Friday, March 6, 2015

Surviving the Winter

Winter continues to be upon us, and, as previously mentioned, it is freezing:

Frozen Hudson River
Beginning two months ago, the temperature of the water dropped so low that Sea Gem's built-in heating/air condition system was no longer able to operate. The system works by pulling heat from the water surrounding the boat, and once that temperature drops below 43 degrees, the whole system shuts down.  The system puts out plenty of heat when it is working (32,000 btu's), but unfortunately none when it is not.

The arrival of this day was expected and we were prepared (or as prepared as we could be). Several powerful, boat-safe space heaters were plugged in, ready to keep the boat warm:

Bring the Heat
All of Sea Gem's main rooms, including the engine room, now has its own space heater. Only the two heads (bathrooms) and the galley (kitchen) are without their own space-heating unit.

Each of Sea Gem's individual rooms is rather small, so these powerful little heaters are sufficient to quickly bring the room to a pleasant (enough) temperature. That being said, much more time was spent was spent wearing bulky sweaters and scarves:

Bundled
As the temperature outside continued to drop, the space heaters weren't able to keep up (Did I mention that our boat doesn't have any insulation? It doesn't.).

So, we did what anyone in our situation would do--we fled to Florida for a month:

Sun Worship
It was a much-needed respite.

The return back to the boat was quite the shock. The interior condition of the boat was...different than before. Although the heaters are powerful enough to keep the boat at a temperature which allows life to exist, the ambient temperature of the cabin isn't making anyone's "Top 10 list" in terms of favorite inside temperatures. As you might imagine, the rooms without heat--especially the heads--are particularly chilly. I often find little frozen treats around the boat:

Liquid at Room Temperature
The cold temperatures, coupled with the increasingly dangerous boarding conditions prompted us to do what anyone else in our situation would do--get an apartment for the winter:

NYC Winter Digs
It's no Sea Gem, but it will do.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Boarding Challenges

Living aboard in the winter has produced many challenges--the most serious of which is boarding the boat safely.

The water surrounding Sea Gem is colder than ever before:

Side Yard
Sea Gem floats high above the water, and to board the boat, you must first climb a (small) staircase, then step aboard. Boarding, especially with a child in tow, has always been a challenge--one which we take very seriously. Boarding Sea Gem in icy conditions, however, is a whole new ballgame.

Currently, the finger pier leading to Sea Gem is lopsided because the water on one side of the pier is completely frozen. Due to the angle at which the finger pier now rests, the staircase is now actually pulling away from the boat, which means that "stepping" aboard can longer can be done in one swift, graceful step--it now requires a leap. 

Leap of Faith
Leaping over ice-filled water from an ice-covered staircase onto a (sloped) ice-covered deck is not exactly safe. Doing this while holding a squirming toddler is, of course, terrifying. 

There isn't a whole lot of room for error. As you can see, the staircase is just inches away from the water...


...one misstep and we'd land here:

Thin Ice
...or fall between the finger pier and our boat...

The Gap
... resulting in head injuries and other bodily harm, before surely drowning to death in the freezing water of the marina.

Neither which is a plunge we hope to take.

Thankfully, the boarding situation has been remedied. More on that later...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Frozen

Our marina is turning into a frozen tundra! The water is literally freezing...er, frozen:

Frozen Water
Winter has not been kind to all aboard:

Frozen Woolly Pockets
My precious boat plants and their Woolly Pocket containers have, sadly, succumbed to the intolerable conditions of the northeast. (And yes, there are two Woolly Pockets and "plants" pictured above. See that stick poking through the snow? That twig used to be this beautiful plant.) Despite my boat plants' past displays of heartiness, I am 100% confident they will not be making a miraculous recovery this time around (I probably should not have left them to the elements... ah, hindsight...).

It isn't all death and despair though. The cold, icy conditions are as beautiful as they are dangerous:

Line-cicles
Thin Ice
Freezing Lines
Chilly Morning
Crazed Ice
While it has been surreal to watch the marina slowly solidify, the novelty of winter has certainly grown old. It is torturous to see our once-favorite, sun-filled spots laying dormant under a blanket of snow and ice:

Aft-cockpit
Springtime, where are you? 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Gaining Traction

Shortly before winter set in, I was presented with this:

Yaktrax
Technically, I was presented with two. Ta-da:

Yaktrax
Although they look like something one might find cupping Madonna's breasts, they are actually accessories designed for the feet--portable ice cleats to be exact. They fit snugly over the bottom of your shoes, like so:

Gaining Traction
Yesterday, when I poked my head out of the hatch and saw this welcoming sight...


Winter Wonderland
I decided the time was right to sling on my cleats.

I strapped them on, stepped onto the deck, and... immediately slipped, nearly plunging into the icy cold water below the boat. And, as an added negative bonus (in addition to the near-death experience), I also marked up the deck (don't worry, not permanently):

Not Non-Marking
I was not impressed. Despite looking like something from the future, these cleats seemed to function like something from the distant past (i.e., they didn't seem to work very well at all).

Then, with the cleats still attached, I stepped off the boat and onto the dock. Much to my surprise, the cleats grabbed hold of the wooden dock, which made my walk down the snow-covered pier feel safe and secure. Apparently, it is our boat's ice-encrusted deck that is the problem (who knew?). I'm sure these little gadgets will come in handy when walking around the city (or parading around in private à la Madonna), but I'll be forgoing them while walking on deck (which I am avoiding at all costs anyway).

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Wet Winter

We expected that moving Sea Gem from the tropics to the tundra would involve some growing pains.  We were certainly concerned about the cold weather, and ours fears have so far proven to be well founded.  Oddly enough, though, the problem with the cold has not been the temperature--Sea Gem has thus far been surprisingly easy to keep toasty warm.  Rather, the problem with the cold has been the wet. 

On our first cold, rainy day of the season, we noticed puddles of water forming underneath our hatches.  Our hatches had never leaked before...why would they all start leaking now?  I thought that perhaps the gaskets had shrunk in the cold, and so I tightened the latches.  My solution was a failure, and the water just kept coming. 

We soon discovered that our hatches were not leaking, but that the moist air inside the boat was condensing (at a frightening speed) on the cold metal frames of the hatches (much like a cold can of soda) and then dripping onto the floor.  We soon discovered the same problem with our metal ports, which caused water to slowly drip down the sides of the hull.  In certain places, water even condenses on the sides of the hull itself, which we discovered when we opened our closet to find that all of our clothes were soaking wet--condensation and wicking. 

Drying
After discussing the problem with our neighbors, who have lived on their boat the past three winters, we were provided with a solution (or at least a partial one): shrink-wrap the inside of all of the ports and hatches. 

Door to Aft Cockpit
Although the shrink wrap doesn't provide much insulation, by providing an air-tight barrier between the hatch and the warm, moist air inside the boat, there is no moisture available to condense on the cold frames. 

Covered Hatch
After spending several hours with a roll of double-sided tape, plastic wrap, and a hair dryer, our ports and hatches are finally free of condensation.  The closet, though, is another matter... 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

First Snow

Yesterday morning, I awoke to a grey sky and rain, and by late morning, the cold rain had turned to snow.

View from Hatch: Morning and Afternoon
Snow is not new to me; however, I really only enjoy it when I'm skiing down a mountain and, at the bottom of that mountain, there is a ski resort with hot cocoa on tap. I will admit, however, it was nice to experience a first snow after a 4-year hiatus.

Seeing Sea Gem and our pier covered in dusting of snow was a bit surreal...

First Snow
...as was witnessing the aft cockpit fill with snowflakes...

Aft Cockpit
...and a pile of snow (albeit a small one) accumulate outside the front door:
 
Accumulation

The snow made for a slippery boarding experience, which as you can see, is problematic--one misstep and we'd be in the ocean.
 
Front Porch 
Don't worry though--plans are already underway to make sure future snowy days don't pose any problems (more on that later).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hindsight, Part I (Cookware)

Now that we have been living aboard Sea Gem for over three years, I think it is about time to revisit (and judge, harshly if need be) our earliest posts about our preparations in anticipation of moving aboard.  Looking back, some of our ideas were spot on.  Others missed the mark completely.  For the benefit of those now preparing to move aboard a boat, we will attempt to explain what worked, what didn't, and what we would do differently.

I'll start things off with something that worked.

In May 2011, we wrote about our efforts to condense our collections of pots and pans into something that would not take up much space in our galley.  As we explained in that post, we settled on a set of nesting, stainless-steel pots and pans with removable handles made by Fagor (the set is called "Rapid Chef").  That has proven to be one of the best purchases we have ever made.  Everything has held up extremely well, is easy to use, and takes up very little space. 

Usually, there is some trade-off when buying a compact version of  something.  Less functionality, more money, etc.  But, after using our cookware over the past three years, I really don't think we give up anything as compared to a typical collection of pots and pans.  Honestly, I can't think of any good reason not to use nesting cookware, even for landlubbers--with the number of bulky kitchen gizmos available now, anyone could make use of more cupboard space, no matter how large the kitchen.

Our advice:  If you're moving onto a boat, you should get a good set of nesting cookware.  Our advice is the same if you are moving into an RV, or even into a smaller apartment or house.  And our advice is the same if you are moving into a larger apartment or house, or if you're not moving at all.  Just get a good set of nesting cookware.