Saturday, February 29, 2020

A coupla hacks

Yep, it's a hot water bottle.  You want one.
As we're moving into March and beginning to think of preparations for spring, I thought I'd take a moment to enumerate a few of the more useful hacks we've played with over winter.  So here they are in no particular order:

1. The Hot Water Bottle.

The humble hot water bottle, the butt of many a joke, has proven one of the best purchases we've ever made, especial aboard in winter.  Unlike heating pads or the like, if you can heat water from any source--gas, solar, electric, 20 lb. tabby cat. . . --you can use one.  They're GREAT for taking the chill off your feet when writing on cold evenings, for pre-warming the berth, for assuaging the muscle strains you just got by raising the anchor with 45 pounds of old steam engine attached to it (no kidding, we did this), and in summer, some crushed ice and cold water can make a wonderful cool.  Do yourself a favor and AVOID the red rubbery looking ones.  They leak.  The transparent ones, mostly German made, are much better and wear like Iron.  We've had a couple of these for years and use them pretty much every evening in winter.

2.  Gas Bottle Holder.

Kinda hard to see because I've got it tucked out of the way, but that's kind of the point.
We've been pleased with our little GasOne duel fuel mini stove.  It cooks super hot, takes up a third less counter space, and is really stoutly built.  The review of the thing is here, if you're interested.  It's much easier here to find the propane gas bottles than to use the butane ones (plus I have an adapter so I can refill them from a tank).  The thing we don't like about them is the adapter hose is a weird length, taking up too much room on the counter but not long enough to get the gas bottle OFF the counter.  Trying to figure out what to do about this,  I stumbled across this large drink holder.  It will open up enough to hold the 3.5" propane bottles, which let me mount it to the bulkhead behind the freezer.  When not in use, it actually will fold flat and get out of the way of the plates, but its made for a much more tidy workspace.

3.  Electric Kettle

$20 can get you hot water when at dock without burning fuel.
Hmm. We seem to be on a heat theme here, not surprising as it's 37F out there right now.  We heat a lot of water aboard, not just for hot water bottles (as above) but for washing dishes, for tea, coffee, hot chocolate. . .you get the idea.  We tend to do a lot more of that in winter.  Cruising or on the hook, of course, we use a tea kettle and the stove, but when at dock, we realized we could use the Marina's electric and not burn up our propane.  At a local discount store, we found this lovely Black and Decker electric kettle.  It heats up 1.7L of water in a little over eight minutes, has a small footprint, and will stow away easily under the sink when we're underway.  Recommend. (As a note, if you do have access to electric, this will pay for itself in about a month).

4.  While we're on that subject, the humble Thermos

We use this thing like crazy
When Gail gets up, she puts the kettle on to boil.  She makes a French Press of coffee, and with the rest of the water, she fills up our stainless thermos.  When I FINALLY roll out of bed, I've hot water for tea.  It keeps you from having to boil water repeatedly when you're cruising, and is WONDERFUL when you're out at the tiller in a chilly wind and can pour yourself yet another cup of tea to keep your body temperature above that of frozen halibut.

5.  Hot Throw

This little control is your key to a pleasant, warm night's sleep at dock.
I saw several months ago a "hot throw", a kind of mini electric blanket, at a local store.  Looking at the dimensions, we realized it was perfect for the V-Berth.  The things are inexpensive, durable, only draw about 100W on high, and can double as a regular blanket or throw when shut off.  We'll kick the thing on a few minutes before turning in and get to slide into some nice warm bedding even when it's hard to keep the cabin temperatures up.

Anyhow, just wanted to pass those along.  Would work for a tiny house too.

We really haven't had much of a winter here on the Chesapeake.  Today is looking to be one of our last cold days of the year and it's only the 29th of February.  They're predicting temperatures in the 60's next week, so I'm planning on getting our fuel pump put back together and on and, in general, start gearing up for travelling.

So looking forward to that.

Magellan will be answering  your questions and emails.
Got any neat hacks for spring?  Leave us a comment.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Some Really Cool News

I just got a note from and our blog is being listed in their:

Top 60 Tiny House Blogs, Websites & Influencers in 2020

 This is cool because it puts us out there with the likes of blogs and vlogs and authors like "Living Big in a Tiny House," "Tiny House, Giant Journey," and "".  I think we got on the list partly because we've done so much of this over the last five years and partly because of the new Shantyboat book.  Either way it feels good to be recognized (though I really wish they'd picked a different picture....yikes).  This list looks to be a great master resource for Tiny Home information and should be a great place for folks to start if they want to have their own.

It now looks as if we won't be GETTING any real winter here on the Chesapeake.  It was so warm last night that we grilled out, and they're predicting temperatures in the 60's next week. Can't say I'm sad.  One of the benefits is that projects we were holding off until spring may now be happening over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

sale on Shantyboat Book

In honor of the new book coming out, Wild Shore Press is doing a sale on the Ebook this coming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Here's a chance to get a copy cheap.  Click Here.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Barrel Barge Shantyboat Book

Well, by popular demand, we've taken all the blog entries on the design and construction of our original Barrel Barge Shantyboat The Floating Empire and compiled them with our construction notes, and additional photos and drawings into one downloadable book to help you build your own shantyboat, tiny home, or vardo.
It's 104 pages and well over 100 photos.
The book has well over a hundred photos of the original construction(277 color photos, in fact), both from this blog and from our files, along with build suggestions, ideas for modification, and everything else we could think of to help you design and build your own floating home.

The book is free for those with Kindle Unlimited and $2.99 to buy the download.  Please note, this is a LARGE file because of all the color photos and drawings.

You can get your copy HERE

And you can find my other books, including our Composting Toilet Book HERE.

If you get it and like it, please leave us a review on Amazon.  We live by those, I mean literally.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Weird things we get asked as live aboards

So I was musing last night on some of odd, clueless, and downright bizarre questions we've gotten over the years as live aboards.  I thought I'd include a sampling:

Do you have heat?
Really?  No, we spend the winter in Parkas gnawing on narwhale blubber.  Of course we have heat.  We run electric heat when at dock and propane when we aren't.  We've also used kerosene and wood for heating,

Does the Cat ever run off?
Magellan is a people person and a bit of a homebody.  He's chipped, of course, and if he did go astray I have a Tile tracking thing on his collar so I can find him with a phone app.  Besides, I can use his Tile to help find my phone.  It's a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Magellan's stylish Tile is so we can find one another.
You have a house too, right?
No.  We live on the boat.  We travel on the boat.  We sleep on the boat.  No house, no apartment. . . what would be the point?

Do you have a bathroom?
No, we just pee over the side.  Of course we do.  We have a composting head.  We don't have showers on the boat, so we either use a sun shower in the cockpit or use the rather nice showers at the marina, weather and location depending.

What kind of shoes do you wear?
Scratching my head at this one.  Often, weather depending, we don't.  The rest of the time we mostly live in Crocs.  They're waterproof, comfy, and wear like iron.

How do you get exercise?
Well, for one thing, just BEING on a boat is exercise.  You're constantly--even at dock--having to shift to keep balance.  It's a low level, unending core exercise.  We walk a lot in good weather, either just to do it or to do our shopping.  That's mostly every day.  In winter, we have a gym membership which we try to hit every couple of days.

How do you do laundry?
It's either hand wash, or the laundromat, neither of which is a lot of fun.  Many marinas have laundry facilities.  Ours, sadly, doesn't.

What do  you do with the litter box?
What do YOU do with the litter box?  We scoop it and put it in the trash. When we're underway, it goes in the trash bucket on deck until we can dispose of it properly.

Do you have guns for protection?
Good lord no, and I wouldn't tell you if I did.  Look, I've lived in Watts, I've lived on the South Side of Chicago, I've lived in NY and Miami and freaking Baltimore, and I've NEVER needed a gun.  Besides, a bullet would go through several boats before it stopped, and I'm not doing that to our neighbors.  I do have a perfectly good cutlass, like a proper sailor, and I know how to use same.

Does the cat sharpen his claws on the mast?
The Mast is aluminum, and, as large as Magellan is, he's not MechaGodzilla (MechaMagellan?  Frightening thought).  He has a scratching pad, and goes ashore and uses the trees when we're at the marina.  It's not enough, and we still have to trim his claws from time to time to keep them from growing back into his footpads.

Do you eat fish all the time?
We do eat a lot of fish, because, well, we live at the water.  We're both former restaurateurs, have eclectic food tastes, and we eat well.  We take advantage of what's locally available, which, yes, often is fish or shellfish.  And, yes, Maryland crabcakes are killer.

Did you ever think of putting a bigger motor on the boat to go faster?
The simple answer to that is: no.  First of all, we're not in a hurry, and sailing is it's own reward, the trip being as much an objective as the destination.  Second, this is a displacement hull with 3000lbs. of lead underneath it.  I could put a Space X Raptor engine on the back and I'd still top off at the hull speed of about 7 knots.  Google "Hull Speed" if you're wondering how that works.

Do you have an air conditioner?
No.  Seldom needed it on the water. We have a nylon cloth wind scoop for the forward hatch to catch breezes at anchor, and the boat has a number of 12V fans for those close days.

What do you do with all your stuff?
We got rid of most of it. The downsizing is a big part of moving aboard (or into a tiny house, or into a caravan, etc.)  We have a storage locker for family stuff we can't figure out what to do with and furniture pieces we don't want to get rid of.  We might just say "screw it" and dump all that since we rarely need/think about any of it.

Would you ever move back on land?
It's not out of the question, but right now we're enjoying travel and the independence of being on the water.  I could see one day going into a tiny home or cabin ashore, but never into an apartment or full sized house.  Just not appealing.  The water, frankly, suits us fine.

What do you do for a living?
We're. . what. . .semi retired I guess.  We have money from our pensions, I'm a novelist (you can find my books HERE, feel free to go into a downloading/purchasing frenzy.  Really proud of the new one.) and write for some boating publications, Gail is an artist and sells her artwork.  If we need additional money, one of us will sometimes pick up a part time or short term job.  Otherwise, we do just fine.  This is, if you're careful, a monstrously cheap way to live.

Gail had to downsize to artwork she could do aboard. 
Web based businesses like writing and publishing are perfect for live aboards.

Do you get seasick?  Does the boat move around a lot?
The boat, especially in high winds, can move around quite a bit, even at dock.  It makes sleeping difficult sometimes in stormy weather. Otherwise, it's pretty stable.  Fortunately, neither of us suffers from motion sickness.  BTW if you do go on a boat and get sea sick, note that it tends to go away after a few days for most people and never returns.

But where do you really live?

Much more later

PS as an update, the Barrel Shantyboat Book is complete and now all I have to do is format the thing.  Stay tuned.