Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Of Fear and Plywood: More progress.

Most of you who have followed this weblog know, Gail and I are makers. We're artists and tinkerers and designers and fiddlers and we love inventing and making stuff. Four years ago, we built the original barrel shanty," The Floating Empire", in our backyard and lived aboard her for over three years, making constant changes and experiments to the structure before selling her to a new owner and acquiring a used CAL 2-29 hull that we're turning into a solar electric cruiser. So I'm sitting on the dock covered in sweat in the middle of a Mad-Dogs-and-Englishmen noonday sun, merrily drilling away at the beams that will encompass our new, pergola-style wheelhouse, when one of our slipmates comes up and asks me: “Why bother?”

Yeah, it's noon and 92 degrees, so what?

“Why bother? There are three boats up there on the hard you could have for nearly nothing, and none of them need any work, really. I mean, they'll travel too, why do all this stuff?”

I have to admit, I was a little amazed. I mean, NOT doing all this stuff would never have occurred to me. There are a lot of reasons to do all the projects we do. First of all, we know the boats on which we live inside and out, having either built or re-built the personally. We're fearless in chopping into to fiberglass or replacing structural members, because we know the forces involved, we know what pieces have to be strong and what are merely cosmetic and how to deal with those. Second, of course, we get the boat we want, not just something which is close to the boat we want that's commercially offered. If I want a port right there, I'll put one in. If the counter is too low, I'll raise it. We build the space to accommodate us, not content to accept what some designer has created to please the average public. 

 See? Both of those are real reasons, and they make sense.

They are also just so much fish bait.

The real reason we do this is that we love doing it, and the reason I don't have a commercially built vessel is that there's nothing special about owning a commercially built vessel. Everything we have is unique to us, from “Tesla's Revenge” to “The Floating Empire” to our odd little offset rig Puddleduck “Dharma Duck.” Like my writing or Gail's artwork, it bears our stamp, and we love describing the systems and processes and accidents and disasters and successes to folks, and the idea that, somewhere, somehow, someone else may benefit from our experiments. Like artwork, it's a kind of immortality, a way of making a mark on the world in a way that simply buying something does not.

Besides, it's fun.  Don't be afraid.  It's only fiberglass.

Aboard our new shadier cockpit.  The pergola will eventually hold our solar panels.
 We made a lot of progress this week.  The enclosure for the nearly complete and perfectly serviceable to shade the cockpit, and we've added some roll-up bamboo blinds to block the morning and evening sun from blasting in.  All in all it'll make things lots cooler and make doing the rest of the work we've got ahead of us.

Stay tuned.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What were they thinking

With me working, we've been making slow, but hopefully sure, progress on "Tesla's Revenge".  We're continuing to stain and seal the beams for the new deckhouse.  If you're wondering why the text heavy posts lately, the marina has been experiencing some bandwidth problems with our WiFi (as in, I think the router is failing) which has made uploads a long and occasionally iffy process.

We've also done some stuff to correct some of the more bizarre features of the Cal 229 hull.  The worst of these sins is that the forward V berth has ZERO ventilation.  No ports, no vents, no hatches, no little air scoops, nada, nunca, nichts, nuttin.  The trouble is, anything we could install would get in the way of the tiny bit of flat deck space we have, so I tried an expedient.

small powered hatch in chain locker cools v berth
IThe large aft hatch is actually in the head.  The smaller, forward one is actually in the chain locker.
In the forward of the V birth was a small door into the chain locker, so I found a small vent with a powered fan and mounted it forward above the chain locker.  It has a screen and a 12V fan, so opening it and kicking it on and opening the chain locker door provides a nice, flow through ventilation to the berth.

Okay, odd, wanky, and not exactly to code, but it works.

We proceed.  This next week I'm hoping to get the mast pulled and the wheelhouse built.

More momentarily.


hey, more stuff at life, art, water.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A bit of Progress

A rare day off and a rare clear day and we finally got a bit of work done on the revisions to Tesla's Revenge.

The new hardtop, the roof that will enclose the cockpit into a wheelhouse and support the solar panels, will be a pergola-styled structure, stained to match the teak on the rest of the boat.  So on a cloudy day and in our right minds and everything we ventured out and purchased wood for the top.
Shaping the beam ends for the pergola roof.
One of the purchases we've made recently was a suite of cordless power tools, including a jigsaw and mouse sander.  The sander, particularly, proved useful in dealing with this project, but in dealing with the 1 1/8" holes in the beam ends, I was forced to resort to the massive drill I purchased to drill the holes in the support beams of Floating Empire nearly four years ago.  The little 20V drill just wasn't up to the task.

Stain going on.
So after the insanity of Memorial Day weekend, we'll be getting more lumber and fabricating the rest of the top and, hopefully, removing the mast before all this happens.

Stay tuned.

Hey, more stuff over at Life, Art, Water.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Stateless: the downsides.

As we renovate and prepare the new boat, Gail and I were discussing the pros and cons of our livaboard lifestyle. So much of what I've put on these pages has been in glowing reference to the joys of the way we live, the place and the people. I thought, perhaps, it might be good to temper that with a bit of reality. . . not TOO much reality, mind you. Reality and I have always been barely on speaking terms, but here are some considerations you might take into account before taking to the water. we go again.
First and foremost, as a livaboard, you are relatively stateless. Living on a (potentially) moving platform, your mailing address, your utilities, your “home” anything is largely a fiction. Slip four lines and shove off and you're somewhere else. By and large, this isn't a problem, but you will find, occasionally, that “we can't verify that address” will come up as the marina, a commercial address, can't be verified as a residence. 

Of course, the bug out potential is there as well.

Living on a vessel, you are living effectively in a floating tinyhome. Boats, particularly sailboats, can have a surprising amount of storage, but it's mostly “dead” storage. Want the tupperware? It's right there, under the cushion, under the hatch, underneath the extra life vests, the bagged catfood, the box of DVD's, my dad's photos, a box of tools that we had no place else to store, a bin of art supplies, and the peat moss for the composting toilet. No problem. But having to move six things to get to anything you want can be a hassle, and takes a bit of forethought when you arrange your storage.
It's also a compressed space. I'm fond of telling people that I don't take up any more room in a phone booth than I do in a stadium, and it's true, but this is, after all, a tinyhome. In a boat, Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones could reach each and every top shelf. From where I'm sitting right now, I can open the fridge, reach the wine glasses, type of course, reach the battery bank, the towel storage bin. . . .all without getting up. It's a convenience. If you're claustrophobic, it's the third ring of hell.  Your new "kitchen range" is likely a single burner stove, your refrigerator, if you have one, is likely the same one your kid has in her dorm room at college.  Hot and cold running water?  You must be kidding.

On a boat, you just can't “let things wait”. Like houses and apartments, of course, they can burn, gas leaks can make them explode, shorts can cause fire. Unlike houses and apartments, boats can sink. They can ram the docks in high winds. They can leak around the hatches. They can break free of their moorings and go drifting off uncontrolled, with you sound asleep belowdecks. You have to be a bit more proactive, and no one is going to do it for you. 

Boat repairs can be expensive. I once asked a distributor what was the difference between a $.40 stainless steel bolt and a $2.30 Stainless Steel Marine Bolt. He said, candidly, the word “marine”. Tack “marine” onto anything and you're likely to pay at least 40% more for the same stuff.
Not that “marine” is a vain piece of marketing, not entirely. Marine environments are damp, corrosive, full of stresses that no landlocked construction would ever experience, and you don't DARE let that slide. One good wake from a drunken powerboater, one grounding, one lightning strike, and you are, figuratively and occasionally literally, toast. You have to pay attention. You have to keep yourself safe, because no one else will.

Having said all that, here we sit. We're up to our butts at the moment in new wiring and making decisions about motors and solar panels and where what goes and what we keep, but here we are.
We're free. I can slip the bonds of this dock at will. The cat loves the place. We wake in beauty every morning, and no amount of wind and rain and dryrot can ever change that.

We live aboard. Neither of us would have it any other way.

Don and Gail and Magellan aboard “Tesla's Revenge”

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Fixing Composting Toilet Issues

The composting toilet aboard Tesla's Revenge
For those of you who have followed this column for a bit, you'll know that we're big fans of composting toilets for vessels.  After years of dealing with smelly, wanky, miserable to service blackwater heads, the simplicity of a composting head--even a simple bucket composter--is a joy.  They have very little to go wrong, and they NEVER stink.

So imagine my surprise when, just a few days ago, my wife and shipmate goes "wow, the toilet stinks".

And so it did.  Why?

I looked inside.  Source of the stank was pretty apparent:  urine was pooled in the toilet.  Liquids=anaerobic bacterial action=stank.  I tossed in some more biomass, in this case some rather disintegrated wood stove pellets, and forgot about it. 

And yet the stink persisted.  I kept adding more stuff.   What was going on?  This is EXACTLY the same setup we'd been using for near four years now.  It never smelled before, not ever.  What the hell, man?

So, being a good American, I turned immediately to them interwebs.  At first, nothing.  Then on a forum for one of the self contained composting heads, one of the commercial ones, I ran across a statement to the effect that "the finely ground peat moss sold in some garden centers is far less effective than wood chips or coarser biomass."

Finely ground.. . . .hmm.  I looked at our woodstove pellets, the stuff we'd been using for years as biomass.  The last two bags I'd gotten--the last two available at the end of the wood stove season--had been sold to me for, well, nothing, because they had gotten damp.  As a result, what I had was essentially two big bags of very, VERY fine sawdust as the pellets had disintegrated.

If you're using wood stove pellets, they should look like this, not like powder.
So we trucked off to the garden center at one of the big box stores and came back with a 3 cubic foot block of compressed sphagnum moss peat, broke some of it off, and tossed it in.

Bingo.  Urine absorbed instantly, smell completely gone.  This is a very good thing as the head in the new boat is RIGHT next to OUR heads as we sleep.

So, what have we learned today, kids?  We've learned that liquid is not your friend in composting toilet land, and that bulky and absorbent is waaaaay better than fine and powdery.  The object is to create the circumstances for aerobic decomposition, the stuff that happens on a forest floor, and avoiding the cirumstances for ANaerobic decomposition, the stuff that happens in a septic tank.  This means locking up the liquids and providing a way for air to circulate in and among the waste and biomass.

WOW am i glad that worked.

More really cool stuff over at Life, Art, Water, check it out.

Much more later


Friday, April 28, 2017

Aboard the EV Tesla's Revenge

Madman in the Galley
I'm sitting here in the galley of Tesla's Revenge, sun streaming in the open hatchway.  The coming weeks are going to include a massive amount of work on the new vessel that we hope to share with you, including:

Pulling the Mast.
Construction of a new wheelhouse.
Installation of a rather large number of solar panels.
Installation of a new battery bank and inverter.
and, of course,
Installing and testing our new electric drive system.

All this mess should take us about three months (he said, being wildly overly optimistic) and then we should get to take you folks along on some travels, first around the Chesapeake, then into the Erie Canal system and the Great Lakes and Canada.

This is gonna be a metric craptonne of work (that is, of course, the technical term) but we love making things. 

Stay tuned.  This is just beginning.


Friday, April 21, 2017


Here's a shot of The Floating Empire, making her voyage to her new home, witnesses in attendance.

The Floating Empire sails off on her new adventure.
I'm sentimental about stuff in my life, and this is no exception.  The Empire has been our home for going on four years.  We built every inch of her, sweat and blood literally in every screw driven, every board cut.  I'm so very happy not to have had to break our little ship, and delighted that she's in the hands of someone who will give her the care she needs.  We're off to new adventures with Tesla's Revenge, new creations, new places, but still. . . .

I shall miss her.

Many more photos over at Life, Art, Water of her departure.

And now, our new saga begins.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Moving Day

Moving is always such a treat.

Yes, that was sarcasm in case you missed it.

Be it house to house or boat to boat, moving is a pain in the butt. You get to wonder such imponderables as “where did all this stuff COME from?” and “what is this and why did we save it?” among other favorites. Yep, it's a joy.

For those of you who have followed this blog you know that we're leaving our beloved barrel shantyboat Floating Empire, and moving aboard a new vessel, now dubbed Tesla's Revenge, an electrically driven solar boat with which we want to do some traveling. We'd been afraid that we would have to demolish our shantyboat, but, happily, a new owner has emerged to give Empire the TLC she needs and she'll be off on a series of new adventures.

But that leaves us downsizing yet again. I kid my wife that we're going to keep doing this until we can fit our possessions into a single briefcase. She says it'll just make it easier when we go to Mars.

The slow, sad work of disassembling parts of our home.

The new vessel is coming along. . . .clumsily . . . as we're having to continue rebuilding and refitting the boat while we're living on her. Tesla's Revenge is a former Cal 2-29. We've shifted over the Empire's battery bank (all eight o them), and will be pulling the mast (the mast supports have some issues), building a pilot house over the cockpit, and equipping her with a 5KW motor and 1000 watts of solar panels.
New homes for old stuff

Then the real fun begins, probably about midsummer.

As we reflect on Floating Empire and our last three years on the water, its amazing to think what a wonderful choice moving aboard proved to be: the adventures had, friends made, and all surrounded by the beauty and grace of the water. We wouldn't have had it any other way.

The Floating Empire, now off on a new adventure.
On to the next adventure.

Lots more photos over at Life, Art, Water, check em out.

MUCH more shortly.
Happy Spring


Thursday, April 13, 2017

This just in....

We have found a new and happy home for our beloved Floating Empire, (allowing us to complete work on Tesla's Revenge with a clear maritime conscience. )  Stay tuned.


Saturday, April 8, 2017


We'll it's official.  Tesla's Revenge is in the water.  Now the real work starts.

Touching up the keel is a wee bit unnerving, being under 8000lbs of boat in the sling.
Here she sits, afloat and upright and everything.
Magellan, true to his name, was quick to come explore.  Not sure what he thinks of it all.
Many more pictures of the splash and christening over at Life, Art, Water.  Check em out!

MUCH more later. Stay tuned.


Building a Composting head, pt. 2

So the final, simple act in putting our new head together is to attach the seat.  We've used in the past the "Luggable Loo", a snap on "emergency" seat cover designed specifically to work with a 5 gallon bucket.  In order to make things easy, we cut off the top of one bucket to which to attach the seat, leaving enough length for it to nest in the full bucket of the receptacle beneath.
The toilet seat will snap onto the cut off bucket top, which will rest on the top of the toilet housing.
So you only need to drop in and line the full bucket, dropping in enough biomass to absorb the liquid (We continue to successfully use wood stove pellets.  They're compact and tidy), pop on the lid, and then put in the cut off bucket top and lid.

Looks rather nice, and the hatchcover is a neat way to conceal the biomass.
This is such a simple system, I'm amazed more people don't use them.  The blackwater ones reek, and they're a nightmare to repair.

More soon


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Black: It's the new Black

ever so stylish
So here's a shot of the new test hull in its smooth and ever so stylish coat of black antifouling paint.  Beneath two coats of that lie two coats of BLUE antifouling paint, and then four coats of epoxy barrier coat because the guys who did the sodablast on this hull screwed it up, rather badly.

Black over Blue
If you're wondering why black over blue, it lets us know when the bottom paint gets thin:  when we begin to see blue under the black paint, it's time to pull and re-do the thing.

Bottom paints contain materials toxic to marine organisms, usually copper compounds.  When barnacles or worms try to attach or burrow, they encounter the copper and drop off.  Some of the newer paints contain other anti-slime and algae chemistry as well.  The paints come in two flavors:  hard and ablative.  The hard bottom paints are modified epoxy paints, and are typically used where the boat sits in the water without moving for long periods of time.  They're quite durable, but if pulled out of the water, the surface will oxidize rapidly (usually within 72 hours) and become ineffective.  Ablative paints are "self polishing", slowly sloughing off the surface of the paint to reveal more of the copper beneath, thus making them self-renewing..  They are used in situations where the boat may be pulled out of the water or trailered frequently.  As "Tesla's Revenge" will not be taken out of the water for long periods of time, we chose a hard paint.

The theory is:  it's water cleanup.  The fact is, it's damn hard to get off anything, including skin.
We're excited; racing time and the weather to our splash date in two weeks.  Stay tuned.

Second half of our composting toilet build shortly, btw.

More stuff over at Life, Art, Water.


Friday, March 17, 2017

A brief apologia

Sorry for the pause in posts.  Our weather here turned briefly beastly, which made it difficult to do boat work.  Stuff improves today and we'll be back with photos and new info in a day or so.

Thanks for standing by.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Building a Composting Head, Pt 1

Since our new test hull had already had the head and the blackwater system (vile things, don't use em) removed, we felt it was incumbent on us to build in a new composting head drawing on our experiences of the last four years.

First, of course, we had to build a platform on which it could sit.  The Cal hull we're using is. . .well. . .curvy, including the floors.  So we inserted a pice of 3/4 birch ply to serve as a base and stained and polyurethaned it.
New platform for the composting toilet.
We then put in two sides to make the box that will hold the head.

Sigh...nothing ever looks square on a boat

Here's where the bucket will sit.
Then we added the lid, including an opening for the bucket top and snap on toilet seat and a deck access hatch beneath which will be our bin of sawdust or stove pellets.

We put stops underneath to keep the lid from sliding.
The little access hatches (intended mostly for kayaks) work perfectly here.  If you need one, has some great prices in their store, and is a wonderful source for boatbuilding ideas and materials.  Recommend them highly.
So then Gail got to stain the thing.
So here's the basic box, awaiting additional stain and varnish and stuff.
More shortly.  We'll finish this thing tomorrow and I'll gie you a full report.


Monday, March 6, 2017

The Interior Comes Together

We've been using this current cold snap (epoxy doesn't like the cold much) to put the interior of the boat back together.  The inside of the old CAL 2-29 hull was all teak, but it had pretty much been disassembled by the previous owner who, mercifully, kept most of the parts.  So for most of the last two days we've been re-installing the pieces we had and fabricating those we didn't.

We made a nice, new countertop from some cabinet grade ply and got the sink re-installed.
There had also been a well-type ice box built into the counter that had been ripped away.  We used that space to put in some shelving for pots and pans.
When you cook with cast iron, it needs a solid place to hide.

Then there was the matter of the head.  The old blackwater system had been removed, but I had to build a platform for the new composting head.
The new composting head will sit here.  The space behind the partition at top once held the blackwater tank.  It'll now be storage
All in all a pretty productive day.  Now we'll oil the teak and make it pretty.  If you'd like to help us with the poject, stop by our indiegogo page here and show us some love.  15 days left.

More shortly


Friday, March 3, 2017

Some Reassembly Required

So we've spent the last two or so days in a howling wind aboard the new hull, putting things ready to get her into the water.  All the teak trim pieces are on the boat, but unfortunately, they're all detached.  It's like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Um....what goes where?
Then there's the matter of the packing box and the old propeller shaft, which is conveniently located UNDER the cockpit in a lovely space that entails a Downward Dog facing posture to access.  The coupler on the head of the propshaft was so rusted I had to cut it off with an angle grinder.  . . . in that space. . . .about 4" from my face.

Yeah, that was fun.
That let me pull out the propshaft.  So then we had to address the packing box itself, which was mercifully easier to deal with.  It's ugly, but the wearing bits are in good shape, so we lucked out there.

Ugly, but functional.
So, today, we'll get the rest of the teak back in place so I can address the wiring and maybe get the packing box back in place and sealed in.  Waiting for clearer skies and warmer weather late next week to finish the hull paintwork.  Then we can splash the thing.

Oh, hey, only 20 days left on our Indiegogo campaign, and we're WAAAAAYYY short of what we had hoped to raise.  If you'd like to lend us a hand and be part of this project, head on over here.  Every little bit madly appreciated.  Thanks.

We progress.

More shortly


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Getting the new Hull ready.

We took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather this week to make the new hull ready to splash, including some really rather unpleasant stuff.  Let me say up front, I HATE working with fiberglass, and am spectacularly bad at it.
This is Barrier Coat, a gnarly two part epoxy paint to seal the damaged hull surface.  Three coats.

Once mixed, you have about 1 1/2 hours to paint it on before it gets too thick, but it hides a host of ills.
The worst of it, though, was trying to get the propshaft out so we could address the stuffing box (the part where the shaft goes through the hull).  I wound up crawling on my belly underneath the cockpit with an angle grinder to cut off the rusted collar that once connected the shaft to the motor.

Cleaning out the gutted interior was also a bit of a challenge.
But the good news is:  we've gotten most of it done.  As soon as the temps bounce back up a little (today's a bit chilly for the paint to set) we'll do the final barrier coat and slap on some antifouling paint, and then we'll be more or less ready to splash.

Then the REAL fun starts :)

Stay tuned.  More adventures abound.

Indiegogo site is still going if you wanna lend us a hand and get some neat custom artwork.

More shortly.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Making Progress

So spent the last couple of unseasonably warm and beautiful days working on the hull of the sailboat, fiberglassing over the disused thru-hulls and filling in some of the damage an incompetent soda blaster did to the poor hull.  The boat is a mess, but it will do beautifully to let us try out the electrical and drive systems. 

Have I mentioned that I absolutely suck at fiberglass?
So we'll finish doing the fill-in stuff tomorrow, then it's three coats of barrier coat (an epoxy sealant) and two of anti-fouling paint, then we can splash her.

Then the fun REALLY begins.

More shortly, and new stuff at Life, Art, Water.


Thursday, February 16, 2017


Here, as promised, is a rather hurried shot of the former "Guilded Lady" which will serve as the test hull for the new boat.
Soon to be electrified
We proceed.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Some Really Good News

Some really good news ( and I'll post a picture as soon as it stops raining) is that we've essentially been given a free 29' sailboat hull that we can use to test our our drive system.  I'll have to, over the next few weeks, put a new barrier coat on the hull and some antifouling paint, but this will let us do a really solid test of systems for the new boat without building and having to re-build if we're wrong.

This makes me happy.  We're still short on our indiegogo campaign, so if you'd like to participate, you can do so by just clicking here.

More shortly


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Wish List

I thought this would be an appropriate time to throw this up here:  Here's a partial list of the things we need for the new vessel.  Got any of this laying around?  We'd love to have em.

The Wish List:

Building Materials:

3/4” (or so) exterior plywood
3/8' exterior plywood
2X8X10 treated
Stainless or coated exterior star drive screws 1 ¼ “ and 2”

1 1/2” foam insulation
3” glass wool insulation

epoxy resin and hardener
3" fiberglass tape

Bird netting (roll)

Exterior Latex paint
Ablative antifouling paint



Marine VHF Radio and antenna
48 V DC to 110 AC inverter
Bilge pump (manual)
Bilge pump (12V with float)

100 AH 12v deep cycle batteries

140 tooth 8mm drive cog and chain

Other Boat Stuff

Flares, day/night signal devices
ship's bell

Full sized Futon mattress

Designing the Paddlewheel

Our dear friend Robert has worked the math on the wheel structure and supplied us with a hypothetical drawing.  Paddlewheel math is really interesting.  Here's a version:

The basic calculation is this:  The size of the paddles is the wetted surface of the hull (excluding rudder surfaces) divided by the average rpm of the wheel, with the velocity at any given speed calculated as the number of times the circumference of the wheel will play out as distance. So a 10' wheel will travel 100' for every ten revolutions.

Cool, hunh?

More shortly...Just wanted to share this.

indiegogo campaign still going Here.  Lend us a hand building this.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Pnumatically Stabilized Floatation

Also known as "sea cells". . . .I thought I would put on some notes on their use and operation since we've lived with them for a few months.  PSF floats are basically open ended containers, open side down, trapping air for floatation. 

A PSF flotation cell as opposed to a barrel float.
The Great advantage of the sea cells is the ability to top them off, flotation wise.  Here's the thing.  As water temperatures fall in winter, the air inside pontoons or barrel floats contracts.  In some cases, particularly with flexible barrels, the float kind of collapses.  You can lose upt to 10% of your flotation as the temperature drops.

Open bottomed cells can be easily topped off to maintain the same level of buoyancy, or air can be drawn out to make the cell sit lower in the water.   Here's some of the things we've learned using them, though:

1) There's a temptation to fill them all the way with air, and that's fine, but if you do so during cold water days, when the water warms, the air will bubble out as it expands, then when the water cools again, you'll have less air in them than when you started.  A buffer of water should be left at the bottom to keep the air level stable, even though it will contract with temperature.  This "plug" of water also helps keep the boat stable, as the cell will try to lift all the water with it when pushed upward by a wave.

2)  These things are not hydrodynamic.  Wave action, currents, boat motion, can cause air to be mined out of them, reducing your flotation.  Moving the vessel at any speed is right out.  While topping them off and keeping track of the air level isn't difficult, you do have to keep on top of said. 

3)  All that being said, they do work, and work inexpensively.  There is also a great possible application for collapsible floats or docks as the units could potentially be nested and stacked when not in the water.

Thought you'd like to know.  :)

Our Indiegogo campaign continues, and we still can use your help.  If appreciate our projects and would like to show us a little love (and collect some cool swag) drop on over to :  Tesla's Revenge and check it out!

More shortly

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tesla's Revenge Update

Just a quick update on our campaign to raise funds for Tesla's Revenge and on the upcoming build.

And four is six and carry the two. . . .
The campaign is live on Indegogo and we're starting to get in donations, which makes us happy.  If you'd like to participate and be part of this project (and get some cool swag), you can do so by going HERE.

Our friend Robert, who is, among other things, the owner of the fastest paddlewheel boat on earth (no kidding), has been kind enough to do all the engineering computations for the size and shape of the paddlewheel, which has given us some pleasant surprises about the complexity and weight of the thing (more on this later), and we're moving forward with the final design work.  We also will be generating working drawings and renderings as we move through the build.

So, it's a good week for boats.  We move forward.  More shortly.

New stuff at Life, Art, Water, check it out.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Live With Our Campaign!!!

And we're live with our Indegogo campaign for the new version of the shantyboat.  Check it out by clicking HERE.

We're really excited about this, and have some great arty perks for helping out.  Please go check out the campaign page.

  This is gonna be cool.

And it's my birthday :)


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Building Floating EmpireII: Tesla's Revenge

Okay, this is exciting.  We're preparing to build a new, and improved version of our beloved paddlewheel shantyboat, Floating Empire.

For those of you not familiar, the Floating Empire was (and is) a great project:  An electrically driven, off-grid, livaboard paddlewheel shantyboat built with common handtools and out of salvaged and repurposed materials was an idea first conceived in the "Bypassed Technologies" group of Grindlebone Arts, and at once caught people's imaginations.  In a world of rising waters and skyrocketing living costs, the idea of a floating Steampunk tinyhome that could be built by anyone was a  popular idea.  After a year long bout of research and design, work on the boat started in March of 2014 and the boat finally splashed in Middle River off the Chesapeake Bay in early June of that year.
The Floating Empire, just days after launch.
Over the course of the next three years, the vessel served as a living laboratory for tools, techniques, and life on the water.  Through this blog, the full range of vessel construction, ideas, revisions, repairs, product reviews, and experiences were chronologed for tens of thousands of viewers.  It has been, all in all, a great experiment, and a wonderful journey.

But we're not done yet.

The final phase of the project is to apply the lessons we've learned over the last three years of living full time on the water.  Tesla's Revenge will be a floating tinyhome, an off-grid, mobile, electrically driven paddlewheel  livaboard shantyboat, designed to be built of common, inexpensive materials with basic handtools by pretty much anyone.  It will be intended to serve as a safe and snug home for an individual or couple, a fine place to live as well as a vehicle for adventure, experiences, and art.  Every phase of construction and use will be detailed online, free for anyone to use, an open source of information and ideas.

Here's the original launch of the original Floating Empire if you'd like to see her:

On January 21, 2017 we'll be starting an indegogo fundraising campaign to help build the new boat, with some wonderful arts perks from Grindlebone Arts (source of the Center for Bypassed Technologies).  I'll put a link on here.  We're excited.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


For those of you keeping track, we racked off our cranberry cider into a series of (mostly used) flip cap bottles today, adding a bit of brown sugar to each to make some carbonation.
Sigh...never makes as much as I think it will.
This is a particularly yummy batch and it's gonna be a REAL challenge to keep out of it long enough for it to finish fermentation and to age a bit.  My guess is, we won't.

More stuff over at Life, Art, Water, check it out.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

A heads up

So just giving you folks a heads up:  On Jan 21 we're going to be starting a crowdfund campaign through Indegogo for the new Shantyboat:  Tesla's Revenge.  Because we're going through Grindlebone Arts again, there will be some really, REALLY cool perks for being a part of it, so stop by and lend us a hand. 


Friday, January 13, 2017

A Freebie Book Promotion

Hey, Kindle is doing a promo on my latest novel this weekend (well, Sunday and Monday  Jan 15-16) letting folks download it for free.  Go grab a copy.  Makes me look good.

fer free
Just click HERE if you're interested.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reassessing Floating Empire: Late Night Musings

As we gear up for the new boat design, I spent a bit of last night thinking about the successes and failures of our current shantyboat The Floating Empire.  Starting from the water up:

Newly Minted

The barrels we used for flotation, were, on the whole, a great choice (save for their hydrodynamics).  It took nearly three years for any kind of growth to adhere to the polyethylene, and even now, there isn't a whole lot.  If I had it to do over again, I would orient the barrels so one of the bungs was on the bottom and leave it open so that the air could be topped off in cold weather, rather like we do with our open bottomed floatation additions.  I'd have given them a coat of bottom paint to keep ALL the growth off and probably tossed a piece of copper scrap inside the barrel to stop anything from using it as a residence.
this really works

The pipe and beam system we used to support the barrels has worked beautifully.  They reamain stable, solid, and in place.  The biggest drawback was in not having enough of them.  If I rebuilt the Empire today, I would use a double row on either side, which would give me enough surplus flotation for any foreseeable revisions to the structure or any likely buying frenzy of cast iron cookware.
The deck going in

When we built the thing, a lot of folks told us that the thin, stressed skin plywood floor wouldn't last.  Going on four years later (with the exception of a part on the bow that was damaged in the move) the floor remains as it was:  springy, kind of uneven, but still quite solid.  The biggest drawback has been the lack of insulation beneath the floor, which has made heating more of a challenge than it should have been.
Kingposts and Curtain walls

The kingpost based structure has worked solidly and well.  The biggest limitation was using the kingposts for the frame of the forward doorway, which meant that nothing over 19 inches could get in the boat (we bought some GREAT chairs for the galley. . . .they're up on the patio at the marina now.  No way to get them in).  I've already done a bit on the failure of the material we used for the curtain walls here, but the membrane replacement has worked beautifully.
The Membrane going into place
While I'm on the subject of the Membrane, it's one of the great success stories of this vessel.  Through four years now of storms, rain, snow, hail, beating sun, confused seagulls, and high winds, it has shown no sign of failing, not really any signs of wear.  Once we put the same material in place over the walls, all of our leakage problems vanished on the port and starboard sides.  I frankly had my doubts when we built the thing, but it was a cheap way to seal in the structure without adding a lot of weight.  Now it seems the only logical choice for the new vessel.

I mention these features of The Floating Empire because many of them will NOT be reappearing on the new boat, but I did want you to know that it was NOT because they didn't work. Its just our intended purpose for the new boat, which is wide ranging travel in only moderately protected waters, makes them inappropriate for Tesla's Revenge.  The barrel structure, though wonderful for a floating home or in very protected waters, simply has too much water resistance for us and too little freeboard; the king posts, while excellent in supporting the second level of the structure, are pretty superfluous in the single story of the new boat.  The membrane, though:  to seal in the new walls and roofline, why would we choose anything else?

Stay tuned