Friday, December 1, 2017

Dealing with Cold, the final. . .for now.

So, yesterday, after a week of beautiful weather, we mostly completed closing in our cockpit/wheelhouse.  The effects have been immediate.  Last evening we were able to sit in the cockpit in our shirtsleeves comfortably with no other heat on (outside temperatures were hovering around 50F at the time.)  In the mornings, the moment the sun is up, our new floating greenhouse begins to warm and by mid morning the place is quite comfortable.  We don't have hard temperature data yet but I'll be supplying that shortly.
This stuff is so damn clear it's hard to take a picture of it.  You can see the substantial size o our winter greenhouse, though.
To recap: we decided to enclose the wheelhouse in a product called flexoglass from a company called Warp Bros in Chicago, Il (we purchased ours through Amazon here). The product is a tough, amazingly clear vinyl glazing sold in 25 yd. by 48" rolls (other sizes are available) and used primarily for enclosing screen porches and greenhouses.  It is a great deal cheaper than the "eisenglas" typically sold for boat enclosures.  We chose the 4mil variety (It also comes in a stout 10mil). The roll we bought cost us a bit over $80, and was enough to do the entire boat.

After measuring and in some cases creating a paper template to match irregular openings, we laid out and cut the material (scissors work just fine)and reinforced the edges of the material by folding 2" of Gorilla Tape over the edge. We finally figured out that the best way to do this was to lay out the Gorilla Tape sticky side up, held in place on either end by a bit of blue painter's tape (which is easy to remove).  Then we stretched out the Flexoglass and stuck it down halfway across the tape, then folded the edge over.  Please note, the Gorilla Tape is VERY FREAKING STICKY.  It will stick to anything:  itself, the floor, you, your clothing, the cat. . . .and once it does stick, you aren't pulling it loose, PERIOD.  This makes sticking the tape to the edges a matter to be undertaken with some care.  We might opt for something simpler, but we used the same technique in creating screens for our hatches, and were impressed by the strength of it (including supporting our 17 pound boat cat who loves to sleep on top of the hatch screen).

We then set screw snaps around the Gorilla Tape edging.  While most of the big box stores have screw snap kits, with the stuff to set them, they usually only include about 6 snaps, so after we had the kit, we went on the web and ordered a larger amount of the snaps themselves. Trust me, you're gonna use twice as many of these as you think you are.  Places we didn't intend to open, we used small stainless screws and washers instead as a cheaper, faster alternative.

Most of the big box hardware stores carry these, but once you have the setting tools, it's much better to buy the snaps in bulk.

The paper backing is rolled up with the Flexoglass and not only helps keep it clean and unscratched, it also helps you SEE the damn stuff.
No way around it, setting the snaps is tedious.  There are pliers designed for this, but they're REALLY pricey, so unless  your setting hundreds of snaps, you're likely stuck with a hammer and this stuff.
If you're careful, though, the look is pretty clean.
Attaching the male part of the screw snaps is a matter of holding the glazing in place to make sure where the snaps fall and screwing them in place.  There is VERY little wiggle room here, if you want the stuff to lay flat.  The next time we do this I might consider edging the glazing and screwing it in place with screws and washers, then removing it and using those holes for the snaps, both on the glazing and on the boat.  Yes, that would probably work pretty well.  Duh.

About 3/4 way through the install, we had a night of VERY high winds, gusts in the 50mph range.  We got knocked around pretty good, but if I had any doubts about the strength of 4mil Flexoglass, they were assuaged that night.  No damage, nothing pulled through, nothing even came unsnapped.  Lesson learned.

We're not fully finished yet.  The front is probably going to be rigid lexan, and right now it's enclosed with a blue tarp, and there are still some gaps around the top of the Flexoglass for which we still have to fabricate a fill, but the enclosure has already made a huge difference. I can see that we'll be able to use the cockpit as another living space through most of the winter, and that pleases me.  As I sit here at the laptop, it's 42F outside and we're both sitting here in our stocking feet with the main companionway open to the wheelhouse and the heat off.  Interior temperature is a bit over 60F. Actually it's warmer in the cockpit.  Not a sauna, but I'll take it.

It's been a beautiful, mild late fall here.  Some days have hit the 60's and we've not had really any terrible weather of late, which has let us get a lot of things done that might otherwise have been miserable and problematic.  The boats are coming out of the Marina and being stored up on the hard apace, and very soon, it will just be about 20 livaboards afloat here on the middle river.

Within a few weeks, the lovely water will still be here, the boats will not.
Also our favorite local farm Zahradka's  has been cranking out some truly amazing local, sustainable produce.
George Zahradka does some great growing here in MD
So all in all it's shaping up to be a warm and yummy early Winter.  More shortly.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Dealing with Cold III

So we wound having an amazingly  F*%*%*^ing irritating and frustrating day today.  You know the kind.  Tools you needed seem to have dropped into a black hole and reemerged in Calcutta, you discover you've mismeasured, miscounted, and misappropriated just about everything, and you woke up in a pissy mood to begin with.  You know those?

We began working on cutting and seaming and reinforcing the edges of the Flex-o-glass to enclose the pilot house.  It was freaking miserable.  No fault of the materials mind you.  It was a combination of poor planning, general irritability, and Waaaaaaaay too much wind to make doing this comfortable.  Still, we persisted and got one of the panels in to figure out how to proceed.

We've used GorillaTape to rim and reinforce the edges of the Flexoglass and then punched snaps through the tape to be able to connect to screw snaps on the boat.

Snaps set into the gorillatape.
Weve used the GorillaTape/snaps trick before to make screening for our hatches, and it's held up really amazingly well.....I mean our freaking 17 pound cat sleeps on top of the screen and it hasn't collapsed so I count that as a success.  Anyway, the actual installation of the tape and snaps on the Flexoglass is really pretty simple.  The Flexoglass is 4mil, surprisingly tough, amazingly clear, and really pretty simple with which to work.  After many trials and tribulations with which I shan't bore you, we managed to position the snaps on one of the correctly cut panels and install it on the screw snaps on the boat.

See it?  No?  That's the Idea.
The above picture shows what we like about it.  The middle panel is glazed.  No, really, it is.  The stuff is damn near invisible.  You can see against the boat's fiberglass surrounding the cockpit the black outline of the glazing panel, and that's about it.

So apart from being in a crappy mood, hating the wind, and not being well enough organized (which is, apparently, my hobby) we actually did get some decent things done.  We now know how to do this, and will hopefully get lots more done tomorrow, and we learned that. . . .well. . . .the stuff will work.

Okay, we didn't actually know that going into this.

So dinner and a bottle of wine is in order.

More tomorrow


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dealing with Cold II

Well today, finally--FINALLY--the flexoglass showed up for enclosing our wheelhouse.  Flexoglass is a VERY clear plastic sheeting, about 4 mil, that is often used to enclose porches and the like.  We'll be using it to turn our wheelhouse into a greenhouse for the winter.

New support struts to our solar roof to facilitate the enclosure.  Dealing with the weird angles on a sailboat hull can be a challenge.
We spent most of the day installing a series of new support struts to which we'll attach our new, clear membrane around the wheelhouse.  Since this is an old sailboat hull (a cal 2-29 to be specific) some of the angles are, to put it mildly, bizarre.  The Flexoglas turned up way too late today for us to do much about it, so that's the agenda tomorrow.  Will give  you a full report, but, from sitting in the cockpit this afternoon in the sun, the whole concept looks promising.

We've finally gotten a bit of cold weather here on the Chesapeake, but the last couple of days have been beautiful, so we took the opportunity to go hiking in one of our favorite spots, Marshy Point Nature Center.  It's really beautiful this time of year, and, frankly, we need to get out of the boat and get some exercise that didn't involve construction.

Where ever you are, there is a place like this near you.  Take advantage of it.
We love Marshy Point.  It has a great staff, a cool little interpretive center, and miles of well maintained and marked trails through some of the most varied flora and fauna I've encountered.

Really a lovely day to do some hiking.
 This time of year, in particular, the lycopodium stands out.  The club moss looks like tiny pine trees.  It's cheerful, evergreen, has lots of medicinal uses, and is vaguely explosive. . . .

One of the few explosive plants of which I am acquainted.

. . .no kidding about that last one.  The spores were used in flashpans for early photography and are still used for magician's flash powder.

So tomorrow we begin closing in the wheelhouse, which should make for a MUCH more pleasant winter.  Will give you pictures and a description of how we're doing it shortly.

Stay Tuned.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Dealing with cold

It's interesting, we've had some pretty unseasonably cold weather here the last few days (following some unseasonably WARM weather) and everyone we run into at the Marina keeps going "are you guys okay?  Are you warm enough?"

Um, thanks for asking.

But if we weren't, we'd be in a hotel.  Seriously, folks,, 80 square feet isn't hard to heat, though you do have to take some things into consideration.  First of all, since most boats are poorly insulated, air leaks are an issue.  We've crammed discarded foam into every crevice we can find in the evenings to make sure we don't lose the heat we have.

Some gonzo foam insulation we stuff in the hatch when we button up for the night
Another issue is, of course, condensation

The confined space of a V berth, covered over with hard, uninsulated fiberglass, is a formula for condensation.  You're in there, you're breathing, and your breath condenses on the ceiling.  It's not impossible for it to rain.  No foolin.

In the original Floating Empire, we had a problem with condensation collecting between the ceiling fabric and the membrane which could suddenly result in a waterfall . . . .of course, directly over the bed.  Here aboard Tesla's Rvenge, there's less of a gap in which water might collect, but still the roof above  your head can glisten with water.  It can get unpleasant.  Partly, we solved that with a small, Peltier device dehumidifier that did a great job of removing moisture from the small space (see here).

Of course, with the first of the cold winds coming on, we took the gizmo out of storage to discover that it's power supply had shorted out.  Ah well.

Candles help.

Right now, it's comfy inside, with our new insulation in place, and some candles going, and lots of blankets in the V birth.  We'll be snug and fine.

Winter aboard a boat is at the same time a problem and rather simple.  Insulate the drafts, deal with the condensation, and you'll be fine.  Frankly, we're looking forward to it.

More shortly

M .

Friday, November 3, 2017

Fall and Winter Prep

Well it's been an unseasonably warm fall here on the Chesapeake. . . .hardly surprising with what's been happening with temperatures everywhere. . . .but we've had our first few chilly nights, and given that, we've begun our cold weather prep here aboard Tesla's Revenge.

Fall here can be drop dead gorgeous.
I've had a number of people ask me what we do for prep, and the general answer is "not a lot".  Really, most boats being rather small spaces, heating them isn't a lot of a challenge, and the Marina installs ice eaters to keep the docks clear of river ice during the few outrageously cold days of winter.

We will be taking some steps, however.  In a week or so (as soon as the materials show up) we'll be glazing in the wheelhouse with flex-o-glass, a super clear glazing film used for enclosing screen porches and the like.  That will turn our wheel area into a big greenhouse during the winter and help keep us cozy. 

We've also installed the carpeting we normally leave up in the summer months to keep our toes warm, and dragged down the heater from the basement up in the marina office 

So when we do finally get some chilly weather, we'll be as ready as. . .well. . .as we get.

People always say "isn't it COLD?" when we say we overwinter on the boat. I always say, yep, outside, just like it is where you live.  Inside an 80 square foot space, keeping it cool enough with a heater is more of a challenge than it being chilly.

I love the Fall here.  The boats are, one by one, being pulled up onto the hard, which frees up our view of the river, and the whole place becomes quiet and peaceful.  Soon, we'll be one of only about 20 or so boats still in the water, and that suits us fine.  By spring, we'll be ready for company, but for now, the quiet, and time to write and cook amazing meals and just relax is at hand, and I'm ready for it.

More shortly.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Okay, so if seems like we're stalling telling you about the electric motor install and our initial sea trials with said,  . . .well

. . .okay, we're stalling.  We are STILL missing the reversing contactor and the adapter to connect the motor shaft to our drive shaft, and, since the installation will tear up the whole back end of the boat for a couple of days, I'm kinda not wanting to do anything back underneath the cockpit until we can do ALL the stuff.

So we've been doing other things, brewing hard ciders, making meals, and, in general, enjoying what is being a really beautiful fall here on the Middle river.

Filtering a wonderful new batch of pumpkin and apple cider.  Tis the season.
Filled bottles doing a bit of secondary fermentation and carbonation.  Can't wait.
Of course one thing we had to deal with this morning--and it's unusual--was a massively high tide.  This one was weird.  My spouse dragged me out of the sack a little after 7AM saying the water was nearly over the dock.  By the time I pulled on some jeans and got off the VERY high riding boat, the wet stuff had risen above the boards ( in all of about ten minutes) and I was sloshing down the dock checking people's lines, some of which were, due to the boats riding so high, tight as bowstrings. 
Um, surely the wet stuff is supposed to be on the UNDER side of the dock, right?
Half an hour later, it was back below the boards, then an hour later, back above for a few minutes. . . we finally figured out it was being driven by an unseasonable south wind downstream shoving around some heavy rains that were flowing into the bay from PA.

Ah well, living aboard.  Just part of the fun.  I kid, but it IS fun, even stuff like this.

Heard from David, the gentleman who bought our shantyboat "Floating Empire" from us, and found out that he's doing a major rebuild, replacing and adding to the floatation, replacing the side walls, and, in general, doing the stuff that needs to be done to extend the life of our beloved Shanty.  Good on you, Sir.

So here we sit, enjoying the leaves changing, taking trips in our little inflatable kayak, brewing beer and cider. . . .Gail is doing artwork madly (here see Life, Art, Water, her blog) and I'm currently working on two, count em, TWO new novels, one of them a sequel to The Ganymeade Protocol (which has been oft requested).

Livaboard life.  Recommend it.

More later, 


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pleasant Chores

One of the nicest things about living the way we do is the ability to just diverge into doing. . .well. . .whatever the hell we want to do.  One of the things we've loved doing over the last year or so was making our own hard ciders, beers, gruit, and the like. 

We come to it naturally.  We've both been reenactors, and the ciders and what are commonly called "small beers" (so called because of their relatively low alcohol content and that they are meant to be drunk young) were in eras past something you made in the kitchen with no more equipment than a crock and maybe a jug or bottle or two.  They're fun, they're easy, they're delicious, and they're a WHOLE lot cheaper than popping for a bottle of decent wine or a six pack of craft beer.

Doing an initial straining of an oat stout.
What really strikes me is how common and how easy this all was.  Almost anything can be fermented provided it has sugars.  Oats, Barley, Ginger, Apples, Pears, Pumpkin. . . .what do you have?  You can preserve it by turning it into a drink.  You add water, simmer the must for a bit to break it down and kill off any wild yeast, add a sugar like molasses or raw sugar or honey, pitch your yeast,  and in a few days strain it into a bottle with a bit of sugar and cork.  No elaborate measurement equipment, no computer temperature controls, no anything.  Just a daily drink you made yourself.

This is REAL Ginger beer: Ginger, molasses, lime, allspice, cinnamon. . .you WANT this, trust me.
Everything we do, every single thing that we have control of, makes us more and more in control of our own lives and, correspondingly, more and more happy with the way we're living.

We'll be publishing the receipes for the stuff that's worked for us shortly.  Try em.  You'll be happy you did.

Now if you'll excuse me, I feel the need of a libation.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Dragging Wire, Brewing Cider

Made a bit of progress on the multiple projects over the last few days while STILL waiting on parts.  Some of what I've been doing is dragging wire for the control systems that we'll be installing shortly.

New outlet in the cockpit, 2 USB plugs and one 12V DC.
I wired in a new set of outlets for usb and 12V equipment by the binnacle and pulled the wire through to wire in the marine radio aft.  When we pulled the mast we were left with the deck mast step and wires, both of which rather leaked when exposed, so we've built a new box to enclose it and contain a wire race for the solar panels and steaming light.

Staining our little cover for on-deck wiring.

We also found time to make a batch of strawberry and apple cider, which is bloopiing away merrily belowdecks.  Kicking bubbles once every five seconds or so, it's a particularly active batch.  Should be able to rack it off and bottle in a day or so.

Of course in the midst of all this, we both came down with some kind of bug, which has left us with a kind of energy-less day today.  Hopefully a good night's sleep will fix that and we'll be back at the motor install tomorrow.

Until Then.



Monday, September 25, 2017

Intex Kayak K2 Explorer Review

Okay, so in our seemingly endless prep for travel, we were thinking seriously about a tender/dinghy for Tesla's Revenge.  Here's the thing:  while we love our beloved little puddleduck racer, the thing is frankly too broad and heavy to tow easily, and there's no room on the deck for Dharma Duck, so we needed to find another option.
The little puddleduck racer is a great little boat, but a bit too heavy for our needs.
We knew we would only have use of such a boat occasionally, so an inflatable was a good choice.  We had earlier used an Intex Excursion 4 man boat for a time, which worked fine and did well with a little trolling motor, but, again, the thing was a beast when inflated, and a large lump when deflated.  We needed something more compact, something we could inflate on board to make repairs if needed and could use to get to shore when on the hook.

I was delighted, then, when Amazon Prime put an Intex inflatable Kayak on sale.  We had been pleased with the durability of the Excursion, and since the price was under $70, we thought we would give it a shot.

Intex Explorer K2, as it comes, with pump and paddles.
We've been using the boat just as a pleasure craft now for several months, so I thought I would take the time to give you a bit of a review.

Right out of the bag, we were rather pleased that the fabric of the kayak was the same vinyl we had seen in our 4 man boat.  The pump (which was identical to the one supplied with the Excursion 4) seems a bit light and flimsy, but has proven actually quite durable and inflates quickly.  Deploying the boat and pumping it up (once you FIND all the freaking valves. . . we spent forever looking for the one to pump up the sole of the boat) takes about 10 minutes start to finish.  The paddles are fairly stout, and snap together easily.  Apparently an earlier iteration of this boat had a problem with the skeg coming loose.  That has been fixed.  I mean REALLY fixed.  As in, don't plan on ever removing the thing once you snap it in place, not that that matters.

This is the skeg.  you will not be losing it.
The most irritating thing about inflating the boat is that three, count em, three different kinds of valves are used to inflate the thing.  I'm a big fan of the screw in Boston valves.  The rest, not so much, but the pump does have adapters for everything and it's a minor deconvenience.

The seats attach with webbing to support the back and a wide strip of velcro to hold them in place.  There is a nice range of positioning possible for both the front and back seats, which makes them pretty accomodating.  With both seats in place and two people in the boat, there is a fair amount of stowage forward and aft under the spash covers.  The boat is also provided with two stout handles fore and aft to lift and portage the boat.

In the water, the boat handles and points very well.  We both have experience with canoes and kayaks, and the little inflatable moves along smoothly and smartly.  The skeg makes holding your course pretty easy, and we've found we're able to get in and out of the boat even when it's in water too deep to stand on the bottom.  All in all, the little boat is pleasing to paddle and easy to deal with.

Okay, the downsides:

This is an inflatable boat.  You're not going down any class IV whitewater in it.  The vinyl is tough, but if you rammed it into some underwater branches, you would hole it.  Heavy chop is kind of unnerving, as--being an inflatable--the waves move through, not just under the boat.  The paddles are . . . well. . .okay.  They're too short by at least six inches, and replacing them is on the agenda.  Them being short means you drip a lot more water into the boat than you would otherwise.  Some of the valves have to be pinched open to deflate the thing, which is a bit of a pain, and the pump doesn't have a reverse mode, which would help. There's also, sadly, no good way to affix a trolling motor or sail.

All that being said, the boat has a lot going for it.  It inflates quickly, is easy for one or two persons to handle, paddles smoothly, can be accessed from the water, and deflates and stows in about 15 minutes.  Wonder of wonders, the bag supplied is ACTUALLY LARGE ENOUGH FOR THE BOAT TO BE PUT BACK IN IT.  I was stunned.  The stowed package, including seats and pump and oars, is a good sized duffle bag and weighs in the neighborhood of 40 lbs and fits easily in one of our lazarettes.

Alongside Tesla's Revenge.
While our intent for the boat was purely utilitarian, we've had a blast with the little boat.  It's simple to toss in the back of a car and take to local inlets and rivers for exploring, and we've paddled many miles around Marshy Point Nature Center and the Gunpowder River, as well as wandering around our own Middle River in warm, early fall afternoons.

All in all, we remain happy with the purchase.  Find it on sale and grab one.

Back to installing the electric drive in the next episode.....still waiting on a reversing contactor.  Ah well.

Hey would anyone like our little Puddleduck Racer for free?  I just hate to have it sit here if we go traveling.

More Later,


Monday, September 11, 2017


Waiting Waiting Waiting. . .. .

We're piddling away here waiting on a couple of components that we need to actually do the motor install, specifically the adapter to connect the motor output shaft to the driveshaft and the reversing contactor to be able to reverse the motor.  Until then we've been making some limited progress on the rest of our. . . .stuff.

We had no takers on the old mast for the 2-29 CAL we're rebuilding into Tesla's Revenge, so I finally cut the thing thing up, removed the hardware and winches, and recycled the aluminum, which netted me a massive $45, but hey, that's $45, and now the marina owner is happier.  In the midst of all this the Nimtek power inverter went "POP" one afternoon and then went silent, so we've been in broken English web chat with them trying to figure out if it we can effect a repair or just turn the thing in for a new unit, which is what I suspect is what is going to happen.

If anyone is curious, we've thus far missed all the huge storms battering America lately.  The northern Chesapeake has been actually rather unseasonably cool and placid of late, an early harbinger of fall.

It's beginning to resemble early fall around here.
Still, we're jonesing to get this project in effect so we can travel a bit this fall and early winter.  Hopefully this week will bring the remaining parts we need and we'll give you a full accounting of the install.  Until then, those of you in harm's way, stay safe, don't do stupid risks, and take care of one another.

More shortly.....I hope