Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A little Shantyboat tease

So, I've had a number of requests to do with our original shantyboat/barrel barge design for The Floating Empire what we did with our composting toilet information:  That being, compile all the posts and drawings with some additional info into a booklet that can be downloaded so people can do it themselves.
The original shantyboat The Floating Empire
Accordingly, we're in the middle of compiling all the blog entries, all our notes and drawings, and everything else relevant we can remember about building this very cheap, very comfortable floating tinyhome.  The thing, as it's shaping up, will be in three parts:  First, a description of the construction, materials involved, and how it goes together.  Second, a suggested order of build, with notes on changes to ther original we recommend.  And, third, selections from this blog that detailed construction with annotations and pictures, including such things as stove installation, wiring, etc.

The booklet will be free to download for Kindle Unlimited and will probably run a buck or two otherwise.  Should be out before the end of January, just in time for a spring build.

Just a heads up.


Monday, December 30, 2019

Getting local on you

Sunset at Worton Creek

Where to Go?

So, with apologies to those of you not living in the Mid Atlantic, I thought get a bit local on you guys for a bit.  As we're going into the spring and a new year, we figured it might be a good time to do some planning for Spring cruising and destinations here on the Chesapeake, particularly some of the less built up destinations you might try.  So, drag out the marine maps, guys, because we've got some recommendations. Ready?

If you look at the eastern shore of our wonderful estuary, you'll see in the upper right corner a shoreline dotted with the mouths of multiple rivers and creeks and a not a whole lot else.  Lucky for us, these are some of the most beautiful anchorages on the bay, deep enough for sailors, with available fuel and food stops and some really wonderful protected spaces should things turn gnarley.  And, since all these inlets are west-facing, you'll get some of the most spectacular sunsets you've ever seen  Let's take a look.

Start just north of the bay bridge and Kent Island.  You'll come across Tolchester Beach.  No real inlet here, but a great beach you can sim or dinghy to in good weather, some very pleasant beach bars and restaurants, and a great place for a day of swimming.  Just north of there, you'll find the opening to:

Fairlee Creek. 
The opening to Fairlee Creek is sometimes tricky, and yes,  you'll have to hug the shore like the charts say, but once inside, there's a sheltered anchorage.  The space is dominated by the Great Oak Marina and Resort, with fuel and food and a tiki bar.  Good place to tank up, both yourself and the boat, as some of the other inlets are a lot less developed.  Next up:

Worton Creek.
Wharton Creek is the first really decent anchorage headed north.  The bottom is a mixture of sand and clay, with pretty good holding.  There are also (at least when we were there last) a LOT of fish, so bring your rod.

Follow the channel into the creek and you'll find a couple of marinas and a dockside restaurant.  We usually make Worton Creek our first overnight when sailing northward.

Still Pond
Next up the coast, you'll find the entrance to Still Pond, The south shore of the outer mouth of the creek offers a good anchorage, with decent depth and reasonable protection from swells from the bay (barring NW winds). and some wonderfully unspoiled coastline.
Just the place for a calm afternoon and a nice libation.
If you need a bit more protection, follow the markers (CAREFULLY) through the (EXTREMELY NARROW, TWISTY) channel into the inner part of the creek.  You'll have to hug the starboard shore going in if you draw more than about three feet (we draw five, and by "hug" I mean close enough to reach out and touch people's docks.  Fortunately we encountered a kind local resident in his john boat that showed us the way.). Once inside, though, you'll find ten feet of VERY protected water (there were 55MPH winds on the bay that night.  We got none of it.) and lots of unspoiled shoreline.  There's also a Coast Guard station there if you get into trouble.  Next we typically run up to the

Sassafras River.
I could do an entire book on the river alone.  The mouth of the river is broad, over a mile across, with a good 12 feet of depth pretty much throughout.  Just inside, on the southern shore, you'll find the community of Betterton, which has a lovely sand swimming beach, a free dock (sailors may find it challenging due to depth and position, but you can always anchor off the shore and dingy in), public showers and restrooms, and a sweet little town with restaurants overlooking the river.  This is just the introduction to the treat that is the Sassafras.
Skipjack Cove Marina after some gnarly weather.

Follow the channel markers east into the river proper.  You'll find literally miles of unspoiled shoreline, multiple good anchorages, and some of the most beautiful waters you'll see in this neck of the woods.  A few miles in, you'll come to civilization again, with Fredericktown and Georgetown separated by a drawbridge (functional) across the river, fuel docks, well-equipped marinas, transient slips, some wonderful dockside restaurants, and some very, very nice people.  We ducked into a transient slip to avoid some heavy winds and spent some lovely evenings at some very nice dock bars.
The Sassafras River at sunset.

That's Just a Sampling.
Head north from the Sassafras and there's even more to uncover.  There's the Bohemia River with lots of marinas and decent dining.  There's the long, tidal (if you can't plane, plan on hitting this going into high tide or you'll face a whopping head on current) stretch to the C and D canal and Chesapeake City, with it's city dock, lagoon for anchorage, and a plethora of great restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and sites to visit (great place to have folks meet you when you're on the cruise.). We'll save those for another day.

The Chesapeake is full of amazing places to visit and drop the hook.  Look forward to seeing you out there.

Stay Tuned

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Winter Door

When we acquired Constellation, she was a complete, fully functional vessel, with sails and a working motor, winches and cleats, and, of course, a lockable companionway hatch.  You know the thing you always see on sailing vessels around this size:  A couple of stout wood panels, routed to mate and cut to slide into the companionway with the top part of the hatch sliding atop them.  This arrangement works well, locks securely, and keeps out all manner of nasty weather, wind and intruders. . .

It's also, if you live with it, a freaking pain in the arse.  Just getting out to grab a jug of water or set out a bag of garbage is an exercise.  You shove the top part of the hatch back, you remove the panels one by one, step out, do whatever you were intending on doing, then replace the boards, slide the hatch back (usually while balancing on the middle step of your galley ladder).  By this time, in winter, all the warm air has evacuated the boat.  If it's raining, the steps on which you are balancing are now wet and slippery.  Inevitably, once you get things all buttoned up again, you realize you've forgotten something.

That's how I work, anyway.

Through the summer, it isn't so much an issue.  Most of the time we just run with a velcro-ed screen in the opening, and that's fine.  As the weather cooled, I made a flexoglas (plastic) cover for the screen as a bit of an air barrier for cooler days, and that served us well until the temperatures got down into the 40's and then lower.  It's now December, and that just won't cut it.  We needed another option.
We got by in cool weather by putting a plastic cover on our velcro screen.  Worked surprisingly well.

So I decided what we needed was A Winter Door (and, yes, it does rather sound like a Robert Heinlein novel, but I digress).  Something that would slot in where the existing companionway boards slot in, something we could open and close easily, something that would seal well, and, hopefully something with a bit of a window so we could see aft if we needed to do so.
The new Winter Door, cut to match the old companionway boards

laying in the door jamb striker boards,

Another view.  The little slot in the center is for the lock tongue of the top of the hatch.

The layout was pretty simple:  I got a 4'X4', 3/4" thick piece of fairly nice exterior ply from  Loews (they call them "project panels"  I call them "all that will fit in my car').  I laid out the companionway boards on them as a template, traced around them, and cut out my new insert.  Then I cut out a doorway, leaving enough wood around it to make a strong support for the door.  We used a piano hinge to support the door well and used some of the scrap to make a striker for the bottom and sides of the doorway.
At first we stained and varnished the whole thing, but we decided it was too dark for inside the galley so we painted the interior a lighter color.

We wanted something suitably nautical for a window, but portholes are, frankly, freaking expensive.  I thought of installing an oval picture frame and glass into the door, which would have worked, but we lucked out.  An old Triton was being scrapped at the marina.  The boat was from the 70's, rotted beyond redemption, and destined for the crusher.  One of my slip mates and I were able to pillage parts off the poor thing.  Among these was a lovely old porthole of weathered bronze, which fit the door nicely.
Inside of the Winter door, now painted with a light, scrubbed wood finish.  The porthole is a great addition.

And outside.  With the verdigris of the old porthole, it looks like it's been there forever.

In fact, the cool thing about the old porthole is that it makes the new winter door look the same age as the rest of the boat, not like something I whacked together over two winter afternoons.  We painted the interior with some leftover paint from our interior decor and stained and varnished the exterior.

We slipped the new doorway into the companionway slot, stuffing the slot with some rod foam insulation.

The new door is a LOT easier to get in and out of, seals well, and it's really nice to, well, have a clue of what's happening in the cockpit and on the dock aft without disassembling the companionway..

One more project down.

The holidays this year have been a time of happily mild winter, which gave me a window to make this thing.  Already making plans for travel in the spring.

Stay tuned.

Hey, new stuff over at Life, Art, Water.  Give it a look.

More shortly


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

book sale this weekend

If you're interested, Wild Shore Press is putting the electronic editions of two of my books on sale friday and saturday (Dec. 13 and 14). 
Click Here

Click Here
They're only, like, $.99 for those two days to buy a copy, so rush right out in a buying frenzy beginning Friday Morning.

More later

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Winter Prep

So thus far the winter weather here in the north end of the Chesapeake has been pretty benign, but looking at the forecast, we're starting to suspect that that might not last (shocking, I know).  Accordingly, we've been starting some new projects to make Constellation a bit more livable through cold weather.

Cold weather on a boat is a definite mixed bag.  On the one hand, it's a small space, and small spaces are inherently easier to heat.  A simple heater designed for a single room will usually do the trick, and that's fine.

The trouble is, most boats are poorly insulated if at all, and added to that, you'rr sitting in freaking WATER all winter, which makes it a bit warmer in the fall before the water temperature falls, and then makes for a permanent chill for most of the rest of the months until spring.

So the next few entries are going to be a few things we've been doing to make ready, starting with the floors.

The interior floors of a boat tend to be thin, separated from the outer hull by the bilge.  That is, of course, a good thing when the water gets cold, but they still can transmit a lot of chilly onto your feet.  Carpeting, of course, helps.  Last year, we even stacked some waxed cardboard we got from our fishmonger under the carpets for more insulation, which frankly worked pretty well.  But this time we wanted to find something a bit more permanent and a bit more. . .well.  .waterproof.  Our beloved ship's cat, Magellan, has this weird habit of dragging his water bowl around before  he drinks. . .I mean like the entire length of the galley around.  . .and he washes the floor in the process (we call it a "water feature").  We wanted something warmer that wouldn't absorb all the water he throws about and would be easy to clean.
Must. . . Have. . .More. . .Water. . .

After casting about for a bit and consulting with some slipmates, we decided on some interlocking gym floor pads.  The things we got are 3/4" thick interlocking closed cell neoprene foam, immune to oil and water, and pretty cheap (around 24 square feet--which did the galley--for less than $30).

The floor pieces are easily cut with a knife blade.  The seams, once they interlock, are nearly invisible.

And it's surprisingly warm and comfy.

The results were actually kind of remarkable and immediate.  The difference in the flooring temperature was instantly evident, as was the fact that nearly an inch of foam is a lot easier on the knees than fiberglass.  Water also mops up easily.  We know because it took Magellan all of about ten minutes to try the new surface.

So, one task down and several more to come, including our new winter door.

Stay tuned.

Stay Warm

Friday, November 22, 2019

A little good news

Hi folks, sorry for the lack of posts recently, but we came back from a fairly long trip aboard "Constellation" only for the both of us to come down with the flu.  More stuff in work so please bear with us.

I got some rather good news today from Amazon Kindle that my trilogy of cyberpunk plays "The Coyote Trilogy" is finally, FINALLY going to be available on Kindle.  The download of the trilogy should come out at about $1.99 and the kindle unlimited download is, of course, free.

I've always been proud of the plays.  They've been performed in  LA, Illinois, and Baltimore to good reviews, but not having electronic copies available has always kinda limited the number of people with access to them,  That will change in 48 hours from my posting this.

The Coyote Trilogy is here

So feel free to rush right out in a downloading frenzy.  They plays are also available for production.

More shortly.  We're both almost healthy.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Happy Samhain Everyone!

Happy Halloween.  Lots of new posts coming shortly, and some great pictures of  our most recent voyages.

Magellan insists on calling it Samhain.

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. . . .


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.


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