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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Moisture in the basement....

 Okay, so this is a boat, and it has a bilge, not a basement, but that's not the space to which I'm referring.

Like a lot of boats of this era, Constellation has a built in cooler in the galley, one of those things with a flush, insulated lid on the countertop and a well with a drain at the bottom for the ice to melt into.  Unfortunately, since it is right next to the engine compartment, the chances of it actually ever keeping anything cool are pretty slim.

So we, like most folks I know, use it as stowage, and because of it's inconvenience ( you have to clear virtually everything off the galley counter to get into the damn thing) its the home for bulk goods, pastas, things like bags of onions and canned goods.  We call it "the basement" as in:  "Dammit, I have to go into the basement again."

It's okay.  It's storage space, which no boat has enough of, but it comes with an additional de-convenience:  Since it's a cooler, designed to hold ice, it's completely sealed and waterproof.  That means any moisture that gets in, STAYS in.  Vegetables sweat.  Water that gets on the counter leeches under the insulated hatch.  The air in the thing is like being in a swamp.  Things mold.  Cans rust.  It's not optimal.  

So looking at the problem I decided to finally do something about it, and that the easiest thing was to replace the lid with something that would allow air circulation.

So the new lid is un-insulated exterior 1/2" ply, with a center handle and a 4" vent on the far end of the lid (as far as I could get it from the sink).  In the next few days I'll screen the opening so no bugs decide to investigate, stain, and varnish the thing.  Will post you a photo of the final product when the bandwidth cooperates.

 One more job done.  Hopefully it'll keep the moisture level down.

The fall days have been beautiful of late, with pleasant days, cool and sleepable nights, and life has been fairly low key (as a contrast to the election crap going on all around us).  We've taken some hikes out at Marshy Point Nature Center, one of our favorite places, just to get out and move our bones a bit.

Fall is a great time for long walks.

In the next few days, we'll probably take to boat out and anchor up at Worton Creek or one of our other favorite havens.  Winter will be here soon enough.  Right now, enjoy the fall.

M

As usual, Magellan has the right idea.


 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Bucket heater saga: Why didn't you people tell me about these?!


See this little contraption? It's a bucket heater.  You want one.


So in casting about trying to find a decent way to heat our little collapsing hottub at dock, someone suggested I look into one of these contraptions.  It's called a bucket heater and it's for...well...heating stuff in buckets.  I bet you figured that one out already.  It's basically an electrically heated coil within a circulation tube, and draws about 1000-1500 watts, which is well within the range of most dock power supplies.


The contraption is largely used in agriculture and for heating water on construction sites.  You just splash the heater in a bucket and plug it in.  I had rather assumed it would rather be like one of those little beverage heaters you stick in a teacup, that is to say, slow.  It isn't.


It cranks up the heat amazingly quickly.

Starting with 70 degree (F) water, it heated five gallons up to over 120 degrees in about 20 minutes.(Your mileage may, of course, vary, depending on ambient temperature and how cold the water was to begin with.)  That means that we can have a hot soak in our new little ofuro tub in about an hour.  The max temperature seems to top off at around 168F

Little Gail, Happy again.

This thing, of course, has it's limitations.  Take it out of the water while it's on, or let the water evaporate while it's running, and the thing would likely catch fire.  They don't recommend that you run it, even in appropriate conditions, for over three hours. And, of course, the wattage is sufficient that you're not going to be running it aboard while on the hook (for more than about six seconds if you're on solar).  It's a dockside-only convenience unless you're running a generator.

But still, the idea of having quick hot water for dishes, for washing up, or just for warming up is a great convenience, and at less than $30, it's rather hard to pass up.

 Why didn't you tell me about these things before.....?    Sheesh.

 Fall is suddenly here on the Chesapeake, and I do mean suddenly.  We scrambled to get the electric blanket out of the car, and to dig the sweatshirts out of the forward lazarette where they've been languishing for the last several months.  But still, after months of pretty brutal heat and humidity, it's a welcome break, and the fall is the best part of the sailing season.

Much more shortly.  Stay safe.  Stay warm.

M


Friday, September 11, 2020

Cockpit Enhancements for the Excessive

 So on the web we found this cool little Ofuro tub which exactly, EXACTLY, fit our cockpit sole.  About fifteen gallons of warm water is enough to soak up to your shoulders, and it folds away flat.

29.5 inches EXACTLY.  And now we have a tub in the cockpit.

 So, we used it as a cold plunge on a hot day yesterday, and tonight we'll try it as a hot bath.  Give you a full report in a bit.


Much more coming.

Stay safe.

M


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Some Composting Toilet Mods

You know, sometimes it seems like we do a disproportionate amount of writing on this blog about composting toilet systems, but there seems--by what you guys are viewing--to be a huge amount of interest in them.
The current iteration of our design, using a snap on lid.  Instructions are here.

The new system aboard Constellation continues to work quite well, but as with any other boat, we hurt for storage and floor space, so with that in mind we decided to built a bench seat for the composter.  This would allow us to use the bench for the wood pellets we use as biomass, as well as trivial stuff like, say, toilet paper.

An additional bonus would be that we can use a conventional toilet seat.  Most of our composting toilet designs have been build around the snap-on lids that let you turn a 5 gallon bucket into a camping toilet.  These work fine, and are a quick and easy solution, but they seem to have a limited lifespan.  The ears on which the lid pivots tend to crack off eventually, and though that is a minor expense and inconvenience, doing something more permanent seemed prudent.

So we began with just clearing the space and measuring the height of the existing toilet/urine diverter set up.  This, being a boat, is a little iffy because almost nothing is square, but one does what one can.
The container bucket, base, and urine diverter.
Shelf supports attached.
The shelf itself is pretty simple.  Cut out is the same diameter as the urine diverter, and there is a support running along what will be the front of the shelf.
New shelf in place with toilet seat.  Plenty of room for Magellan's litter box and the urine container.
You'll need to find a Round toilet seat to accommodate the urine diverter (lots of them are oval, and far deeper than you'll want).  The back of the seat is just bolted through the shelf like it would be bolted through a porcelain toilet bowl (bolts are generally delrin plastic or nylon, which is nice since they don't rust, and generally come with the lid).

So far we're pretty pleased.

It's been one day of rain after another here on the Chesapeake, and our pier suffered a nasty lightning strike a few days ago, damaging a lot of electronics on several boats (some running into several grand).  Fortunately, all we lost was our ceiling light in the galley, which I'm replacing today.  With a little luck and some better weather tomorrow, we'll get to go out.

Stay Tuned

M

Friday, August 7, 2020

Prepping for the fall (and getting a bit local on you)

You know, it always amazes us how many folks pull their boats when September hits here on the Chesapeake.  Every sailor around here knows that the fall and early winter makes up the absolute best in boating weather hereabouts (hurricanes being excepted of course).  Even, predictable winds, mild temperatures, good fishing. . . .what's not to like?

Another thing TO like is that, as of the beginning of fall, a lot of the boaters that turn the Bay into a weekend amateur hour have pulled their vessels  The guy with his Carver's trim tabs set to "gouge" has gone away, resulting in fewer wake incidents, less congestion, fewer floating beercans and, at least on my part, a lot lower blood pressure.

Some of the fall sunsets on the Chesapeake are glorious.  This from last year.
The better weather and fewer crowds, that and being rather housebound from the whole Pandemic thing, gives us a yen to travel.  Already (having dodged a tropical storm) we're making ready for some fall journeys.  We've rebuilt the carb and fuel pump on our redoubtable Atomic 4 made some rigging repairs and adjustments, and, in general, gotten prepped for sea.  "So where do you want to go?" is one of our most frequent conversations of late, so I thought I'd pass some of those ideas along to you.

First of all, don't pass up the opportunity to revisit places you've loved.  Favorite anchorages and waterfront towns just off-season are a whole different experience than when flocks of (occasionally reckless) tourists are about, and with the whole Covid-19 thing, they'll be happy to see you (as long as you're careful and keep people safe).  I grew up in a tourist trap in Florida and I've always loved tourist towns off season, while the galleries and shops are still open but the places aren't mobbed.

Second, don't forget that fall is harvest season, and the farmer's markets, many of them in walking distance from the water, are in full swing.  Think taking a short walk ashore on a fine fall day and returning to the boat with bags of fresh corn, tomatoes, and squash for a sunset dinner.

Fall harvests can make for some really spectacular dinners aboard.


Fall is also a time of festivals, many of them either staged down or hurting because of the pandemic. Check out the calendars of the places you'll be cruising near.  You may discover some gems you've never even dreamed of attending.

Nothing like a local wine festival to introduce you to some things you've never tried.
  I will put one thing out there as a caveat though:  The Pandemic is real.  We know--personally--people who have become ill and some who have had family members die of it.  I only just completed the Covid-19 Contact Tracer training through Johns Hopkins, and I know just how virulent this thing can be.  At sea, you're about as socially isolated as you can be.  Once you step ashore, don't get casual.  Your life and the lives of others may depend on you're paying attention and being responsible.

The fall and early winter are, for my money, the absolute best times for cruising and gunkholing on the Chesapeake.  Do some planning, load up the larder, and head out.  It's our time

Be safe.

M

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Hot, Hot Summer

Dealing with heat is always an issue, but this summer, limited as we are by the virus lockdown, it seems more acute.  Neither of us was raised with air conditioning, so we're not used to it, but there are some days when the heat index wanders over 100 degrees that it becomes an issue. 

The problem is, of course, power.  Our solar system is just fine for most applications, but it just won't handle them AND an air conditioner.  I could, of course, plug in at dock, but an AC is an awfully large hunk of metal to lug around and store.   I keep getting asked how we fare without air conditioning.  Usually it's okay, but at times it gets to be an effort.  We do have a few things that help us get through the nastier parts of it.

Finding a nice anchorage with a nice breeze can help a lot.
Hanging out at anchor is certainly one of them.  The air can be thermal and dead still at dock, but sitting at anchor there's almost always a breeze.  With a little exploring, one can even find secluded inlets with that most rare of all commodities:  shade, along with a nice little breeze.
Magellan is not amused by the heat.

And hey, we're on boats, right?  In, like, water?  Swimming is always an option, though I have to confess, there are times in summer where the river is at bathwater temperatures.
A simple white tarp can really cut the heat from the sun beating on your boat.
The simplest thing we'd recommend is a white tarp.  Doesn't seem major, but, tented above our boom and with an air gap between it and the bimini and covering at least a portion of the dog house of the boat, it literally drops the temperature by ten degrees or so, especially in the cockpit.

At anchor or underway, there are a number of small, usb and 12v fans available that will keep you cool(er) where your sitting, but at dock, there's really no substitute for the old reliable box fan.  They're big, they're ugly, they collect dust and cat hair (especially the latter) but they move a lot of air and can really help you flush the heat out of the boat.


It's big, it's perpetually dirty, but at dock it sure can move air.
 We've resorted lately to the "hillbilly air conditioner" version of this, parking a bucket full of ice in front of the box fan.  It's wet and ridiculous, but it does keep it cooler in here for several hours, and then you have some lovely cool water to swab yourself with.

Of course, it's occurred to us to give up and just do the "AC in the companionway" thing.

It's an option a lot of sailors use.  Makes getting on and off the boat iffy, but the cabin's cool at least.
But, hey, we're stubborn, and the heat is like to break in a week or so.  So lots of cold drinks, a daily swim, and some cool breezes.....we persevere.

more shortly

M



Saturday, July 4, 2020

Some additional (and important) composting toilet notes.

The new design continues to work well, but here's some things you should know:
The new version of our composting toilet design continues to work beautifully, and to be easy to deal with, but I realized recently that there were a few things--particularly for hot weather--that I should pass along:

First of all, a bit of advice on the urine container:  With the quarantine in effect, we've found we're using our onboard setup a lot more than usual.  Now, typically, we empty the 'pee bottle" as it mostly gets referred to every 1 1/2 to two days.  Now it's every day.  I've found the basic rule is:  Empty the thing even if it doesn't need it.  Dump it when you think of it, and you'll never do the "where did this water come from?. . ..ohhh!" thing.  The Urine container is really easy to deal with, and I give it a quick rinse whenever we empty it just to make sure we don't have any odors (which we don't).

Dumping the new solid waste design is really easy, just pull off the top and urine diverter (making sure that any remaining urine in the hose goes into its bottle) and take  the bucket up and dump it.  When on the hook or at cruise, I keep a second bucket on deck with a lid so they can be switched out and dumped onshore later.  At least once a month, take the whole contraption ashore and hose it off.  That will keep any of the upper parts of the toilet from getting grubby looking and disgusting.  It's a simple, largely no-touch operation and that comprises basically all the minimal maintenance needed for this system.

Speaking of disgusting. . .

In hot weather in some places, flies can be an issue.  Not flies, maggots.  Yes, nothing says "I love my boat" like the possibility of maggots crawling up your butt when you're on the john.  They're attracted by the scent of scat, and, in our case, it doesn't help that the cat box shares the head with our composting toilet.

But fear not, gentle reader, there is a solution to this.  First of all, almost all fly problems are caused by an inadequate amount of dry material in the loo.  The flies require the moisture to lay their eggs, and desiccated droppings won't do it for them.  Just keep up with an adequate amount of wood stove pellets or sawdust, and you shouldn't have an issue (we add a bit more in the warm months or when flies are present, just to be safe).  We will also add a few drops of lemon eucalyptus oil which seems to deter them from even being interested in the space.

After a rather cool spring, summer has come here to the Chesapeake with a vengeance.  The heat index yesterday was 105F with the same predicted today.  They are literally loading the barges for the fireworks display on the river 60 feet behind our stern. (um, no smoking please)

These ominous looking canisters are Forth of July Fireworks, which are being loaded rather uncomfortably close to our stern.  Ah well, it's just for the day.
With the heat and the continued and growing threat of Covid 19, we'll be staying put.  Enjoy your 4th, folks.  Be safe out there.

M

Saturday, June 20, 2020

This month in 2014. . .

This month in 2014 we splashed the original barrel shanty The Floating Empire, beginning our long and happy life on the water.
The Floating Empire, the day after we splashed her.
This part of June seems to be auspicious for us.  A year ago, literally today (6/20) we also splashed our current vessel, the SV Constellation.
Constellation going in.
 It's been a glorious pack of years, and the best is yet to come.  Today is also the Summer Solstice.  Blessed Litha to all you Pagans and Witches out there.  Lift a cup with us tonight for a great rest of the year.

M

Sunday, June 14, 2020

NOT what we had planned.

So our lovely sailing trip to the Sassafras river came to an abrupt halt when we motored into a fuel dock and, just as we reached it, the motor stopped and would not be restarted.  This resulted in a wild, six hour tow back to home port, definitely a "Ride em Cowboy" event.


Yep, that's a towboat up there.
Our tow driver Mike and his dog Diesel were fortunately knowledgeable and competent, so they got us home right at at sunset without further incident. but we're both feeling more than a little beat up right now.  So after a day's rest or so, I'll tie into whatever fuel line problems we appear to be having and get us up and running again.  Bear with us.

We did get some wonderful photos, though, and some nice new locations for anchoring, so stay tuned.  Back with you quickly.

M

Monday, June 8, 2020

A quick note on works of fiction.

My publisher, Wild Shore Press, is running a discount on all my fiction works this weekend (June 10-14).  All the electronic editions of my novels on Amazon/Kindle will be available for download for $.99 each.  Just a little boost for your quarantined summer reading.  You can find my stuff HERE.
Rush right out in a downloading Frenzy!
We're headed off sailing again for a week or so in the morning, so I should have some great new pictures and stories for you.  Stay tuned.

M