured alcohol from the hardware store to Everclear and high octane Rum from the tavern, all of them will burn just fine.  Alcohol is the darling of the sailing set, and has been for some time.

It has--surprise!--some drawbacks.  First of all, alcohol burns cooler than other fuels.  It takes longer to cook, and uses more of the fuel to do so.  It's also relatively expensive compared to Propane or Kerosene.  Second, the flames are invisible in daylight.  It's hard to tell if the damn thing is lit or not, and that can be an issue.  Some care is clearly indicated.  Thirdly, the sticky sweet smell of it burning drives some people to nausea.

My wife included.

Which brings us to:

Kerosene (and Diesel) 

Butterfly unpressurized Kerosene stove.

Of all the things with which we've cooked, we like the cooking process with Kero the best.  It's hot, it's cheap (Kerosene is very energy dense), and unlike almost any combustible fuel, Kerosene (Paraffin to those of you outside the US) is non-explosive and almost impossible to set fire to unless its saturated into some kind of wicking medium.  With the availability of biodiesel and biokerosene, you even have the option of using a renewable resource aboard.  It really does a great job, cooks controllably, stores compactly, and can be used for stoves, ovens, lantferns, and heaters.  It only has two drawbacks for us:  1) it does rather tend to blacken the bottom of the pot and

2) the smell.

If the odor of diesel or kerosene doesn't bother you--and to be honest in a properly functioning stove, it's far from overwhealming--then it would be both our recommendation.  If, however, you have a sensitive nose, there really is nothing for it.  It's not for you.

St. Paul Mercantile on the web (and in MD) is a great source for Kerosene stoves and ovens and are lovely people with which to deal.  Check them out.

Butane

These little butane stoves are the darlings of the catering set.
Butane is another wildly convenient fuel.  It's clean, most of the small butane "catering" burners are self contained, self-lighting, and highly portable and easily stowed.  They cook cleanly and controllably, without odor.  They have two drawbacks.  The first is that the small, non-refillable butane canisters, resembling a hairspray can, are wasteful and occasionally difficult to find.  The second is that below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the gas just doesn't vaporize very well, The cup of tea that takes you six minutes in summer can take you 20 minutes on a chilly December morning.  Still, for warm weather and occasional cooking, they're really easy.

Propane adapter for Butane stove.
Some companies sell the stoves with an adapter and pressure regulator for use with the far more available propane canisters.  These work well. . . for a while.  The regulators we've run into are plastic and cheap and tend to fail after about six months.  There's a pop, the pressure cover is on the deck in the galley, and you don't have a stove.  It's not impossible that there are better made ones than we've encountered, and we did use them successfully.  So, while we're on the subject:

Propane

Propane. . .keep it outside if you possibly can.
Propane is a comfortable, familiar, and very useful fuel.  Propane stoves are ubiquitous, you can get propane ovens, propane heaters, even propane refrigerators.  It is clean, controllable, and widely available in the US and elsewhere.  It's a lovely fuel.  It has two drawbacks. . .maybe three.

First:  It can be rather hard to find in some of the Caribbean, if that's an issue.

Second:  It is, after all, a fossil fuel.

And Third:  It's heavier than air.  If that doesn't sound unpleasant, let me elaborate.  If  you have a leak in your stove or line, the gas will settle.  It will settle into your bilge, especially in deep hulled vessels without a lot of air circulation like sailboats.  If your bilge pump then kicks on, there can be a spark.  You get the idea?  Boom.  Every year a number of vessels are burned to the waterline because of propane fires.

Do we use it?  Yes, we have and probably will again, but you must be extremely circumspect about your hose fittings and gas lines.  Keep the bottles in their own housings with ventilation, keep them on deck if possible.  Caveat.

Wood

"Tent" stove ready to install aboard.  There are also a number of specialty stoves designed specifically for vessels.
I love wood stoves.  I love the smell, I love the fact that they dry out the air aboard in winter, cutting down on the "interior rainforest" effect we sometimes get when it's cold out.  I love the fact that the fuel is carbon neutral, often free in the form of scrap or deadfall, and can do so much.  There are even table top burners, sometimes termed either "rocket stoves" or "wood gasifiers", that can be used for indoor cooking without smoking up the place or heating anything more than the pan.

Some "wood gas" burners can even use wood stove pellets.  They're smokeless as you can see, and REALLY hot.
The drawbacks of wood, though, make it a difficult choice in some circumstances.  The stoves, of course, heat up the whole space when  you light them, fine in Nova Scotia in fall, lousy in the Tropics.  The chimneys, which are smaller than usual typically, need frequent cleaning, which is a pain.  The smell of woodsmoke gets in everything. The ashes have to be dumped. . .

All of that is, of course, do-able.  The more recent problem is that wood burning stoves absolutely FREAK OUT some marina owners (or, more likely, their insurance companies), and the mere sight of a trail of white smoke from your chimney can prompt a visit and, on occasion, an eviction.  I understand it, of course.  Sparks do exist, though the danger is far overrated by people unfamiliar with burning wood, but still.

Others

There are other options, of course, CNG (Compressed natural gas) is a fuel on par with Propane, but far trickier to find.  I've not dealt here with solar stoves and ovens (and dehydrators) which are used successfully by a lot of long term cruisers, nor mentioned more exotic fuels like Hexamine fuel tablets (used by some militaries), or radioactive Thorium (long lasting but the chicken tends to grow extra drumsticks).

So?

 So what do we recommend?  We recommend what works for you, what you can afford and is safe and useful in your vessel.  For us, we will probably wind up using propane again aboard Constellation mostly because of the galley set up and the volume of our cooking.  Do the research and do what suits your needs.  Happy to help if we can.

More shortly

M