Thursday, August 28, 2014

Marina Living

Or:  There are Marinas and then there are Marinas.....

Marinas seem to come in three flavors, in my experience:  First are just plain working marinas.  They're ugly stacks of boats and lifts, and they work on boats for a living.  No one lives there.  They are places where vessels are warehoused and repaired.  This is where you take your boat to pull the engine, to replace the mast, to reseal the outdrive boot.  They have the equipment to do heavy stuff like this.  Then you pay them a lot of money and leave.

Second seems to be what we term the "Plastic Penis People" because that's what all the boats look like.  Massive fibreglass phallic symbols with MASSIVE engines.  Their owners come down every third weekend from the city and roar at high speed around the bay, largely ignoring the bay itself.  These places are slick and often beautiful, but they're all about showing off your wealth.  Livaboards typically aren't welcome as having your $750,000 Bay Ripper Turbo 6000 parked next to a sailboat with kids clothes drying on the lifelines may make you seem less important.

Then there are marinas for people who just love boats.  They tend to have a good deal of aesthetics, but the aesthetics tend toward spaces for the people who use the marina:  tables and walks and chairs and lounge areas.  Middle River Landing, mercifully, is one of those, and we count ourselves lucky to have landed here.

Boat people are a diverse, friendly. and helpful lot.  At a functioning marina there's is a lot of socializing, a lot of sharing food and drink and stories, and there's always someone willing to lend you a hand when docking or dragging stuff aboard.
Healthy marinas, too, tend to have a lot of wildlife about.  Where we are, ospreys patrol the water constantly.  There are ducks and geese fishing around the pilings.

And occasionally being abominally cute sleeping on the floats.

The opportunities for birdwatching, fish watching, and people watching are just plain endless.

Being on the water, you tend to adjust your cycles to that of the light. I find myself getting up far earlier than I'm usually want to, and turning in earlier, once the dining and socializing dies down.  One reason is certainly that light is not always so easy to come by aboard a boat.
But it sure can be pretty.

In picking a marina, wander around a bit and talk to the folks that have their boats there.  If you can see yourself having a barbecue with these guys, if they're funny and easy to talk to, then you may have found where you want to be.  

Check out our other blogs on water living, Onboard Cooking (which has a lot of new stuff) and Life, Art, Water, you'll be glad you did.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Short Apologia

We've been having some connectivity problems of late, so our next couple of posts have been delayed a day or so.  Check back shortly :)


Friday, August 22, 2014

But What do you DO all day?

Boy we got that a lot going into this venture.  "You'll be bored" they said "you'll be back to work inside of a month." they said.

"They" are nuts.

So I thought I would give you a little chronologue of our day on the Floating Empire.

Morgainne is up with the sun.  She's always been an early riser.  Me, I'm a theatre geek.  I think I was fourteen before I discovered there was a 4:00 o'clock in the morning TOO.  So she gets up, makes herself some coffee (fresh ground, french press....we don't mess around), then comes back to bed to read.

I'm generally conscious by 8:30 or so.  I hose off and we have breakfast.  Sometimes something as mundane as cereal, sometimes pancakes, toad in the hole, eggs and sausage, or a frittata (more on frittatas leftovers?  Make em into a frittata.  Even Chinese food.  Honest.)

Mornings I write.  That's not exactly true.  Mostly I write in the middle of the night, in my head, and then write it down in the mornings.

Morgainne works in her studio, making Art.

Then Luncheon.  As former restauranteurs, we both cook, and food is important to us.  Most of the stuff we try to eat is fresh, local, and homemade.

Afternoons we run errands, hang out, read, or go for a ride along the beautiful Middle River in our dinghy.
And of course, working on the boat itself.

Then it's time for SERIOUS cooking, dinner being an event with us.  It being summer, we cook out a great deal.  While the coals heat it's time for beverages by what has come to be called at the Marina here "The Drinking Tree".

Followed by some serious grilling and dining.

Then sunset.  They're beautiful here.

Morgainne often turns in early, reading, or we'll watch a film.  Then I will often work later into the evening, writing, doing research. . .
Since we've been here, living as we choose, not having to work multiple other jobs just to survive, we've been wildly productive.  Morgainne has completed 12 art pieces, with numerous others in work.  I'm a good quarter way into a new novel, am working on an online interactive RPG, finishing up some other articles....

....and of course, our blogs Floating EmpireOnboard Cooking, and Life, Art, Water, our youtube channel Mungo's Forge, and more to come.

Of course, in closing, we both think the cat has the right idea:

What do we do?  What do YOU do?  Let us know in the comments below.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Color of Light

I just wanted you guys to see some of these.  The light here on Floating Empire, being on the water, being the vessel she is, is amazing.  We get sunsets like these all the time:

And the warm light of our lanterns at night is really wonderful:

No wonder Morgainne, who is, after all, a visual artist, loves this place.


Correcting Design Mistakes

Yes, yes, I admit it, Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa, we screwed up in a couple of places in designing Floating Empire.  You never know, though, until you try.

We spent part of yesterday correcting one of the irritating design errors that had the potential to do some damage.  You may recall during construction that the crown of the roofline is carried by two beams spanning the kingposts:

The problem was, this left about a 24" flat space on the center of the roofline.  During rains, the membrane collected water here. . . .GALLONS of it, and we were afraid it was stretching our roofing.  We had used a bit of the left over luan in strips to reenforce it, but it wasn't enough to take the weight.

The solution was pretty simple. Today we inserted a line of 2" X 2" fir on top of the arcs all the way down the spine of the roof, forming a ridgecrest.  (the ridge board is mostly on top of the luan stripping, which we used to help guide it, so it's not terribly visible.

It should, from all appearances, work just fine.  They're predicting thunderstorms this afternoon, so we'll give you a full report.


Check out our other blogs at Onboard Cooking and Life, Art, Water

and we love to hear from you.  We answer all questions and would love to hear your ideas.

Just use the comments section at the bottom.  We'll get back to you, we promise.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Where have all the Russians Gone?

Just as a quick note, for the couple of months of this blog, we've had a pretty steady viewership from the Russian Federation.  The moment the Ukraine thing went down and Mr. Putin started making statements about the internet being a CIA plot, they vanished.

Anyone else on the blogosphere noticed this?

So sad.  I can only conjecture that they're afraid of being caught visiting a Western site, even one as innocuous as this one.


I may have to speak with Tzar Putin, AKA Mr. Manboobs, about messing with my blog audience.


Little Stuff

Took it easy today, but did manage to get some little stuff done.  Attacked the aft windows with caulk (always remember, silicone sealant is your friend) to try to stop the last couple of little irritating leaks we have ahead of the promised rains tomorrow.

I added some shelves to the bath area prior to actually getting it plumbed in this week (haven't gotten the guard rails up on them yet)
Finally got the trim up around the forward window, which I'd meant to do since we BUILT the boat. . .
Got the grid system installed in Morgainne's studio so she can have somewhere to put her stuff. . . .
And in general found more places to kick back and use the space we have.

It's a process :)

Video tomorrow, I promise.


hey check out our other blogs: Onboard Cooking and Life, Art, Water

and leave us a comment.  We love to hear from you guys.


Friday, August 15, 2014

I'mmmmm Bailing awayyyyyyyy


The recent, record breaking, car flooding, road collapsing torrential rains left us with high tides, muddy water, and a pretty good idea of anywhere that the boat leaks.....

....fortunately the hull isn't one of them.  We still have a few things in some of the windows to address, though.

 The water was higher than we've seen it, and became this bizarre amber color as silt washed into the Middle River.
 Note how down at the stern the Marina's work boat is.  We wound up going out in the rain and bailing her a bit, just to keep the motor from going under.  One more reason why marinas NEED livaboards.
 Our intex dinghy, however, has no cover, and picked up nearly a foot of water....(yeah, I know, ugly bathing suit.. . . .what can I say, it turned up in my laundry one day)
So while I'm bailing, Im know, on a hot day, this would feel pretty good.  So maybe the next heatwave, we festoon the boat with a sunshade and fill it with fresh water and a couple of Painkillers, what do you say?

More shortly,


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

There's low tide, and there's high tide....

And then there's REALLY high tide:

Remember This Post, which included a picture of a 4' low tide?  This morning, with a low tide and an east wind, for the first time we woke to THIS:

This is the first time I've ever stepped DOWN to the dock.  Gives us a bit of an idea of what a hurricane tidal surge could do.


...but it does make it easier to get to the showers :)

Rainy day today, so I'll be getting some writing done, and hopefully some more posting.  Stay tuned.

Got any questions?  Ideas?  Comments?  Offers to send us vast amounts of money?  Leave a note in the comments section.  We promise to get back to you.  Love to hear from folks.

New stuff on our cooking blog at Onboard Cooking, and check out Morgainne's companion blog at Life, Art, Water



Monday, August 11, 2014

A brief review...

...while we're editing some video for you:

While on a supply trip to Lowes the other day we ran across this stuff:

Interesting?  It's a coconut shell based charcoal, bound together with cornstarch.  We thought we would give it a shot.  You can see some of the results over at our cooking blog at onboard cooking.  The charcoal burns very very hot, and for quite a long time, but we did find it a bit of a bear to get started with a chimney starter, and it takes quite a bit to come up to temperature.

Still and all, it works well, and though I still prefer natural lump charcoal, this is a good, tree-friendly alternative.

We've been doing quite a bit of exploring recently, now that we have our little Intex licensed and legal.  The little electric inflatable has taken us all along the banks of the Middle River, exploring things marked as "Ruins" on the marine maps, places with abandoned docks peopled only by ducks and ospreys.

I'm still boiling down some video, but hope to have it up for you shortly.  In the meanwhile, please check out our companion blogs Onboard Cooking and Life, Art, Water.  And please leave comments below.  We love to hear from you, and we always answer, promise. :)



Saturday, August 9, 2014

And, in the category of things we should have done long ago....

Does it seem to you we spend a heckova lot of time tending to the various electronics, appliances, communication devices, etc etc etc.  Does to us.  We've spent a great deal of time getting our system to handle the new fridge....actually we've decided it won't do so very gracefully in it's current state, so we'll be adding an additional panel and two more deep cycle batteries down the road.  For the moment, we're connecting the thing to shore power while our finances recover a bit.

There are a few things in this regard we've done that have made things easier.  Using the DC power supply (a 12v plug in adapter for usb power chargers) has kept us from having to run the inverter constantly.  To facilitate things, we added a basket next to the 12 outlet (which is at our running lights panel). It's big enough to hold phones and tablets and all their associated wiring, and in general keep us from tripping over or dropping the things.

It makes things simpler, which is, after all, the objective.

We took a really pleasant trip yesterday down Middle River in our electric inflatable.  I'll upload video a bit later today, so stay tuned.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Some Galley Storage Tips

...or: "But where will we PUT it?"

Since I'd had a couple of inquiries, I thought I would give you guys some tips we've found helpful in the galley about...well...where to put stuff.

Galley cooking always amazes me.  I've been in numerous boat galleys that are better laid out, better equipped, and far more usable than most suburban kitchens.    This may be a factor of necessity, long experience of boaters using inadequate facilities to try to feed hungry crews, or just an example of some of the extreme cleverness of boatbuilders.  Regardless, Galleys tend to work, and often rather well.

In designing Floating Empire, we tried to find ideas from both the boating community and the tiny home movement to make our Galley, and I think, in this case at least, we've succeeded beautifully.  The Galley just works:  and here are some of the reasons why:

Getting stuff out of your way but still having it accessible is a big part of making a kitchen work.  If you have to squat, dig, or tunnel to get to everything you need every time you need it, you may find yourself ordering pizza a lot.  Here's some of the things we've done that seem to work.
 We rigged a hanging potrack over our stove/hearth area, suspended from the vent hood itself.  This not only keeps stuff handy, the warm airflow keeps our cast iron pots dry and in good shape.  It took a while to learn where to set the hooks in the suspension grid so we didn't bonk ourselves or create a glockenspeil every time the boat rocked, but once we got the positioning sorted out, it worked well.
A heavy magnetic knife rack keeps the knives available, but safely out of the way.  As we prefer carbon steel knives to stainless (because they will actually hold a freaking edge, thank you very much) they have to stay dry, and the magnetic mount allows air to circulate.

Shallow shelves with windows allow you to see what you're looking for without digging, and positive catches on the doors keep things in place.  This doesn't have to be marine furniture.  We found this antique breakfront works beautifully for storing our dishes and canned goods.

When we first came aboard, all our spices were in large glass containers.  Attractive, but bulky and damn heavy.  Though it's somewhat inelegant, we've shifted them to ziplocks in a drawer.  One drawer holds what it used to take an entire shelf to hold, and does it securely.
And, lastly, though shelves on a boat would oft be a disaster, shelves with a retaining rail work just fine, even for our glassware and artwork.
Besides, it has a nice, nautical look, don't you think? :)

More stuff later,


Oh, hey, speaking of galleys, check out our new small spaces cooking blog HERE.

And don't forget to visit Morgainne's blog of art on the water, Life, Art, Water.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Body in Question Part II

I thought this might be the time to revisit the physical implications of boat living.  Yesterday we spent a rather pleasant day, did some shopping for groceries, then dragged a battery to the intex dinghy and went for a little tour of Middle River, watching the Ospreys fish, avoiding jerks in jetskis, and in general have a fine and rather peaceful time capped by a fine dinner of tandoori chicken and fresh local corn..... why was it that at the end of the day, I felt like I'd been hauling sacks of cement all day?

Thinking back on it, it was apparent.  We'd spent the day getting on and off the shantyboat, in and out of small dinghies, carrying bags of ice and groceries to and from the vehicle, up and down docks, over rails. .  . . .

My point is this:  Being on a boat is work.  Just dealing with the subtle shifts in balance and direction takes a degree of energy, and you wind up doing a kind of low level isometrics to keep yourself anchored and in place.  I've lost weight--to the point that I'm having to buy new jeans and a belt--and the weight shows every sign of staying off.

Then, too, are the effects of the change of lifestyle:  Over the last several years, Morgainne and I have had fairly stressful lives, just with different kinds of stress.  She was basically overworked, working as an artist, a retail manager, and a teacher.  I taught, did theatre, wrote, worked in the restaurant industry as caterer and front end, and did a whole host of other things to try and make ends meet through one of the most uncertain periods of our economy.  The net effect was we both worked 60+ hour weeks, got little sleep, had too little money, and wound up exhausting ourselves just to make TIME for ourselves.

I suspect most of you know the drill.

The conversion to our aquatic lifestyle, with minimal expenditure for housing and maximum time to put to our own purposes has been amazing.  We sleep when we want, and as much as we want, which is astonishing.  Lack of a hurried life means lack of the need for rotten fast food, grabbed meals, skipped meals, and stress.  Yet we're more productive than we've been in ages.  Morgainne is constantly in her studio, and working on her Blog, and I've been writing and designing interactive games to beat the band.

And I don't know how to say this, and it sounds ridiculous, but my beard, which was Santa Clause white, is now coming in blonde again.  Don't know if it's stress or diet, but it's the case.  I don't get angry anymore over little things.  I have the liberty to do or not do stuff, and can do my art and writing without respect to whether or not it will make income in the near term.

I don't know where all this goes.  I just know I feel better than I've felt in ages.

Stress kills.  Don't let them do it to you, or convince you it's normal or necessary.

Stay Tuned.

Hey, check out our new cooking in small spaces blog HERE and Morgainne's blog HERE.  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Onboard Cooking

So this is a bit of an introduction to what is going to be yet ANOTHER blog we're creating just for cooking aboard vessels and in tiny homes and Vardos.  We're calling it Onboard Cooking, and we're going to explore all kinds of campsite, vessel, trailer, tiny apartment, tiny home, tiny spacecraft, tiny get the idea....cuisine.

Eating well is one simple decadence in which any one may indulge.  It only takes a bit of invention and research.  I hear so many people complaining that they'd love to make a decent meal but they only have one burner, or they have no refrigeration, or it's too hot out, or it's too cold out, or they're broke...... me, we've been ALL those places.

And yet we've been able to make really amazing food in limited circumstances.  Full disclosure, we're not only both foodies, we're also living history re-enactors, with a knowledge of older ways of prepping foods, and we're former restaurant owners and caterers, with a great love of eclectic and fusion cuisines.

Take yesterday as an example.  The day was fine, and we hit a lot of the local farmstands for fresh--and inexpensive--food for dinner.  Fresh Zucchini, fresh eggplant, onions, garlic, of the wonderful things about being around the Chesalpeake is the food.

This time we chose to make dinner on shore, using one of our faves, the dutch oven.  We sauteed chopped onion, garlic, mushrooms, a bit of ground turkey, and some of the scraped out innards of the eggplant in the pot, spicing liberally with toasted cumin and coriander, oregano, thyme, basil, salt and pepper and paprika and a tad of orange zest.  Cinnamon and nutmeg would also have been a great option.

 We added the filling to the hollowed out eggplant halves

 Placed in the heated dutch oven
 And topped with fresh diced tomatos

 And a gratin mixture of romano, mozzarella, and panko bread crumbs
 Then you bake, about 15 min.  This really only takes about 20 coals to do the whole meal.
 wow and yum

 And this was the dining room.
And we hated it as you can see.  We're driving the rest of the folks in the marina crazy with the smells of our cooking.

If that seems elaborate, think again.  It was only an eggplant, some onion and garlic, and a bit of frozen ground turkey.  The difference between the mundane and the spectacular is just a bit of invention.  

So please come here to see info on the Floating Empire and our adventures, Morgainne's blog Life, Art, Water for an artist's life aboard, and our new blog Onboard Cooking for great ideas on cooking fine food in limited spaces.

This boat livaboard adventure has been a really great experience for us.  Come share it.