Monday, December 28, 2015

Pulling the Puddle Duck: An assessment

Well, it's finally getting late enough in the season that it's probably time, despite the ridiculously warm weather we've been having, to put our little Puddle Duck Racer "Dharma Duck" ashore for the season.
Yeah, it's the end of December and it's 70 degrees.

First, the good news:  The construction we used in the little PDRacer has worked.  All the seams seem sound, and the old school seam protection, saturating canvas with TitebondIII and doing a dutch mend on the seam (as an alternative to fiberglass) shows no signs of wear or deterioration, despite months in the water.  The interior, which has been flooded with rainwater periodically likewise shows only a tiny amount of checking on the plywood, and no leaks at all.  All in all I'm happy.

Dharma Duck now ashore, all seams tight, and free of fouling.

Despite a major Zebra Mussel invasion this summer and fall, the bottom paint has worked well, with absolutely zero sign of the beasties stuck to the hull or the leeboard.  All in all, we're really pleased.

A few things we DIDN"T anticipate:  Despite the intact paint and seams, the boat (like all wooden boats) will absorb a fair amount of moisture.  So in pulling the 120 lb. boat we shortly discovered we were lifting something more like 200 lbs. out of the water.  No grief, but we wound up sliding the hull along one of the pier boards (happily wet and slippery with rain) to get her ashore.  Even so, the canvas seams and bottom paint took almost no grief.

except. . . .

Except we failed to notice the 1" high protruding nail that had worked it's way up from the dock boards.

Yeah, that's a gouge.
Ow.  So we got a nasty 2 1/2' gouge in the bottom.  I'll patch it when we repaint for spring, but I felt badly for our little duck.  It's okay, we'll give her a nice new coat of bottom and interior paint in spring for the splash and all will be well.

All in all our little PDRacer project has been a great one:  Its been a lot of fun, was easy and entertaining to build, and makes a great tender for "Floating Empire."

Waiting for Warmer Days

More later.  Hope you all survived the Holidays.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Puddleduck update

So today we began to prep our beloved Puddleduck Racer "Dharma Duck" to pull for the season, and I thought I'd do a bit of an update on how the construction has held up.
Dharma Duck on her very first sail.
We built the boat on a shoestring, including canvas taping on the seams and construction of just regular exterior ply.

Dharma Duck's seams were just canvas, saturated with TitebondIII
Despite having lived in the water at our stern for months and having periodically been filled with rainwater, I'm very pleased to report that the little PDRacer has weathered just fine, thank you.  The seams are intact and tight, most of the paint has held up well, and the bottom paint has kept her clean even through our rather nasty Zebra Mussel invasion.

The Duck at rest
All in all, I'm quite happy.  So our little Duck will sit on shore under the awning for the winter, and then we will re-splash her with a bit more paint and better sails in the spring.

Have I mentioned I love living on the water?

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

more later


Friday, December 11, 2015

Foggy mornings on the water

We're having unseasonably warm weather here on the Middle River, with sunny days in the 60's.  Not complaining, mind you, we cooked out last night for the first time in a month, but as John, the mechanic at the Marina says "we'll pay for this later."  Probably, but the mornings are gorgeous.

This morning.  Just thought I'd share.
More later.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Last Harvest of the Season II: Sunchokes!!!

So today we dug up the sun choke (also called Jerusalem Artichoke) rhizomes.  These all came from three tiny pieces of root stock given us by the kind folks at Marshy Point Nature Center.
Sunchoke tubers from the nice folks at Marshy Point Nature Center.
Yeah, there's a wild carrot in there, too.
The Jerusalem Artichoke is a misnomer, having nothing to to whatsoever with Jerusalem (it's native American) and not being in any way an Artichoke.  The name is thought to be a mispronunciation of Giraselle, Italian for sunflower, which is what it is.  The root can be treated like a potato in most ways, can be sliced thin and eaten raw, or baked, mashed, or cooked in stews.  It has a wonderful, sweet taste, and does, indeed, have a bit of an artichoke flavor when cooked.

We had heard they were prolific in building tubers.  They weren't kidding.

Right out of the ground.

This is just a part of the harvest from 3, count em, 3 plants.
So we dug up our multitude of tubers and are keeping them chilled.  Some will go back in the ground in spring to make new crops, others will find their way into soups and stews and shepard's pies and the like.

Cool, hunh?

More later.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Foraging for Alcohol IV: Here we go again!

So today at the grocery, we note some happy brown gallon jugs of fresh apple juice from Baugher's orchard in Westminster, MD.  No preservatives and pressed this week.

Couldn't pass it up.

here we go again

So two gallons of the wonderful sweet stuff goes into the carefully cleaned bucket, along with a handful of raisins and a handful of brown sugar, and then the yeast again.

So about the time we're running low on our wonderful crabapple hard cider, there will be some new lovely drink in the offing.

Ready, set. . . . .
As always, stay tuned.


Last Harvest of the Season

The frosts of the last few nights have put, finally, and end to our little container garden here at the marina.  Our peppers are long done, along with the ground cherries.  We've gotten an astonishing amount of food off these little garden plants over the summer and fall.

Last of the amazing Mexico Midgets.
Particularly our heroic little Mexico Midget plant (a heritage variety of small tomato that I highly recommend) is finally done for the season.  The thing has produced--and heavily--its little flavor-filled tomato bombs all summer.  Two of these things and you could damn near run a farm stand, no fooling.

Yum.  Rhubarb.

We cut down the last of our Rhubarb, destined for a crumble dessert tonight.  In the next few days, we'll be digging up the sun choke rhizomes, probably a bunch of them as prolific as that sunflower tends to be.

This has been, along with foraging crab apples and wild raspberries, a wonderful addition to our culinary efforts.  

We're already scheming for spring.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Foraging for Alcohol III: Bottling

So today on a bright and windy afternoon we decided to rack and bottle our crabapple cider.  here's some pix:

Pretty clear.  There was quite a bit of deceased yeast in the bottom of the container.
Fermentation seemed to have stopped, so we ladled the cider out through a cloth into a glass beehive dispenser for bottling, discarding the last half inch or so of the liquid and it's accompanying sediment.

There was still a fair amount of funk left behind in the filter as well.
We rinsed out wine bottles from our Thanksgiving revels (we were REALLY good at them this year) with a bleach solution and then with filtered water and filled from the dispenser.  The dispenser, btw, made filling easy.

The dispenser made filling bottles easy.  The color is lovely.
The finished cider filled about 8 wine bottles (of course we had to do some sampling on the way, right?), which we returned to the fermentation bucket to store in case of . . . .well. . .explosions.  As it is, I plan to "burp" the screw top bottles periodically to make sure that doesn't happen, but at present, there's little sign of additional fermentation.

Yeah, we were slackers.  We didn't even soak
the wine labels off the bottles.

The resulting cider is about 9% ABV, with a crisp bite from the crab apples, still, and dead dry (which is the way we prefer our wines).  I'll be interested to see how it mellows in the bottle.

This was fun.  More projects to come.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015


I've noted with some sadness that we've been hit with "referral spam" here at the blog.  For those of you who don't know, referral spam is caused when other sites, generally criminal ones, make it appear that they have linked to your blog in the hopes that you'll click on the analytics to see who they are and why they linked.  Then they try to sell you something, scam you, or infect your computer.

Most of these sites come out of Russia or the Russian-controlled portion of Ukraine, two places which apparently lack the pride to stop criminal activities in their territories.  They jam up your analytics, making it impossible to tell who is reading your blog, or, in the case of commercial blogs, who your customers really are.  They make the net less fun and less useful.  If you get one of them, you'll find yourself on a list somewhere and you'll get thousands.  That's where we are now, and it's frustrating.

Hey, Putin!  Clean up your mess.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Foraging for Alcohol II

So, today has been a bit over a week since we macerated our wonderful local crabapples, inoculated them with yeast, and set them to ferment.
Ladling the must into a cloth lined strainer, all disinfected of course.
Today we strained and squeezed the fluid out of the must.

Having fermented for over a week, the must surrenders it's liquid easily.
WOW is this yeasty, but the resultant golden liquid has a wonderful flavor, and was utterly dry.  I, of course, don't have any way to meter the alcohol content, but by the taste it's over 10%, with no off flavors.

So we squeezed the liquid out of the must, then re-strained it through a clean cloth and added a cup of brown sugar.  Now it's back to the bucket and the fermentation lock for another week, and then to bottle.

Stay tuned :)


Monday, November 23, 2015

Or: Why I built the stairs. . . .

Yep, our top rail is a foot below the dock.

This would be more like a normal low tide in Fall.
If there's any proof that winter is finally here, it's the return of extreme low tides.  This year, we're ready.  Today on the low tide, with a couple of days of strong north wind, we're sitting with the top of our rail well below the dock (on a normal day between tides, it would be three feet above).  Even with this, with our new steps, it's no hassle to get off.

Occasionally I win one :)


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Republic Wireless Followup

Well, we've now completed our second month with the Republic Wireless system, and I'm pleased to report that we're still pretty pleased.
The Republic Wireless Moto E2 is even great for running apps
from our favorite radio station.
My second month's bill rebated me $6.50 on my data usage, which made my monthly bill something like $12 for unlimited service, calls, text, and data.  Not too shabby.  Call quality is just fine, and the Moto phone seems solidly made and is thus far running all the apps we wish to use flawlessly.

We may have a winner here folks.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dead Fish, and eventually, possibly us. . .

yep. . . dead
This is a dead fish, one of hundreds of thousands in the Middle River this week.  At low tide, the bottom is virtually paved with them.

According to DNR, they died from a toxic algae bloom in the river.

The toxic algae bloom was likely caused partly by runoff into the river containing an excess of nitrogen and phosphates.

Our new "business friendly" state government has, of course, taken steps to remove the Impervious Surfaces Abatement tax, designed to make those who pollute like this pay for the damage (and rebranded the "rain tax" by wealthy business interests and their shills) and to shift the costs of abatement to the general taxpayer.

Meanwhile the Bay continues its slow decline.

You gotta love our "business friendly" politicians. . . .

Actually, no I don't.  I don't have to love them at all.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Foraging for Alcohol

Or: Mungo and Morgainne make Cider.  This was prompted by one of our earlier posts on having located a wonderful old crab apple tree on the marina property.  So the other day, we sallied forth and collected as many of the little lovelies as we could.

A Crabapple is basically any apple under 3"

Just pull a branch and you get rained on by fruit when they're ripe.

These are really tasty ones.

We collected a full bucket of them, shaking the tree, getting rained on by ripe fruit, eating as many as we collected.  Crab apples are a wonderful, very tart fruit, full of flavor.

We washed the fruit, picking out the bad ones and leaves, then rinsed them in water with a bit of bleach to kill wild yeasts, then rinsed again.

We cleaned the fruit in water with a bit of bleach as we're not relying on wild yeast.
Then we pulped the fruit with a bit of filtered water and a stick blender.  At this point we also threw in a handful of raisins as additional food for the yeast.

Pulping with a stick blender

Lalvin K1-V116 wine yeast, mixed with a bit of room temperature water.

After pulping the fruit with a little water to render it soupy, we added activated wine yeast and pulped the whole mass to aerate and to mix in the yeast thoroughly.

Here's the pulped apples and yeast mixture, ready for the lid.

Sterilized bucket full of the must and yeast, complete with air lock.
Now we ignore it for a week for the first round of fermentation.  Stay tuned.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Samhain

Happy new year to all you Pagan types out there.

DeadKitty and Mr. Jack say happy Halloween.
May it be one full of joy, peace, and chocolates.

Happy Halloween
Mungo and Morgainne

Friday, October 30, 2015

It kind of never ends. . . .

One of the features of living aboard an experimental, lightly built, hand made vessel is that the round of renovations/corrections/additions never seems to stop.  I was thinking about this today and yesterday while I crafted a new stern doorway for Floating Empire.

Here's the old stern doorway in the process of being rebuilt.

While we've lived aboard, we have:  Added floatation to the bow and amidships, added numerous LED lights to the interior of the vessel, added a shower with it's own pump, added a refrigerator, added shelving to five areas of the boat, put in three floor hatches, painted, re-painted (soon to be re-re-painted), did a decorative covering on the floor of the loft, added insulation, replaced the glazing on the forward doorway with a removable window and screen, added two 110 volt outlets, installed the TV, cleaned the barrels of the hull, built a sailing dinghy, built a stand for the water filter. . . .the list goes on and on.  Yesterday and today, we've been rebuilding and weatherstripping the gonzo doorway we added to the stern of the boat after we launched.

Note the stern before we launched?  Note that there IS NO HATCHWAY onto the stern of the vessel?
When the drive failed at launch, I literally had to kick out one edge of the tuftex to get out there.
The point is, when you own and build your own, be it a home or a trailer or a boat, it's an ongoing project, not a thing that remains static until you dispose of it.  It's a living beast, and it becomes a part of your life, of who you are. . . 

New stern door, roughed into place with film still over the glazing.

Lucky Morgainne got to do the painting :)

The mostly finished doorway.  Wow is that Optix acrylic glazing clear.  
Right now, what I am is a bit sore and covered in caulk. . . .time for a libation I think, don't you?

We have just crossed 20,000 views.  Thanks so much for coming on this voyage with us.  More to come.


Hey, Morgainne just posted some of her wonderful handmade books over on Life, Art, Water, go check em out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: Republic Wireless Hybrid Phone

We may--finally--have found a wireless company that works for us.

It's no secret that I've been pretty unhappy with our cell company options of late.  We've done plan and no plan companies, various fairly crappy phones, and spent a lot of time calling customer service centers in Bangalore. . . . .In general, I've been really peeved at the cost to service ratio going on here.  Living on a boat, our choices are, in general, cellular or. . .well. . . cellular.  Signal is iffy down here on the river, data costs expensive, and frankly, living on an artist's income, money is an issue.

So after dealing with one you-name-it cellular plan after another, I stumbled onto Republic Wireless on them interwebs, and was rather intrigued.

Republic has only been around for a few years, but what they're doing is decidedly different.  Their phones default to VOIP (Voice over internet protocol) calling, as does their data, so if you're near WiFi, the phone calls over WiFi, thereby not using the cell system at all.  I'd experience using VOIP on the go, using the Talkatone program with an elderly IPod Touch as a phone backup, and knew it worked pretty well, so that interested me.  That sounds like a simple thing, and most smart phones can talk over WiFi if you install an App to do so, but the Republic Wireless phone does the rather remarkable trick of being able to switch seamlessly from WiFi to Cell and back, even in mid call.  The net effect of all this is that you use very little cell phone time, and are charged accordingly.  For most folks, with WiFi at home, at school, at work, and at a myriad of other places throughout your day, this is a good option.  For livaboards--most marinas having stable WiFi as part of the slip package--it's a great option, especially since the phone service starts at $5 a month.

Yeah, you read that right:  $5.  $5 gets you a WiFi only service, but with unlimited calling, text, and data over WiFi(and, being a cell phone, you can still call 911 from anywhere, even if you have no WiFi).  For $10 bucks you get unlimited calling and text on Sprint's Cellular System, but no cell system data (all of that is, of course, unlimited if you're near WiFi)  I opted for the ritzy package of kicking in an extra $7.50 a month for half a gigabyte of cell phone data, with more available if you want to pony up for it.  They even go so far as to rebate you for any data unused at the end of the month.

I'll be honest, I was skeptical.  I'd been disappointed with virtually every system I'd tried, and this just seemed like the next one in line.  Unfortunately, my old LG smartphone was dying, I would have to replace it anyway, so I figure, what the heck. . . .

Republic Wireless Moto E
The downside of the system is that, since the phones have custom hardware, you have to buy Republic's phones, and the choices, at least at time of writing, are limited to three Motorola Android smartphones:  Moto e 2, Moto X, and the Moto e 3 just being introduced.  My Moto e 2 ran me $129 plus tax and shipping.  The Moto X would run you about $300. All in all not unreasonable.

The Motorola phones are actually pretty decent.  The phones have nice features, pretty good cameras, and are fairly fast, running video and games pretty seamlessly.  The ones supplied by Republic are also mercifully free of Android bloatware, and they have a reputation for being tough.  As a plus to those of us living on the water, the Moto's are highly water resistant, and can apparently stand even a brief submersion.  I'm not about to test that, but it's nice to know.  I opted for a case for the phone because. . .well. . .I'm clumsy.

Setting up the phone is a matter of turning it on and giving it a little info about your wireless connections.  That's it.  I was rather surprised.  Call quality is just fine, and the phone, does, indeed, seem to switch both voice and data seamlessly from WiFi to cell system and back, even in mid-call or mid-stream.  I could actually see getting in trouble with data if your wireless went down and the phone silently shifted your Netflix stream to your data account.  You can, however, set it not to do that, specifying that data be "wifi only" if need be.  Oh, you also have the ability to instantly switch plans, upgrading or downgrading them (which is unusual) twice a month.  Handy if you have a WiFi only plan and then wind up unexpectedly on the road.

My final perk on this system came when I got my first bill and discovered that I had, indeed, been credited back $4.20 for my unused data, bringing my $17.50 a month cell bill to $13.30.  Not bad at all.

There seems very few downsides to the system:  Calls occasionally take a bit of time to connect, and I've sometimes had to redial the call to make it go through.  Some places that require you to accept their terms of agreement before logging into their WiFi can occasionally confuse the phone (usually it pops up a browser screen automatically to let you do that).  There has been some "clipping" on calls on places with poor WiFi and I've had to force the phone to default to the cell system (easy to do).  I did note that customer service is internet only, with no voice service available (but frankly that suits me just fine.  I've made quite enough customer service calls to India, thank you, and if I never again have to deal again with someone who introduces himself as "Frank" but has an accent so thick even other Indians can't understand him, it will be too soon).  But for less than $20 a month for a fully functioning phone that I don't have to watch like a hawk to keep from going into data overage hell, I'm more than willing to put up with those.

The Republic Wireless system seems ideal for many of us livaboards with WiFi access, and also a nice option for those needing another line, a business line, or a phone for the kids that won't break the bank. I'll be doing a followup in a few months after we've lived with the system, but for right now, It's well worth looking into.

You can get more info at

New stuff happening over at Grindlebone Village.

Talk to you soon.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Puddleduck Regatta Delayed

Sadly, the unwanted weather from the fortunately departed hurricane delayed construction here at the Marina, so we've been forced to do a delay in our fall PD Racer Regatta.  New dates soon.  Ah well.

Stay tuned


Puddleduck Cover

Okay, so our PD Racer "Dharma Duck" lives in the water off our stern, and I got tired of the gymnastics I was going through to attach a tarp whenever they predicted rain, so I got this idea for a simple, battened version that would go on and…well…STAY on.

Yeah, it's that crappy blue tarp stuff, but I had it, so hey.
I laid out a couple of 1'X2" scrap wood battens along the sides. . .

The folded corner is to go around our offset mast.
. . .and rolled them in the tarp edge, stapling them in place.  Our Duck has the offset mast from Bolgers "Fast Brick" design, although it's fixed, so the folded corner piece, unbuttoned, is to go around that.

So it just clips on at the corners and along the centerline.
I had already set some eyes at the four corners of the boat for a tarp, and there are cleats fore and aft center, so I just use small bungees to attach the tarp at the corners with the battens outside the gunnel, and at the center just for jollies.  The center ridge is the sprit, which helps it shed water.

Takes all of about 15 seconds to put on, and I don't feel like a gymnast doing it.
See?  Covers better, goes on easier, stays in place.

Just thought I'd share.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Stir Crazies

So after days and days and days of rain and the threat of a major hurricane, we finally, FINALLY get a pretty day.  Mild temperatures, sunshine, and chance to get off the boat for a bit.  Oh, yes.

Of course, there was a bit of chores to be done, including half a ton of laundry, work on the car, and, of course, bailing out the Puddle duck, whose gonzo tarp cover proved to be not up to the task of days and days of heavy rain.
Yep, it's full of water…...

But after messing with a bit of that, we finally got the chance to get out and about.  One of our favorite spots here in the Northern Chesapeake is Marshy Point nature center, so we took a bit of a drive and went for a hike on the mercifully dry trails.

The colors are going to be amazing this year.

The trees are just starting to turn, and the view from the walkway over the creek is spectacular any direction you face.  It's just another reminder of why we love this place so much.

Even this close to the city, nature can be stunning.
So we hiked for a bit, then returned to a surprise dinner with friends with crab and chicken and good company.  Tomorrow should also be lovely, and the little puddle duck will get back under sail if I have my way.

Enjoy, folks.  It's gonna be a beautiful fall.