Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Joy of Cat Poop

Okay, so you recall a few days ago, I wrote that, sadly, we were about to lose our long time feline companion Kallisti.  The poor kitty had pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and had suffered a stroke while treating those, had lost the use of most of the left side of her body, and was, on top of all that, not passing feces.  We both thought that it was only a matter of time before the cat either passed or before compassion forced us to arrange a coup de grace for her.

But the trouble with that was, we failed to take into account the cat's fierce lineage (including the legendary Mungo Jerry, after which we named our coffee house).  Gradually, she got more and more command of her limbs, stubborn beast that she is.  The congestion, with the help of meds, cleared from her lungs, her heart rate returned to normal, and today, finally, she began. . . well. . .pooping.  I have never been so happy to see a pile of cat droppings.

Kallisti is nearly 18, so we know this is unlikely to be anything like a permanent recovery, but it's pleasing to have our happy and affectionate (and loud) shipmate back prowling the deck, now with a near normal gait.

One tough kitty, and a happy afternoon.


Friday, March 20, 2015

How to deal with Galley Chores

One of the most frequent questions we get asked here....well, after questions about the composting toilet and ones implying that we're out of our minds for living on a, oddly, about doing dishes in the galley, so I thought, in the midst of everything else, that I'd take a moment and tell you how we handle that, and successfully.

This is a picture of our galley during installation.  Note that the sink is actually an oblong galvanized tub with a drain cut into it.  We use a simple pitcher pump to pull water from the river, pump it into the sink, and then drain it into a bladder for disposal on shore.

We don't just have one tub, we have two identical ones.  We use one for wash and one for rinse.
Filling the rinse tub.  You can see the wash tub, full of dirty dishes, beneath it.
Yes, yes, yes, I know, River Water isn't sterile.  We both are food service safety managers and know the risks.  So we do what restaurants do that use hand wash.  We keep a squeeze bottle of chlorine bleach handy and add it to the rinse water to disinfect the water and the dishes.
So in practice, once we fill both basins, we add soap and boiling water to the wash basin to raise the temp to around 100F.
Warm water not only cleans better, in winter the river water is freakin' COLD!
So we wash in the warm, soapy water, rinse and disinfect (allowing the dishes to remain in the water for about two minutes) in the second tub, and then air dry.

The system has been surprisingly easy, nobody's gotten sick from it, and it would also work well in any tiny home or cabin.  Originally our intention was to nest the two tubs when not in use, but the sink (probably like yours) is too wonderful a catch tub for dirty dishes(one must be careful with this, as it is well known that dirty dishes, left to their own devices, will breed and quickly fill the sink), so we wound up hanging the rinse tub from a hook adjacent to the galley counter. 

Today is the first day of spring here, and it is, of course FREAKING SNOWING!!!! I am so tired of this winter.  Next week, however, looks quite a bit warmer, and the spring seems to proceed from here.  Let's hope.

On the kitty front, much to our surprise, our furry second mate has been steadily improving, gradually getting stronger from her stroke and gaining more and more use of her partially paralyzed limbs.  I am glad of this because I had visions of having to rig some kind of Stephen Hawkins motorized cat chair, complete with synthetic speech.  Amusing and Terrifying, yes? Anyway, thanks for all your good wishes for Kallisti.  We actually do read her your letters.

Okay, its snowing again, and we're bored.

More later.  We just put a new recipe and some video over on our small kitchen cooking blog Onboard Cooking, and there are new posts on Morgainne's Artist's site Life, Art, Water.  Check em out.

Hey, if you want to know when we post new stuff, hit the subscribe button and we'll make sure you know.  If you're of a mind, click on and check out some of our kind advertisers, which is how we're able to afford to do this stuff.

Happy Ostara, Happy Spring, Happy Equinox


Sunday, March 15, 2015

On the Loss of a Beloved Crew Member

It  is a rather sad day here aboard the Floating Empire.  Kallisti, the redoubtable Siamese cat who has been our friend and minion for some 17 1/2 years, is passing from congestive heart failure.  As I write these words she is sleeping on a pile of towels on the floor near me, peaceful, but unable to walk or stand. It is only a matter of time.

Pets aboard ship are always such a joy.  Cats in particular seem to adapt beautifully to boating environments, their inherent balance and grace dealing with the motion of the vessel effortlessly, the vessel providing a myriad of close hiding spaces to inhabit, the marine environment full of fascinating sights and smells.  Even an elderly kitty like Kallisti, an October kitty who turned 17 aboard ship, seemed to love the boat and it's ways.

We shall miss the Kali-cat, her strong voice, quirky personality, and boundless affection.  It is hard, in moments like this, to remember how much our lives have been enriched by our furry and unfortunately short-lived companions.  I, for one, shall try very hard to remember.

Sail on, shipmate.  Sail on.

Morgainne and Kallisti


Friday, March 13, 2015

The First Official Signs of Spring:

1)  The Ice is Gone

2)  Buds on the trees are starting to pop

3)  We spotted the first (massive) Osprey a month before they're usually here.

4)  The first boat from the Marina was splashed today and

above all


Mungo and Morgainne do the happy dance.


Fascinating Find at the Marina

Our Marina is undergoing a bit of a rebuild, and in the course of that, the attic revealed these:

These massive gaslights apparently once graced the fact of the old Baltimore City Hall before the great Baltimore Fire.

Anyone having access to old photos from Baltimore from before the fire that might include pictures of the City Hall showing these things actually mounted and in use, drop us a line.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Preparing for Spring, a Livaboard Checklist

So, on this, what is hopefully the last nasty cold day of winter, I thought I would share with you guys our list for prepping the Floating Empire for Spring.

First Phase (before last frost date)

1) Move to storage our murderously heavy coats, scarves, snow boots, mittens, etc.

2)  As the winds will be shifting to the South/Southwest from the North/Northwest (predominantly, of course), reset the south facing stern lines, replacing the chafed ones with new line and shortening the length slightly so a strong south wind at high tide won't bring us into a close encounter of the dock kind.

3)  Put away the acrylic thermal blanketing covering the door and windows at night.

4)  Use up the stuff in the 'redneck refrigerator',(the cooler on the bow outside) as we won't be able to keep it cold there in a few weeks.

5)  Begin shifting over the pantry to things that don't require refrigeration or are less sensitive to heat and humidity.

6)  Tidy up the deck on the bow and stern to make room for the stuff that normally lives outside when it isn't freezing outside.

7)  Check all the systems that weren't used over winter; running lights, fire extinguishers, life vests, dinghy anchor lines. . . .anything that you might suddenly discover wasn't in working order when you needed it.

After the Last Frost Day:

1) Move to storage our winter duds, heavy blankets, and comforters.

2)  Drain and burn out the Kerosene heater. 

3)  Move the heaters to storage.

4)  Shift our fenders into positions more likely to protect us in the new wind directions.

5)  Check new line lengths to make sure we don't hit the docks.

6)  Remove additional insulation and open all the windows.  Do any repairs on screening or glazing, as needed.

7)  Clean and inflate our dinghy.  Attach outboard mount and electric motor.

8)  Bring out of storage the bathing suits, summer clothes, sun hats, sunblock, water socks, and other summertime accouterments.

9)  Shift stocking of our breakfront to things for our summer menu.

10)  Drag out and clean the grill and do any touch up painting necessary.

11)  As soon as weather permits, to exterior paint and touch up on the shanty boat, painting over the spar varnished things that didn't hold up well with a good exterior latex.

12)  Finish the sign for 'The Drinking Tree Grove', restock the wine cabinet, buy decent sunglasses, and in general shift into social/party season mode.

13) Assemble and plant our vertical garden on the bow.

14)  Enjoy the decent weather.

I have never been so glad to see a Spring arrive.



Thursday, March 5, 2015

Another Quick Note

There is an interesting posting overviewing Kerosene technology over at the Grindlebone organizations Center for Bypassed Technologies website.  Full disclosure, this shantyboat started as a project for the center, but you might find it interesting.  go over to Grindlebone and click on the Center for Bypassed Technologies link on the left.

Kero, especially with it snowing again, is my friend.


Oh, hey, new recipe over on Onboard Cooking.  Key Lime Pie.  Check it out!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Review: Butterfly Stovetop Oven

We were so happy with our Butterfly Kerosene stove, we thought we'd give their stovetop oven a try.  The nice folks at St. Paul Mercantile were happy to ship us one (these are great people with which to deal, btw.), and we thought we'd give you a first look at our first few experiments. Based on some reviews we'd seen, we opted to spend the extra $10 bucks and let St. Paul Mercantile assemble the thing for us.  Looking at the assembly, that was a good choice.  Don't make yourselves crazy, let them do it.  The oven showed up well packed, intact, and solid looking and two days earlier than we'd expected it, a good omen.
Butterfly Oven with Butterfly 16 Wick stove as sold by St. Paul Mercantile.

Let me say up front that we've already done quiet a bit of baking while on the boat, but almost all of it dutch oven cooking outdoors.  With the nasty weather of late winter, we began to wish we had another option to the--admittedly delicious--largely one pot meals that had been our staple through most of the winter.  Hence the oven.
Oven in effect with our substitute thermometer

The oven is basically a black box, similar in form to the folding "Coleman" camp ovens that you may have seen in the past, but far more stoutly made.  The critter does NOT fold, and has an open base and some substantial heat reflectors on the interior.  The original edition of the oven does not have heat resistant glass in the front, as some users have commented.  The folks at St. Paul Mercantile found an outside source and retrofit all theirs with heat resistant glass.

This thing is really solid, with a centigrade calibrated thermometer mounted in the front of the glass.  It became pretty apparent on our first try out that that thermometer was wildly inaccurate, and we easily removed it and substituted a calibrated Fahrenheit scale oven thermometer in its place.

Balancing the temperature takes a bit of practice and attention, but once you get it down, it works well.
Ovens of this type are essentially inverted reflector ovens.  They don't have a lot of insulation, heat up quickly, and cool down just as quickly.  For a boat, both of these are a plus.
YAY Baked goods!

In our first outing, some commercial biscuits, it became apparent that keeping the temperature even is a bit of a challenge and takes some attention and practice.  By the time we tried cooking anything serious, though, we rather had it down.
Roast in the oven.  High temps are no challenge at all with this thing.

This is a lovely pork roast with potatoes and a plum sauce, which was our first major meal in the oven.  It turned out beautifully, as you can see.

Left overs?  Are you kidding?  We may have eaten the pan as well, we're not sure.
All in all, this is gonna be a GREAT addition to our galley.  Ovens like this one come with a few challenges, aside from the maintaining of even temperature.  The 10.5 X 12" oven space was a bit of a puzzlement to find bakeware to fit.  We were becoming frustrated until we noticed at our local Bed, Bath, and Beyond a section with cookware for toaster ovens, all of which fit perfectly, and were of very high quality.  Do yourself a favor and look in the toaster oven section first.  Since the unit does not break down, finding a storage space was a bit problematic, but the oven itself can be used for stowage when not in use. 

Two thumbs up guys, and the combination with Butterfly's 16 wick kerosene stove makes for a really easy to use, competent galley.

More shortly.  So happy to have the new computer up and running.


Hey we'll be posting new stuff today and tomorrow to our other blogs at Life, Art Water and Onboard Cooking, so kindly stop by and check em out.  Oh, and if you'd give a glance to our kind advertisers that make this site possible, we'd appreciate it.