Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Days of Wine and Aspirin

Two things I need right now......
....or, The Great Makeover Begins.

Sorry we haven't posted much of late, but we've begun our great makeover, and I thought I would share a few pictures with you.  This is becoming a huge remake of the interior of Floating Empire, and I think it's going to make life aboard a lot more pleasant.

First of all, we're attacking the area below the galley, mostly deadspace previously, to create some more useful storage.
Of course, this entailed cutting out the footer below the counter.
We're removing the sliding doors and implanting some commercial storage units beneath prior to replacing the actual sink setup.

MUCH better
We also disassembled the head surround for the moment and we'll be moving some of the studio stuff from aft to amidships.

Down it comes, at least for the moment.
Freeing up an unaccustomed view of the studio.
We also, in the process, got the fridge up off the floor and installed, mercifully, at eye level.
Here's the midships bulkhead as it was.

And now. . . .Why didn't we do this two years ago, someone tell me again?
The biggest changes were the removal of the forward kingposts in exchange for a reinforced beam and brace, which freed up a good three feet of moving room in the Galley area.

Looking forward, here's the kingposts and bookcase coming down.
And here's the wife unit sweeping in the same space.
 Note the sistered post and angled brace.

Looking Aft.  LOTS more room.  The Cat approves.
Okay, and the settee, did I mention we built a settee?  Of course, first we had to move the forward ladder and plug the ladder well.

Yes, I know it's blocking the breakfront.  That'll be moving.
Basic box of the structure.  Note the post to the left.
Vital Cat testing of the new structure.

Equally (almost) vital web surfing test.
And, of course, the all important wine and beer test.
Our first dinner at the table was a wonderful 18th century fish dish we gleaned from the wonderful folks over at Jas Townsend and Son's Youtube site, which we highly recommend (though we did use Basa instead of Trout).  Really yummy.  You should try this.
Fish, white wine, butter. . . .did I mention white wine?
There's still tons to do, and we haven't even begun to address the studio aft (we'll be moving the head to the stern) and there's lots of staining and upholstery to take care of.  Still, we've made a major start (and I suspect I'll be paying for it in the morning), but tonight there's great food and good wine and a much more pleasant and open space.  We'll still be hitting you guys up for help when when start addressing the floatation and the new exterior porch, but for right now, I'm happy.

In other news, I can tell we're moving into summer.  For one thing, we're starting to get massively high spring tides again.  Here's a lovely shot of the docks UNDER water the other evening.
I will not be taking a stroll on the docks this evening.
We've also had a muskrat take up residence under our boat.  I'm open to suggestions as to how to deal with this.  The little guy is using our floatation as a platform to open clamshells.  Magellan is more than fascinated.
There's gotta be SOME way I can get to him. . . .
Much More Later

New stuff over at Life, Art, Water.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dealing with Ice

Okay, so we're in the midst here of what we're all hoping is the last gasp of winter, but the temperatures plummeted last night and it was 9 on the Fahrenheit scale when I got up this morning.

Yep, that's ice.  Note the proximity of the dock piling to the boat.
I thought, while it was on my mind, that I'd pass along a bit of what we've learned about living with ice on the river.

First of all, as alarming as the movement of ice along the hull--the barrels in our case--can sound, this startling cccccrrrrrruuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnccccchhhhhhhhhh in the middle of the night, with the exception of slight damage to ablative bottom paints (which are, after all, designed to be a bit soft), the ice probably won't hurt your boat.  Barrel barges are apparently especially immune as the shape tends to allow them to be pushed to the surface by encroaching ice, leaving them sitting high and dry.  Damage, other than running into the stuff at speed, tends to be done when the boat becomes ice-locked with the ice pressing in from all sides and giving the vessel no where to go.  Straight sided displacement hulls are more vulnerable in those instances.

Bubblers and Ice-Eaters can help here by cutting spaces in the ice, giving it room to expand and keeping it away from the docks and boat hulls.  One of the thing that we didn't think about was  the effect being ice locked might have on getting on and off the boat.  See the above picture?  That's about three feet between the dock and the boat, and because of the ice, we can't pull the boat over to step off.

The answer here is, of course, a little foresight.  Make sure ice eaters or bubblers are on and working before an icing event is likely.  Make sure your spring lines are snugged up enough that, should the boat become icebound, you can still step off onto the dock.  And, of course, lay in adequate supplies of food, water, brandy, and chocolate in advance so you don't have to get off in weather like that,

After all, it's COLD out there. . . .

Stay warm, more later.


oh, hey, new stuff over at Life, Art, Water.  Check it out!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Okay, so what kind of changes. . . .

So what are we talking about in this rebuild?  The stuff we'll be doing comes into two large categories:  First, after nearly two years of using the space, we have a pretty good idea of what has worked and what hasn't.  We've been pleased that most of our internal systems have served us pretty well, but there are a few irritations that we would have done differently.
The doubled kingposts used in construction were a simple and sturdy expedient drawn from Vardo construction. . .ho

The kingposts at the bow and stern worked, but in the galley area, they created some traffic choke points.

We'll be going for a bit more room between the sink and, well, wood....

So we'll be sistering the overhead beam and making a single support post, freeing up some three feet of room opposite the food prep area.  While we're at it, the sliding doors will be going away, to be replaced by drawers and shelves.  The Fridge will be moving under that counter as well.

The sink setup has worked's location hasn't.

When we built the galley, we placed the sink and pump dead center of the food prep counter.  That was how it was in our land based home, and seemed logical.  Unfortunately, that's not how we've come to use the space.  We'll be moving the sink setup all the way to the left of the counter onto it's own little drain shelf, freeing up more counter room and easing the workflow.

Many great meals at this table.
Our dining area, with flip up table and cafe chairs, has served us well, but to be perfectly honest, it isn't very comfortable.  As it's become more and more our office space as well, we've come to want a bit more room and a bit more comfort. So we'll be building a settee on the starboard side where the Fridge currently lives and moving our breakfront and bookcase to this location.

See, I told you this would be a major rebuild. Just getting started.

I will never, EVER, have anything but a composting toilet on a boat
Our head and bathtub combination, located amidships on the starboard side, has been a mixed bag.  The composting toilet is wildly successful, more so than either of us ever dreamed.  The tub setup, not so much.  It's dark, kind of a hassle to deal with, and to be honest we've rarely used it.  It was just easier to use the showers up top in the marina, and that was hardly our design intent.  So we'll be losing the tub and installing a solar shower, moving the head to the stern to accommodate it and hopefully creating a bath setup that we will actually use on a regular basis.

The cat is, of course, perfect as is.
The above picture of Magellan was taken in our bed loft, which we love.  It's a wonderful, comfy space, with lots of room and a great feel.  Forward of it, though, we'd intended the space over the galley and dining area to be a lounge and media loft.  We just haven't used it.  So we've decided to move our bed loft forward and....wait for it....turn the current bed loft into an open patio, some place we can hang out outdoors in the sun, dine, cook, and in general appreciate the nature around us.

Which takes us outside, and to the second category of changes:  correcting design and construction flaws.

Floating Empire among her snow lily pads.
Looking at the exterior of our shantyboat, you may note a few things.  First, there's no walkway of any kind between the bow and stern on the outside of the boat, which makes docking difficult and work on the exterior walls an utter pain in the butt.  Second, she's low, folks.  She sits about four inches lower than we'd calculated, and variances in water temperature cause the air in the cells to expand or contract, lessening or increasing bouyancy. Third,if you look at early pix of the boat, you'll see the natural wood of the original walls. I really loved the look.

Our original look
But the supposedly waterproof plywood on the exterior covered with four coats of supposedly weatherproof spar varnish held up less than 6 months.  We recoated, we patched, and finally, we painted it.  It still continued to deteriorate, moreover. . . . bad.
See the water damage at the base of the interior paneling?  The way I built the footing for the walls allowed water that was sheeting down the outside walls during rains to seep under the wall and into the interior paneling.

I tell you all these things at once because they're all of a piece.  After a lot of midnight design sessions, tossing and turning and about 72 pounds of scrap paper, here's what we're doing:

...and carry the four is seven and....HOW many cubic feet is this?
We'll be running a set of stringers under the present hull framing to create two new lines of floatation on the outboard of the port and starboard sides.  That will provide us with walkways on either side of the boat (making the rest of this much easier) and adding 3200 lbs of floatation, which we'll need.

The roof membrane has taken everything nature has thrown at it and shows no signs of  it.
We'll be adding new insulation to the outside of the present roof, then putting on a new membrane that we'll bring all the way down to the waterline, making it impossible for any water to seep into the walls.  Then we'll put on a new, more attractive and more durable wall treatment on the outside, replacing some of the more gonzo of the windows in the process.

We'll also be adding an additional solar panel and a small woodstove to take the boat completely off grid and off fossil fuels, as was our original intent.
The result should be a sounder, more usable space, based on what we've learned over the last two years, and should yield a "final", simpler, easy to build and live with version of the shantyboat that, hopefully, anyone can build.

We said it was a major rebuild.

So you see why we're gonna be asking for some help with this one.  I'm in the process of putting together an Indigogo slideshow on it, so stay tuned.  We're hoping to begin with the internal stuff at the end of February.

As always, stay tuned internets.


Friday, February 5, 2016

The Floating Empire is Dead; Long Live the Floating Empire!

Or: The Once and Future Shantyboat.
The Floating Empire in Winter.

As we near the end of January, 2016, we are coming up on two years since we began construction on The Floating Empire. The experiment in simple, tiny home construction and living that would be applicable to both and third world challenges in this century. We began the blog of the construction on the 28th of March of that year. The first entry reads, in part:

So Here Be The Concept....

In a world with rising water levels, rising inequity between rich and poor, and aging populations with most of their assets wiped out by property bubble swindles and corrupt bankers, what does one do?

Many new ideas, some pretty successful, have offered themselves.   The Tiny House movement has taken off gangbusters, moving more and more people to shift to sustainable lives within their own control.  The Maker movement, funded largely by crowdfunding, innovates faster than anything we've seen.  New networks for mutual assistance are springing up everywhere.  So here, dear reader, is the Grindlebone Arts/ Center for Bypassed Technologies contribution to the mix.

The Concept is of a floating home, powered renewably, utilizing 19th and 18 century technologies bypassed by cheap energy, and constructed largely of recycled/repurposed materials.  It must be large enough to be a comfortable residence for a couple and will serve as a demonstration project and classroom.  While there is other information on the forum at on specific systems, this blog will detail the construction, launching, and initial operation of the vessel.”

Lightly built of some ofttimes untested construction techniques, the vessel was always intended to be a two year project. Over that time, we have amassed and tremendous amount of knowledge about the vessel, how to live aboard her, easier ways to build things better, and the general applicability of the initial concept. If you're wondering, it has, from our perspective, been a raving success. For less than a $5000/US investment, the experiment has yielded an entirely pleasant and affordable lifestyle, and one that makes minimal demands on the Earth and it's surroundings in energy, space, materials, and expense. In short, it worked, and worked far, far better than any of us thought it could.

Okay, so now what?

We've discussed a whole series of options for the spring. Do we scrap Floating Empire and move on land, (starting, of course, a new set of projects)? Do we turn the vessel over to someone else and build a new version of the boat? Do we just continue with the experiment for another year or two, doing what service on the vessel is needed to keep her afloat? Do we do something entirely different? Do we join the circus?  (actually, many people think we already are a circus) It was a puzzlement. We have learned so much, and, frankly, we've come to love this lifestyle, our life on the water.

So, after must consultation, we've decided to do a major rebuild on Floating Empire, correcting design errors and construction mistakes and, in general, extending the boat's life for another 5 years or so. In the process, we hope to create a final version of the vessel, one easily replicatable, and one simple enough to be built by virtually anyone, anywhere.
Yeah.....there's gonna be a lot of this.....

We are in the throes of working on the redesign, and on what will be needed (once the weather breaks in spring) to make the changes we've deemed necessary in a timely fashion, and on the materials we'll need to make that happen. Some of these will be patches intended to correct things in the current vessel that aren't working. Some will be complete redesign of systems to make things easier, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly.

That's kind of where you guys come in. The initial vessel was built on a ludicrously small amount of money funneled through Grindlebone Arts' Center for Bypassed Technologies and from some of our own resources. For this go-round, we're going to be doing a crowdfund through Indegogo, seeking to raise $3000 for the rebuild, and asking you guys to chip in and help us. Happily, with our connections with the arts world, we have an amazing set of resources for original artwork and literary materials we can offer as premiums, so you guys get to score.

So, thank you for accompanying us on this journey and please stay tuned, the very best is yet to come.

Much more very shortly,