Thursday, April 30, 2015

A long overdue safety addition.

One of the things that we kept meaning to do was to rig some kind of boarding ladder to help us get from the water into the boat.  It's not an idle addition.  In freezing water, unless you have the upper body strength to heave yourself onto the deck (and there's precious little to grab onto), you'd have to swim around the piers to the dinghy dock here at Middle River before you could get back on something dry and warm.  Add a possible injury from a drop in the drink to that, and we knew that could be a dangerous option.

So we found this little folding swim ladder to mount on the stern.

The gizmo is actually intended for mounting UNDER a swim platform....which of course we don't have.....but by mounting it, um, backwards I was able to make us a functional swim ladder for the stern.

Frankly doing without this was dumb and a wee bit dangerous.  In your own boat planning, make a point of providing a way to get BACK on the boat should you exit by accident or misadventure.

Hey, new stuff at our other blogs, Life Art Water and Onboard Cooking.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Gardening Aboardship Update

Thought you guys would like to see the boat with all four ranks of bottle garden in place.  We're starting to get our seedlings in and will be giving you periodic updates on their growth and development.

All four ranks of wall garden in place.
The top ones can be a bit of a stretch.
These have proven so very simple to build.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Gardening Aboardship

Or:  The Floating Empire farms the North 40

One of the few things we've missed living aboard has been gardening.  In times past, shantyboaters would simply anchor to the tideline and set up summer gardens on unused land. . . . try to find some of that around Baltimore.

So after doing some research, we decided to try a vertical "wall" garden.  These things are currently all the rage in Europe, so we thought we'd give it a shot.

The methodology is rather simple.  We took plastic bottles that we usually recycle, and cut off the bottom.
watch the fingers
Then we drill some holes in the lid to facilitate drainage.
And CONTINUE to watch the fingers.  
Put a bit of gravel in the new "bottom" to keep the drain holes open, then fill with garden soil.
We secured the top with a couple of brass screws and the bottoms with zip ties and adhesive bases.

The bottles are set to drain into one another, and then into a small drip pan at the bottom.  Looks pretty good, actually.
Can't wait for it to leaf out.
Here's a short video describing the construction:

We planted lettuce that we'd sprouted up on the land.  Note the lovely root structures.
Little baby lettuce, rooted up on shore.

A column of lettuce, one of herbs...
And the drainage from bottle to bottle works perfectly.
Yes, that is a drop of water.
Now imagine it green.
We're pretty pleased with the way this turned out.  We'll be adding a similar column to the other soon as we drink more of this orange juice.

All in all a wonderful day.  Hey, check out our other blogs at Life, Art, Water, Onboard Cooking, and The Grindlebone Village Project


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Floating Empire Gains A New Crew Member

Ahoy there.
I'm Magellan.  I'm seven years old, and just signed onto the Floating Empire for a cruise of indeterminate length after an unfortunate period of incarceration at an Animal Shelter.  Looking forward to serving with each of you.

Now show me that horizon.....

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Compendium of Small and Useful Things

Wherein the blogger expounds upon and ennumerates a host of varied and useful tricks, tips, techniques, and tangential talks to assist the reader in treading the liveaboard topology without trepidation.


Otherwise known as:  this is a bunch of stuff about which we've been thinking but had no specific place to apply them on the blog, so here you go.
You'd be surprised how useful a simple thermos can be.

1)  The humble thermos is a very useful device when dealing with single burner or small galley operations.  It will keep your tea or coffee hot without tying up a burner or using valuable electricity.  It can also be used to finish cooking soups and to store excess hot water for use in cleaning, pasta making, and a whole host of things.

2)  By extension, insulated cookware like "Aircore" and others (really double walled cookpots), can be used for cooking off the stove.  Bring the food up to temperature, pop on the lid, and let sit on a trivet, allowing the food to self cook without external heat.  A regular pot wrapped in towels will work nearly as well.  Neither ties up a burner.

3)  Cordless power tools are a blessing.  They enable you to instantly address maintenance issues as they occur, and take up far less room than large coils of heavy power cable, which also raises the threat of cables stretched across wet decks and carrying an electrical charge.  We knew this from our initial construction, of course, but nearly a year of minor repairs, revisions, and the making of artwork has proven the wisdom of it.

4)  As previously blogged herein, we typically use wood stove pellets for biomass in our composting toilet setup. They're made of compressed sawdust, and expend when wet, which makes them a fairly convenient and compact way to store your absorption material.  They also similarly expand into loose sawdust when dampened in transit, rendering them useless for pellet stoves, so we've learned recently that many of the commercial purveyors of same will sell you such "distressed" bags for nearly nothing.  We recently picked up enough to last us through the summer for about $3 a bag (as opposed to the commercial going rate around here of near $7).  Owing to the weight involved, the bags live in the car until we need to refill the bin.

5)  Along that line, don't forget that in your vehicle you have a wonderful repository for things bulky, heavy, and unpleasant, for which there is little room aboard.  I know of livaboards that use their vehicles as virtual clothes closets for seasonal wear, and we certainly use our for storing heavy or awkward items.
Bleach.  Your key (and most restarant's) to sanitation.

6)  A simple squirt bottle for bleach makes a convenient dispenser at the sink for disinfecting your rinsewater.  It's amazing how little bleach it takes to keep your family health safe.

7)  It seems the more things in your life you do for yourself, the more pleasing it is.  We have taken to--over the last several months--roasting our own coffee, making almost all of our own meals from scratch, even making our own deodorant (more on this later).  In the process, you become more and more aware of the factors influencing your life, and, at least in our experience, more and more satisfied with the products of your own effort as opposed to the often iffy things we buy.  Nuff said.

8)  Anyone who tells you "you can't do that on a boat" is almost guaranteed never to have tried it.

9)  One of the most startling revelations we've stumbled across is that "convenience" items to which many boaters defer, citing space limitations, galley limitations, or complexity, are almost never more convenient than their more basic alternatives.  Because of the massive and wasteful packaging, need to remove said garbage from the vessel, and the limited flexibility of premixed foods, drinks, and other products, it has almost always proven cheaper, easier, and more compact to simply stock the components to things in bulk.  As an example--and a rather broad one--you will find no packets of "Rice a Roni" in our galley (pasta, rice, bullion, some spice, lotsa salt,  and preservatives in a packet inside a box).  You will however, find chicken stock (oftimes homemade), dried pasta, rice, a full spice rack of herbs, and good olive oil.  The difference is, I can make any number of meals from the latter, I can make only one dish from the former, and not much of one at that, and, remarkably, the amount of waste paper generated is about the same.  Weird, hunh?

10) . . . and this is vital, DISHES BREED!!  I don't know how this happens, but two dirty dishes left in the sink will somehow magically become an entire sinkfull of pots, pans, cutlery, plastic bags, food scraps, and other cooking tools in a matter of hours if allowed to their own devices.  I'm curious if Lamarck knew about this.  I suspect the illuminati may be involved.  Regardless, I find if we wash the damn things as we use them this doesn't happen.  We don't of course.....

More shortly.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Door Into Summer

At 10:22 this morning, Kallisti, our belov'ed feline friend, walked through the door into the summerland.

She had fought the good fight, and had had a few good weeks, for which I am grateful, but this morning we knew it was ending.  We took her to an open, grassy place in the sun, and she passed.

Our companion for nearly 18 years, we miss her horribly.

Raise a glass for the kitty, friends.  We'll not see her like again.

Mungo and Morgainne

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Return of the Revenge of the Son of the Invasion of the Ducks

It's spring, and BOY are these waterfowl getting bold.  I'm sitting in the galley at the table typing and look over only to see a female duck calmly eating the cat's food some three feet from me.  Wasn't fast enough to get a shot of that, but she did come back a few minutes later to peer in the door. there more catfood?
One of the things we love most about being here on the water is the wildlife, which has very little fear of us.  Now that spring is here, we're about having to beat them off with a stick.

Love it.


New stuff over at our Onboard Cooking blog, and we've a new blog (and a terrifying new project) started at Grindlebone Village.  Check em out.