Tuesday, February 18, 2020

sale on Shantyboat Book

In honor of the new book coming out, Wild Shore Press is doing a sale on the Ebook this coming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Here's a chance to get a copy cheap.  Click Here.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Barrel Barge Shantyboat Book

Well, by popular demand, we've taken all the blog entries on the design and construction of our original Barrel Barge Shantyboat The Floating Empire and compiled them with our construction notes, and additional photos and drawings into one downloadable book to help you build your own shantyboat, tiny home, or vardo.
It's 104 pages and well over 100 photos.
The book has well over a hundred photos of the original construction(277 color photos, in fact), both from this blog and from our files, along with build suggestions, ideas for modification, and everything else we could think of to help you design and build your own floating home.

The book is free for those with Kindle Unlimited and $2.99 to buy the download.  Please note, this is a LARGE file because of all the color photos and drawings.

You can get your copy HERE

And you can find my other books, including our Composting Toilet Book HERE.

If you get it and like it, please leave us a review on Amazon.  We live by those, I mean literally.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Weird things we get asked as live aboards

So I was musing last night on some of odd, clueless, and downright bizarre questions we've gotten over the years as live aboards.  I thought I'd include a sampling:

Do you have heat?
Really?  No, we spend the winter in Parkas gnawing on narwhale blubber.  Of course we have heat.  We run electric heat when at dock and propane when we aren't.  We've also used kerosene and wood for heating,

Does the Cat ever run off?
Magellan is a people person and a bit of a homebody.  He's chipped, of course, and if he did go astray I have a Tile tracking thing on his collar so I can find him with a phone app.  Besides, I can use his Tile to help find my phone.  It's a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Magellan's stylish Tile is so we can find one another.
You have a house too, right?
No.  We live on the boat.  We travel on the boat.  We sleep on the boat.  No house, no apartment. . . what would be the point?

Do you have a bathroom?
No, we just pee over the side.  Of course we do.  We have a composting head.  We don't have showers on the boat, so we either use a sun shower in the cockpit or use the rather nice showers at the marina, weather and location depending.

What kind of shoes do you wear?
Scratching my head at this one.  Often, weather depending, we don't.  The rest of the time we mostly live in Crocs.  They're waterproof, comfy, and wear like iron.

How do you get exercise?
Well, for one thing, just BEING on a boat is exercise.  You're constantly--even at dock--having to shift to keep balance.  It's a low level, unending core exercise.  We walk a lot in good weather, either just to do it or to do our shopping.  That's mostly every day.  In winter, we have a gym membership which we try to hit every couple of days.

How do you do laundry?
It's either hand wash, or the laundromat, neither of which is a lot of fun.  Many marinas have laundry facilities.  Ours, sadly, doesn't.

What do  you do with the litter box?
What do YOU do with the litter box?  We scoop it and put it in the trash. When we're underway, it goes in the trash bucket on deck until we can dispose of it properly.

Do you have guns for protection?
Good lord no, and I wouldn't tell you if I did.  Look, I've lived in Watts, I've lived on the South Side of Chicago, I've lived in NY and Miami and freaking Baltimore, and I've NEVER needed a gun.  Besides, a bullet would go through several boats before it stopped, and I'm not doing that to our neighbors.  I do have a perfectly good cutlass, like a proper sailor, and I know how to use same.

Does the cat sharpen his claws on the mast?
The Mast is aluminum, and, as large as Magellan is, he's not MechaGodzilla (MechaMagellan?  Frightening thought).  He has a scratching pad, and goes ashore and uses the trees when we're at the marina.  It's not enough, and we still have to trim his claws from time to time to keep them from growing back into his footpads.

Do you eat fish all the time?
We do eat a lot of fish, because, well, we live at the water.  We're both former restaurateurs, have eclectic food tastes, and we eat well.  We take advantage of what's locally available, which, yes, often is fish or shellfish.  And, yes, Maryland crabcakes are killer.

Did you ever think of putting a bigger motor on the boat to go faster?
The simple answer to that is: no.  First of all, we're not in a hurry, and sailing is it's own reward, the trip being as much an objective as the destination.  Second, this is a displacement hull with 3000lbs. of lead underneath it.  I could put a Space X Raptor engine on the back and I'd still top off at the hull speed of about 7 knots.  Google "Hull Speed" if you're wondering how that works.

Do you have an air conditioner?
No.  Seldom needed it on the water. We have a nylon cloth wind scoop for the forward hatch to catch breezes at anchor, and the boat has a number of 12V fans for those close days.

What do you do with all your stuff?
We got rid of most of it. The downsizing is a big part of moving aboard (or into a tiny house, or into a caravan, etc.)  We have a storage locker for family stuff we can't figure out what to do with and furniture pieces we don't want to get rid of.  We might just say "screw it" and dump all that since we rarely need/think about any of it.

Would you ever move back on land?
It's not out of the question, but right now we're enjoying travel and the independence of being on the water.  I could see one day going into a tiny home or cabin ashore, but never into an apartment or full sized house.  Just not appealing.  The water, frankly, suits us fine.

What do you do for a living?
We're. . what. . .semi retired I guess.  We have money from our pensions, I'm a novelist (you can find my books HERE, feel free to go into a downloading/purchasing frenzy.  Really proud of the new one.) and write for some boating publications, Gail is an artist and sells her artwork.  If we need additional money, one of us will sometimes pick up a part time or short term job.  Otherwise, we do just fine.  This is, if you're careful, a monstrously cheap way to live.

Gail had to downsize to artwork she could do aboard. 
Web based businesses like writing and publishing are perfect for live aboards.

Do you get seasick?  Does the boat move around a lot?
The boat, especially in high winds, can move around quite a bit, even at dock.  It makes sleeping difficult sometimes in stormy weather. Otherwise, it's pretty stable.  Fortunately, neither of us suffers from motion sickness.  BTW if you do go on a boat and get sea sick, note that it tends to go away after a few days for most people and never returns.

But where do you really live?

Much more later

PS as an update, the Barrel Shantyboat Book is complete and now all I have to do is format the thing.  Stay tuned.

Monday, January 27, 2020

WDBX Interview Friday, 1/31 at 11:30 AM Eastern

Treesong of WDBX will be interviewing me about my writings, the blog, and other things at 11:30 AM Eastern.  If you're in Southern Illinois, you know what to do, if not, you can go HERE to hear the stream!

The redoubtable author and ecology activist, Treesong.
Really looking forward to this.


Review: Gas One Mini Duel Fuel Stove

When at dock we tend to use an electric burner.  Our electric is included here and, frankly, since our electric is at least partly renewables here in MD, it seemed like a better choice, climate-wise.  But on the hook, of course, that's not an option, even with our fairly beefy solar system.

We've used a number of options while living aboard, including wood, kerosene, and  permanently plumbed in propane systems, but on Constellation we fell back on using the ubiquitous butane catering burners.  They're convenient, they're VERY hot (unless the temp is below 50F, in which case they struggle, but I digress), and they just work well, despite some occasional difficulty in finding the canisters for them (and the fact that the fuel cylinders aren't recyclable or refillable).  They also have a pretty large footprint, even compared to a hotplate.

These cook well, but just finding the (unfortunately disposable) fuel cylinders can sometimes be a challenge.
We were wandering through a local Asian market with some slipmates when we came across a stove I'd not seen before.  It was from GasOne, a brand we'd used before, but this was a "mini" version of the butane countertop stove.  The pot stand was far more solid than the thin painted steel of the earlier models we'd seen, and the thing had something like 2/3rds the footprint of the regular catering burner.  Our friends bought one on the spot.  After thinking about it a bit, I went on the web looking to see if could find them again, and ran across this:
GasOne mini, duel-fuel stove.
It was the same stove, but also with a propane adapter,  At less than $40 (and considering the fact that our existing burner was rusting apace) we thought we'd give it a try.

The little stove is solidly built, and will hold up to a 22cm (roughly 10") pot without problems.  The entire top is stainless, and the burner is HOT, I mean REALLY hot (they apparently had a problem with early versions of this stove MELTING the burner.  Not an issue with the new version btw). The little stove takes up far less of our jealously guarded countertop space, and comes with a propane adapter so we can use refillable propane bottles or plumb it onto a larger tank (you'll need an additional pressure regulator, like for a barbecue).  It cooks beautifully, as a really nice control valve that allows for low simmering temperatures, has a safety feature that ejects the bottle if it overheats, and comes with a fairly stout carrying case.

There are, of course, a few downsides.  The stove is too small to take our folding oven (we kept the old one for that), but that's a small price to pay for something more easily cleaned that saves us some valuable countertop.

Followups as we use it, but so far, it's a plus.

more later


Condensation Wars, the sequel's sequel: Den-Dry

Okay, so to summarize:  When you live in an impervious fiberglass cocoon, there's no way for moisture to escape.  Breathing, cooking, normal atmospheric humidity, sea spray. . .all of these condense out of the air in your cabin against every cool surface. . .like the hull, walls, and ceiling.  It makes it rain inside sometimes.  Your cushions and mattresses condense water beneath them, resulting in sodden sheets and occasionally an epic explosion of mildew.  To combat this, we've done a number of things which, to a greater or lessor extent, have worked.  We installed a compact compressor based dehumidifier from Eugreen, that we run all winter, which pulls a gallon or more of water out of the air every day.  We've installed insulation on the surfaces that get chilled, slowing down the condensation.  Still, we get condensation beneath our bedding and the salon cushions, and it's damned irritating.

Enter Den-Dry and the lovely folks at RavenWolf Marine.  The product is a mattress and cushion underlayment consisting of little hills of spun plastic with a fabric cover on one side.  You just trim the roll to fit your application, put down the material cloth side up, then put down your cushions.  Viola! There is now air flow beneath your bedding, the moisture can escape, and you can now climb into the V berth without going EEEWWWWWW during the winter.

A little piece of Den-Dry.  The spun plastic assures air flow.
One of our slip-mates got a roll and raved about the stuff, so we thought we'd give it a shot.  The folks at RavenWolf Marine are a joy to work with, btw.  The post office lost our first order and they had us another roll on it's way the next day and were constantly on top of things

Installation is easy and can be done with ordinary scissors, though frankly a set of tinsnips might have been easier.
We've only had the material down for a couple of days, and already it's made a huge difference.  We'll likely be ordering more in the near future for the galley cushions. 

You can find RavenWolf's website here.

more shortly


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 just after 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