Friday, September 16, 2016

More Winter Prep and Window Stuff

So this week, with weather, tides, and wind finally cooperating, we finished redoing the membrane down our starboard side.
The new membrane, lapped under the roof membrane, hanging out wrinkles.
This one was a bit more complicated as we wanted to do some window work as well.  In the Galley area, we had this big tuftex (corrugated greenhouse material) window along the whole Starboard side.  It let in lots of light--a bit too much in fact in the mornings--and was kind of irritating since  you can't really see out of it.  So we decided to bite the bullet and do a replacement.
Taking the tuftex out left a really huge opening. . .like, the whole wall.
So after removing the window and stapling the new membrane in place on the outside, we began to do a fill in of the window space, using some exterior siding panels and adding another 3/4" of insulation.  The black stuff below is the backside of the membrane.
We slotted siding in in place of the window.

In the place of the huge window, we're adding two portholes, mostly made from found objects--a couple of old vent gratings and some lexan we had-- and painted hammered copper to give it kind of a steampunky look.
The light is now a bit more controllable, plus we can actually SEE through them.
Then of course we had to do the battening on the exterior.   You want a great core exercise?  Try working over your head from a small boat on ANOTHER small, moving boat.  Trust me. . . .
Battening going in...Yeah, I'm gonna feel this tomorrow.
So inside we added a little decorative shelf (also hammered copper) and some trim molding.  I think it's a nice addition, and will make us quite a bit warmer this winter.
Oh, this worked out nicely.
So now I've got to reset the tile beneath the woodstove and do a bit of additions to our floatation and we'll be set.

Hey, some more book sales at Wildshore Press, check em out.

More shortly.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Beginning Winter Prep

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, it's just barely September, but trust me, December is a lousy time to be working on a boat.  So, baring that in mind, we've been doing some of the things we've had in mind for a while.  We've replaced part of the forward deck with planking instead of the plywood (which was becoming, um. . .penetrable. . ).  And today we rebuilt one of the fore interior walls on the Starboard side.
New siding, new insulation, new foil layer. . .

So with more insulation and a stouter wall on the north side, hopefully this will help our. . .um. . . winter experience.  Next up, replacing the tufftex window on the starboard side and finishing the outer membrane.

New wall suitable for shelving and artwork.
Magellan, as usual, prefers to just stay on the Web.
I have a vast web empire which I monitor psychically....rather like Edgar Cayce.

Please stand back, the energy discharge can damage cell phones. . . . 

More stuff tomorrow.  Hey, new site on self sufficiency at, also new things over at Life, Art, Water, and new deals on our books at  Check em out.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Livaboards and the Health of the Bay

Healthy plants make for healthy water, though they can be a pain on your prop.
Living here, year in and year out, right ON the water, you see it all. Perhaps more than any group of people, we who live on our vessels see every change, however minute, to the bay and it's tributaries. We wake to the birds along the banks. We hear the frogs in spring (or lack thereof), the slap of fish against our hulls, and the racket that the geese make when they land. We saw first hand the huge die-off last November when warm temperatures and chemicals in the runoff conspired to create an algae bloom that whiped out every fish, crustacian, and most of the plants, paving the suddenly clear bottom with dead fish and sending our seabirds elsewhere. We witnessed the huge effort of the country and civic organizations as they cleaned the shoreline along Hawthorn of human detritus. We are bellweathers. We can report it all.
This little guy actually got sucked up by our galley sink pump.  He's quite lively.

This summer I'm pleased to say the report is pretty good. The health of the Chesapeake Bay and it's tributaries seem to be in better shape than I've seen them in years. Efforts to curb runoff into the waters (including the much-derieded “rain tax”) along with a healthy growth of waterplants have led to some of the best water quality we've seen here in Middle River. Schools of fish are back in droves (This was especially pointed out to me when we literally pumped a pencil eel into our galley sink one morning). Our more enthusiastic slip mates are leaving early in the mornings and coming back with baskets laiden with large, healthy looking crab.
The crabs are back in force this year.
The birds are having a great time. Ospreys plunge into the river here and then struggle up carrying what is either some really large fish or a lost Japanese MiniSub, we're not sure. The potted rosemary on our finger peir has been host this summer to three—count em—three clutches of duck eggs, for a grand total of 23 ducklings for the season. Whatever we and nature are doing, it's working.
Why, WHY!?, do the ducks love our rosemary pot as a nesting site?

That's not to say that human stupidity and churlishness don't complicate matters. Clowns in powerboats still occassionally tear through our 6Kt zone throwing 3 foot wakes, battering boats and sea grasses, and I wish I could find whoever filleted three gigantic rockfish the other day only to toss the huge remaining carcasses back into the water in which the marina kids swim (smooth move, numbnuts). We're becoming more aware, though, and that pleases me. Folks are being more careful about their trash and cigarette butts, people are actually making an effort to fish plastic bags and bottles out of the waters if they float by, and, in general, policing of runoff and chemicals and black water systems is improving daily.

We're livaboards. We see this stuff. You're doing better. Keep it up. 


New stuff over at Life, Art, Water and more book promotions over at Wild Shore Press, check em out.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Transportation Crisis Averted

So today we took the delightful (caution, Irony alert) 24 Bus down to look at bicycles and wound up riding two of em the 5 miles back to the Marina.

Being Green is ever so stylish
 So we are now the proud owners of two new beach cruisers, with no gears (it's flat here) and fat tires (because the roads here sucketh), which puts pretty  much anywhere we need to go (closer than train transit) within range.  Now we just have to clean out our poor deceased car and get it hauled away.

And then, back to boat stuff, we promise, but it's all part of living aboard.

Lots of new stuff over at Life, Art, Water.  Check it out.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hoofin' It

Okay, so if you're wondering why we've had yet another pause in the blog over the last few days, we had a bit of an automotive disaster.  While picking up a friend from work--one of our fellow livaboards--we turned a corner and the entire front suspension of our beloved and much abused little three-cylinder Metro simply, um, collapsed.

Our little Metro in happier days, next to the frame for "Floating Empire"
Well, in Little Red's defense, she did have going on a quarter of a million miles on her, and on the original clutch I might add.  Now THAT'S construction.  Ultimately it was rust from road salt that did her in.  Snif.

So now we're dealing with a quandary. The vehicle is apparently not repairable with any reasonable amount of money and effort. We had discussed early in this blog exploring bike routes with the thought that we might go carless (you can check out that entry here). Do we buy bikes an follow through on it?  Do we start using more of the available mass transit?  Do we find another functional junker to buy? 

Magellan just finds all these considerations exhausting.
So that's been occupying our boat time of late.  We hope to have it all sorted out by week's end, proceed with the membrane repairs to the Starboard side, and go on with our lives.

Sigh.  Will miss the little car, but engines are always a hassle.

More later


Friday, July 22, 2016

Battening down

The Work on the Boat continues:  In keeping with the Vardo theme of our shantyboat, we've been painting and cutting battening strips to hold the new side membrane in place.

Batten boards cut and primed and ready for paint.

We decided to go with bright Caribbean colors for the sides..
Of course, screwing them onto the side of a floating vessel from ANOTHER floating vessel is rather the ultimate core exercise, but we got the bulk of the Larboard side done this morning before the direct sun and temperatures in the 90's drove us into the shade.

Island colors on a floating Gypsy wagon. . .we are nothing if not eclectic!

Most of the battens in place.
Now we just have to do the bottom ones and a couple of cross members. . .

.. . .and the windows. . .

. . .and the entire Starboard side. . .

Oh, well.  It's a boat.  It's what one expects.

More stuff at Life, Art, Water, check it out.

More later.  Time for shade and a cold drink.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Larboard Side

Started earlier today to avoid heat and some winds that were supposed to kick up in the afternoon.  Spent part of the morning ripping away wet, delaminated wood.  The stuff is like tearing into dried leaves.
Literally, cardboard would be stronger.
Then we spent the next two hours getting the remaining membrane up on the port side, cutting the windows through, etc.  Now we just have to cut and paint the battens and get them on and that'll be done.  The Starboard side isn't quite as bad, but we'll probably tie into that next week.

Larboard side with the membrane all in place.  OOooOooohh, Shiny!
So now it's off to shopping and then awaiting our ritual afternoon thunderstorm, which is apparently the new normal around here.

More later,


Monday, July 18, 2016

Side Repairs Begin

Let's see, where to begin this.  You may remember--at least those of you who have been with us from the first (looking at YOU Jarm)--that the exterior of the boat was originally a waterproof okumi plywood, very thin, and dressed with stain and four coats of spar varnish.  We really loved the look.

Siding during the original construction in 2014
It was rustic and steampunkish and pretty.

The Floating Empire just after launch.  Nice, hunh?
The trouble was, the stuff didn't hold up worth a damn.  By six months in we had done a FIFTH coat of spar varnish, and then tried exterior fencing preservative.  Nothing seemed to work, and the boat looked like hell.

By the end of the first winter, the wood was already breakiing down.
In desperation, we painted the outside with a satin finish exterior housepaint, which bought us another year and stopped the thing from looking ghastly.

Heartbreaking to paint her, but we really had no choice.
Ultimately, though, even a quality latex house paint wasn't enough to stop the crappy supposedly waterproof wood from deteriorating.  We wound up dutch mending portions of the sides (painting down pieces of muslin to seal parts of the surface), but finally even that became useless.  We were kind of at a loss as to what to do, save rebuilding the whole exterior of the boat.  Going back over my notes, I remembered that one of our original ideas was to bring the membrane all the way down to the water line.  So we checked online and found some membrane, a bit lighter than the ultra durable stuff we had on the roof, but still UV resistant.

The sides.  Literally, you could push your finger through it.
The bad wood stripped to the insulation.
So, of course, in 109 degree real-feel temperatures, we launched into it, ripping out the shredding wood, tucking the new membrane under the edge of the roof membrane to form an overlap for rain, and stapling the new stuff in place.

The new membrane with the window cut through.  Molding will go over the top to hold it down.
We had hoped to get at least one side done today, but it was harder than we'd anticipated, and the heat was killing.  So we got the worst of it covered, and will attack it earlier tomorrow.

Sigh. . . .getting there
Not as elegant as the original, surely, but it'll get us a couple more years of waterproofing.  Now if this heat wave will just break at bit. . . .

More shortly.  Hey, some new book promotions coming over at Wild Shore Press on my stuff, check it out.

More shortly.

M the overheated

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Insane About the Membrane

Or:  Occasionally I get things right.

We got clobbered here on the North Chesapeake yesterday, I mean really clobbered.  The forecast said, as usual in summer, that there was a "possibility of a thunderstorm."  Nobody, NOBODY predicted what was about to happen.

A thunderstorm cell came out of the SW and then just SAT over the warm water at the mouth of the Middle River.  It just kept getting bigger and higher, and just before it let loose, we were treated to a chorus of small craft, severe thunderstorm, hail, and lightning warnings, all of which proved to be true.

It was the weekend, after all.  Lots of folks were out toward Hart-Miller island playing in the water.  The wind came up suddenly from the rapidly growing supercell.  Hail pelted the boats, lightning struck everywhere.  Our slip mates who were out in it described hail hard enough to crack hatches and leave quarter sized welts on those in open boats, along with whiteout conditions and six foot waves.  Boat's anchors dragged.  Some wound up on the rocks around Hart-Miller Island, destroying props and rudders and fiberglass.  Lightning hit one of our neighbors boats, destroying both his bimini top and all of the boat's electronics.

If you think what the lightning did to this bimini is bad, you should see what it did to their radios.

About this time, some of you may be remembering that we have a soft vinyl membrane over our boat, leftovers from a sports dome.  The membrane took the full force of the hail.  You know what happened?  Mercifully, nothing.

The membrane being installed

During construction from underneath

Yeah, I know, looks like a covered wagon.
We had water leaks from all the windows (working on that) but the membrane, through all the wind and rain and hail, remained inviolate.

The membrane today, still watertight.
So if you had any questions (I did) about the durability of this form of construction, I think going on three years of high winds, snow, hail,  and rainstorms have pretty much proved it's worth.

Occasionally, I win one.

More Shortly


Tuesday, July 12, 2016


This just in:  I just got a robocall from BGE (Baltimore Gas and Electric) telling me that, due to saving more energy on July 8 this year than I did last year, I had earned $.13.

We'll be moving to the Bahamas shortly.

Since we generate almost all of our own power from solar, that may give you an idea of our power consumption footprint.

But hey.

Thirteen cents is thirteen cents....