Friday, May 27, 2011

Choosing a Boat, Part II - Center cockpit or Aft cockpit?

In Part I, I explained that all liveaboard sailboats can, for the most part, be divided into two categories: monohulls and catamarans, and I explained why we are going the monohull route.

Our next decision is what the deck configuration will be. Monohulls can be roughly divided into two categories: center cockpits and aft cockpits. The names are pretty explainatory: in a center cockpit boat, the cockpit is in the center of the boat, and in an aft cockpit boat, the cockpit is in the back.

Although the distinction between a center cockpit and an aft cockpit is far more than aesthetic, I wish to make a quick note on aesthetics: aft-cockpit sailboats look better than center-cockpit sailboats. A center cockpit is much higher off the water than an aft cockpit, resulting in a bulky, wedding-cake-like appearance. An aft cockpit is low and flows into the rest of the boat. See for yourself. Here is a Alden 50, an aft-cockpit boat:

Note that (a) the cockpit is in the back ("aft"), (b) the boat is beautiful, and if you can't see that, you can't be helped. And here is the exact same boat, an Alden 50, but in a center-cockpit configuration:

Although the hull is exactly the same, note that the cabin trunk extends all the way to the back of the boat (compare the number of ports on the side), and that the cockpit is in the middle of the boat on top of the cabin trunk instead of behind and flush with it. The result is that the you sit up much higher and the boat simply doesn't look as good (although an Alden 50 could never look bad).

But enough with aesthetics and on to the practical differences between a center-cockpit and an aft-cockpit boat.

As a matter of sailing performance, the edge goes to the aft cockpit for two reasons. First, because the center cockpit is higher up, it has more windage, which means the boat (as opposed to the sails) catches more wind, and the result is that the boat does not sail as well, especially towards the wind. Second, because the center cockpit is higher up and closer to the front of the boat, it catches more spray from the waves. It is simply less protected up there than in the back.

As a matter of interior accommodations, however, the center cockpit is the clear winner. In an aft-cockpit boat, the interior more or less stops where the cockpit begins. But with a center cockpit, the interior goes all the way back. The result is that, in the back of the boat, you get a huge master suite with standing headroom that is nicely separated from the rest of the boat. The two Alden 50's are again illustrative. Here is an interior drawing of the aft-cockpit Alden 50:

I'll explain what is going on in this drawing. Moving from right (the front of the boat) to left (the back), there is, first, a bed that sleeps two people, their feet together and their heads separated, (this is called a V-berth). There is then a head (bathroom) on the top of the drawing (left/port side of the boat) and various shelves and closets on the bottom (right/starboard side of the boat). That whole area (bed, closets, bathroom) can be closed off from the rest of the boat, forming the first stateroom (bedroom/suite). Next is the salon, with two settees (couches), one on each side of the boat, and a folding table in the middle. Moving further towards the back of the boat (to the left of the drawing), there is the galley (kitchen) to port and a second head to starboard. At the very back of the interior, there is a desk/office area to port and a double bed to starboard (note that the bed can only be accessed from the front, so you have to crawl onto it, like crawling into a cave). The double bed can be closed off from the rest of the boat, forming the second stateroom. The interior stops at that port, as the cockpit consumes the back on the boat (far left of the drawing). For a sense of scale, the settees and berths are all about 6'6" long.

And here is a drawing of the center-cockpit Alden 50:

I wish this one were oriented the same way as the first, but that would be too easy. Now, the front of the boat is the top of the drawing, the starboard side is the right of the drawing, port side is the left, and the back of the boat is the bottom of the drawing. This orientation is actually a bit easier to explain. The front half of the interior is pretty much exactly the same as in the aft-cockpit version. You have the first stateroom up front with a V-berth, head to port, and storage to starboard. Aft of the first stateroom is the salon with settees on each side (this one happens to have chairs to starboard) and a folding table in the middle. Aft of the salon, everything changes. The white area in the middle of the drawing is the cockpit, so there is no interior there. Port of the cockpit, there is the galley. Starboard of the cockpit, there is the desk/office area and storage. Aft of the cockpit is the second stateroom, and here is where it gets exciting. Instead of a cramped berth tucked to the side as in the aft-cockpit model, the aft stateroom in a center-cockpit boat is an actual bedroom. There is a full queen bed in the middle that can be accessed from the sides (instead of having to crawl into bed from the end), hanging closets and shelves on each side, and a private head. The aft stateroom is separated by multiple doors from the rest of the boat.

I think the interior differences speak for themselves, but to state it clearly: we want a private bedroom, and we are getting a center-cockpit boat.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

But What About….? Part 2 – Furniture

The question about our furniture usually comes up when people are at our house and are sitting on our sofa and chairs. Eric and I are by now quite good at seeing this question coming. It starts with a subtle glance around our living room while a silent inventory of our decor is conducted. Then, a confused look comes across our guest’s face (rightfully so), and they ask, “wait, how are you going to fit all of this stuff inside of a boat?” The short answer is that we’re not. Since the boats we’re looking at have all of the comforts of home built into the design, most all of our furniture and decor is irrelevant. This means everything must go.

Surprisingly, living on a boat isn’t what prompted us to get rid of everything. Once we made the decision to move to Miami, but before we made the decision to live on a boat, we decided we’d sell most of our furniture prior to the move. With the exception of a few items, a lot of what we had wasn’t the style we wanted for the next phase of our life together. The only furniture/decor we planned to bring to Miami when we moved were: our kitchen table & chairs, a bookshelf, and a vintage rya rug. We are extremely attached to all of these items (well, I am extremely attached to them).

Our teak kitchen table belonged to my parents and was the table my family ate dinner around for almost all of my childhood:

Our bookshelf is also a gift from my parents. Although not an antique like the table, it is of the same style, and is both simple and beautiful:

My most prized possession is our rya rug:

The rug is from the late 60’s and was the first item my parents ever purchased as a couple. I have wanted this rug since I was a small child. Now that it belongs to me, I never want to part with it. Sure it has lost some of its fluff, and is probably filled with a small colony of hippie-era dust mites, but I don’t care because I think it is the most beautiful rug ever created. I am bound to this rug both aesthetically and sentimentally. Besides, even if I could bear to let it go (and I can’t), it is not something Eric and I would likely be able to replace later on down the road if we wanted it back. I’ve found only a few similar rugs online (yes, I routinely scour the internet looking for a backup in case something were to happen to this rug), with prices ranging from the high-hundreds to the low thousands. As time goes by, these rugs will only increase in scarcity and value, making ours nearly impossible to replace (which is why I’m looking for a replacement now).

So, although we must let go of items we love, these three pieces aren’t things I can just sell at a garage sale. Thankfully, I have three sisters. My youngest sister has always coveted the bookshelf, so figuring out what to do with it was easy. She agreed to take it before I could finish asking her if she wanted it. I offered the table & chairs to my oldest sister (she is the proud owner of the table’s original chairs), and she graciously accepted. So, that leaves my favorite rug and one remaining sister. The solution is simple: I’m keeping the rug. Like all of my sisters, I love this one dearly and she can have anything else of mine, including organs, but as long as I live, this rug will remain in my home (or boat). Post-mortem, I plan to forgo a coffin and just have my corpse rolled up “HoHo-style” inside of its wooly embrace.

The rug is coming with us. One of our boat criteria is that there must be enough space to accommodate the rug. Keep in mind, this is a challenge because, unlike a house, the furniture is bolted down, so a rug can’t slide underneath anything. Eric has tried to figure out other ways to “showcase” the rug on boats that lack the right amount of open floor space. His best suggesting to date: folding the rug in half. Just a rug folded in half in the center of the floor. For your reference, here’s what that would look like:

Without hesitation, I objected to this absurd suggestion. Eric’s response? “Are you sure? I think it will look really good folded in half.”

Despite his imperfect solution to accommodate the rug, Eric has always made one thing clear; living on a boat will require giving up many things, so for those items we do keep, they should be things we truly cherish. While many of our treasured pieces of furniture and other belongings will not make the move, I’m happy our brightly colored rya rug will be onboard (unfolded) to make our boat feel like home.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Condensing the stereo

I put a lot of time, effort, and money into my stereo system and music collection.  I spent thousands of dollars on speakers, a music subwoofer, high-end cables and wires, an amp, and a separate preamp.  I even ordered a special CD Player from England (that required a separate power transformer, of course).  The finished product was incredible, and I had hundreds of CD's, kept scratch-free in their jewel cases, to enjoy it with. 

Absolutely none of those things will fit on a boat. 

Think of the CD's alone.  A CD jewel case is 3/8" thick.  Not too bulky on its own, but when you multiply that by 200 CD's, you end up with over 6 linear feet of jewel cases.  On a boat, storage space is at a premium, and there is simply no way to justify devoting that much shelf space (which may be most of what is available) to a CD collection. 

And the rest of the stereo system is even more impractical.  My subwoofer is a massive 2' cube.  There is nowhere it could go on a boat where it would not need to be straddled and stepped over multiple times a day.  The subwoofer also has a 750W power supply.  Like space, power consumption is also limited on a boat, and running a subwoofer at the expense of an air conditioner or navigation equipment makes little sense.  For those same reasons--space and power consumption--my bulky, 400W amplifier must go as well.  And, although they could run on a much smaller power supply, my speakers are simply too big for the boat.  Surely they could go somewhere, but they would be impossible to place in an acoustically optimal location, and in any case, they would look ungainly on a boat. 

The space and power limitations do not mean that a boat stereo has to be a bad stereo, however.  The limited space is in a way an advantage.  Because the volume of a boat is much smaller than that of a house, the sound system need not be as powerful.  I need my giant subwoofer to fill our living room with crisp, loud bass, but a much smaller subwoofer could have the same effect on a boat.  Same with speakers.  And because they can be smaller than those required in a house, I can get higher quality speakers for the same amount of money.  What's more, on a boat, the seating positions are more fixed and limited than in a house.  For that reason, I can better optimize speaker placement than in a house, where I have to ensure that the system sounds decent from anywhere within a large room. 

To solve the CD problem, I finally joined the digital revolution and converted all of my music to MP3s.  I did this reluctantly because I was never happy with the sound quality of MP3's.  But I converted my music at the best possible quality with the best conversion software that I could find, and I am happy with the results.  Even on my stereo, which highlights imperfections in recording quality, I generally cannot tell the difference.  The result is that I have condensed my music collection down from over six linear feet of jewel cases to a thumb drive the size of--well, my thumb.  Even as my music collection continues to grow, any increase in physical size will be negligible.  Plus, no more bulky CD player.  No more standalone player of any kind, in fact, as I can plug the thumb drive right into our blueray player.

For speakers, I have decided on the Anthony Gallo A'Diva Ti speakers.  They are small, high-quality speakers with an attractive, wife-pleasing design that will be easy to mount on the boat.  See:

They can mount on a wall, on the ceiling, or in the ceiling, and they are available in multiple colors. I also expect them to sound better on the boat than my current speakers sound in our house.  I will skip the technical details, but they are incredible.  To match, I will get the Gallo TR-1 subwoofer, which has only a 100W power supply and is less than one quarter the size of my current subwoofer. I should have no problem finding a place to tuck the small subwoofer into.

Finally, replacing my separate amp and preamp receiver, I will get a Peachtree Audio receiver.  The Peachtree Audio iDecco has a compact, attractive design, an integrated iPod dock, a 40W/channel amplifier, a quality digital-analog converter, and--most significantly--an integrated vacuum-tube preamplifier to smoothen out the sound of the MP3s.  Take a look (that glowing object is the vacuum tube):

I will write up a final review once we have moved aboard the boat and I've had the chance to set everything up, but my prediction is that, although my stereo system will be losing a lot in physical size, it will gain in sound quality.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Moishe, Our Dog

The smallest member of our little family is our dog, Moishe. He is half French Bulldog (my favorite breed) and half Dachshund (commonly known as a weiner dog). This odd-looking combination of breeds is affectionately called a “Bullweinee.” The name Moishe is the Yiddish nickname for Moses, and much like the famous biblical character, our little Moishe was adopted, although we didn’t find him floating down a river in a basket. We found him sitting in a smelly cage at PetSmart. At the time, he was covered in Demodectic Mange, which we thought only added to his character. We had had our eye on Moishe for quite some time. We would go to PetSmart once, sometimes twice, a week and look at all the animals that were up for adoption. Week after week, Moishe was there (although his name was Jean Luc at the time). He seemed like the perfect dog, but once we decided that we wanted him, we realized that we were about to head out of town for a few days. We decided that we’d head back to PetSmart after we returned from our trip, and if he was still there, we’d adopt him. We stuck to our plan and returned to PetSmart later that week to claim our new family member. Our timing was perfect, as they accepted our application just moments before another couple (and their 6 year old kid who had a sticker on her face) put in their application for Moishe. We like to think we rescued Moishe twice: once from PetSmart and then again from the girl with a sticker on her face.

We have grown extremely attached to our little dog, so we’ll be sad to see him go once we make the move to a boat. Hey, you can’t keep everything, right? Kidding! That was a joke. We love our dog and he will of course be coming with us. He already meets a very important boat requirement: he is small and will not be getting any bigger (well, maybe fatter).

Dogs on a boat are great for a lot of reasons (the entertainment factor is always nice, plus we can trust him to dispose of critters that might find their way aboard), but boat living with a dog will also present some challenges, like, where do they do their business? Hopefully not on our teak deck! While we are docked at the marina, life for Moishe will not be much different than his current life in our townhouse. Currently, we don’t have a doggy door leading to a fenced in yard, and we will obviously not have one on a boat. Just like now, Moishe will need to be taken out for walks and to go to the bathroom. Thankfully, the marina we are looking at is located around the corner from a popular dog park, as well as by a walking trail. If anything, the new location will be an improvement. Only when we are at sea will accommodations need to be made. One of our upcoming purchases will absolutely be the Indoor Dog Restroom (although Moishe’s will be located on deck). This will provide Moishe with a familiar-looking spot to use while at sea, and will save Eric and me from constantly having to scoop poop from places we’d rather it not be. I like this much better than the solution my dad came up with, which was to dangle Moishe over the water 2-3 times a day and hope for the best.

Moishe’s safety is of course another concern (which is why we will not to use the dangle technique described above). Moishe doesn’t have a swimmer’s body (a nice way of saying he has stumps for legs), which means trouble if he were to ever fall overboard. To protect him, we got him a life vest:

It isn't his favorite (as the position of his tail and ears gives away), but with the life jacket, he is able to keep his head above water and paddle towards safety, albeit not particularly quickly. There is no doubt that, without the life jacket, he would sink like a stone. The life jacket is also bright, much unlike his dark coat, so we could easily spot him in the water if he did happen to fall in.

We also realized that Moishe's water bowl would be a problem on the boat. A water bowl would spill whenever the boat is moving at sea, and within the smaller confines of the boat, it is far more likely that we would accidentally kick it over when moving around than is the case in our house. Our solution was to replace Moishe's water bowl with a giant ball-valve water bottle, the kind that gerbils use. Right now, it is attached to Moishe's crate, which will not be coming onto the boat with us. When we move aboard, we will buy a nice teak wall mounting for the water bottle, providing Moishe with the luxury that he craves. We were initially worried that it would take Moishe awhile to get used to the bottle, but he caught on right away (thirst will do that, I suppose). Take a look at him at work:

All in all, our tiny Moishe has no idea of the adventures that await him (we certainly don't), but we are already finding ways to accommodate our little stump-legged friend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

But what about....? Part I - Internet

When most people discover that we are going to live on a boat, they tend to express (either directly or implicitly through their silence) that we are some kind of crazy.  Then the questioning begins.  What about bathing?  Laundry?  Cooking?  How will you sleep and live with the boat rocking back and forth?  And so on.  The point is that when most people think of living on a boat, they picture something very different than what we are actually getting ourselves into.  So this is the first in a serious of posts in which we respond to common questions and disabue our readers of their well-intended concerns about our sanity.

By far, the most common question we get is how we will access the internet on our boat.  An understandable question, given the extent to which we all rely on the internet today.  In fact, Krissy and I rely on the internet not only for communication, work, shopping, etc., but also for television and movies (we use Netflix instead of cable television and DVDs).  High-speed internet access is certainly not something that we are willing to sacrifice in our move onto a boat.  See, we're not crazy!

The short answer is that we can get the internet on our boat the same way that you get internet in your house, and then some.  We will spend the vast majority of our time (certainly every work day) docked at our marina, and the marina offers both cable and phone connections directly to the boat, allowing us to access the internet through the exact same kind of cable modem or DSL modem that people use in their homes.  But that should not even be necessary, as the marina also offers high-speed wireless internet to all the boats staying there, and that cost is included in the price of the slip.  The result is that, while we are at our dock, we will have no problem staying connected to the internet with at least the same ease as in our house.

At times, we will be out sailing, either for an afternoon, for a weekend, or for a longer vacation.  Whenever we are away from our dock, we will not have access to the cable or DSL modem or to our marina's wireless service.  Of course, internet access is generally not so crucial during a vacation or a pleasure cruise (season 2 of MacGyver will be waiting for us on Netflix when we return).  Even so, we will continue to have internet access even while away.  On daytrips or most weekend trips, we will be within 20 miles of shore and will therefore be able to access the internet on our phones.  We will also have a antenna that will allow us to pick up unlocked high-speed WiFi signals for our computer from about five miles away, and we will generally be within that distance if we are spending the night at anchor.  When we are further away from shore on longer trips, internet is no longer as fast and inexpensive, but it is still available.  We will have an SSB radio that will allow us to access text-only email, and also news and weather reports, from thousands of miles away--from nearly any place on the planet.  If higher-speed internet access is necessary, we could also connect with a satellite system, but that is extremely expensive ($1-2 a minute, plus equipment) right now.  In any case, we will always be connected in some way, even when we are out at sea.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Condensing the Kitchen, Part 3 – Mugs

Mugs are one of those household items that accumulate quickly and, for unknown reasons, we form strange emotional bonds to (notice I didn’t say "with," as mugs are ceramic and could care less about us). When Eric and I entered into our relationship we each had a collection of mismatched mugs. Upon moving in together, our mug collection grew even larger and became more diverse. We had mugs with quotes, mugs with school emblems, mugs depicting vacation spots, giant mugs, novelty mugs, as well as our sub-collection of travel mugs. This eclectic collection, of course, was in addition to our two sets of matching mugs (Eric had a set of about 8 blue mugs and I had a set of 4 striped mugs, which in my opinion, were much too fancy to use). We had more mugs than we had liquids to fill them.

The funny part about mugs (and there are just so many funny things about mugs) is you usually have one favorite and that is the only one you use. I routinely hand washed “my mug” in lieu of using any of our other dozens of mugs. Our mug situation was out of control. We lived in a tiny apartment, with little kitchen storage and our mug collection was taking up a disproportionate amount of cupboard space. Of course, we couldn’t get rid of any of the mugs. That would have been crazy. So, we packed up the majority of our mugs and stored them out of sight; keeping only 4 of Eric’s matching mugs in the cupboard.

Then, a funny thing happened. One wintery day, I made myself a cup of hot chocolate. As I walked into the living room carrying my cocoa-filled mug, I suddenly felt the cup portion of the mug break away from the handle. It fell to the floor, spilling its chocolatey contents all over our white carpet and my pants. After I finished cursing at the broken mug, I cleaned up the mess and consoled myself with the knowledge that the accident was a freak occurrence and would never happen again. I was wrong. It happened again, and more than once. Thankfully we had an abundance of mugs in storage, so despite this dark time in our mug history, we were never mugless.

When we moved from our tiny apartment in Chicago to our larger townhouse in Kentucky, we brought almost all of our mugs with us. Since our new place had much more space, all of the mugs could be stored in our cupboard. However, once we started thinking in terms of boat living, we realized the mugs would be a problem. Unlike almost everything else you eat or drink from, mugs don’t stack (at least not our mismatched collection). Additionally, our assorted mug collection wasn’t the most presentable for serving tea or coffee after a dinner party. So before long, we donated our hodgepodge collection, keeping only my 4 “fancy” striped mugs. Like before, we got along just fine with only four mugs. Unlike before, the handles of these mugs stayed attached.

Before long, we found ourselves in a familiar predicament. Our small mug collection was fine for the two of us, but add any more people into the equation and, suddenly, four wasn’t enough. This realization came as Thanksgiving approached. We knew our 4 mugs wouldn’t work for the 4-6 additional guests we were expecting – all of whom were tea and coffee drinkers. The theme of needing more, but at the same time needing less, returned. Our solution? Stackable mugs:

We found a set of stackable mugs at World Market. They had a large selection in terms of both design and size. We opted for two sets of 8oz white mugs. Each set came with a metal holder, which is great if you want to display your mugs on your countertop. Since most boats have something similar already built into the galley, we discarded the metal holders.

Our 12 mugs take up the same space as our 4 traditional mugs, and each holds almost as much volume:

The plain white is nice enough to serve to guests, yet the mugs aren't so nice that we worry about breaking them.

It is hard to let go of a sentimental mug collection, but rest assured, there will be no hard feelings on the part of the mugs. If you are looking for a way to better organize your cupboards, stackable mugs make a big difference (as long as you actually get rid of your old collection).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Choosing a Boat, Part I - Catamaran or Monohull?

This will be the first of what will surely be many posts of this topic. The question of what boat to live on is a complicated one. Choosing a boat to use as a boat is hard enough--it is far more complicated than picking out a car, or maybe even a house. The available sizes, styles, and construction standards are nearly infinite. To make things even more complicated, our boat need not only be a good boat, but it must also be a good house. And what makes a boat a good house very often makes it a bad boat. The result? Let the compromises begin!

The first decision we needed to make was whether to get a monohull (the word says it all--one hull), or a catamaran (two narrow hulls spaced wide apart and connected by a platform called a bridgedeck). Although there are many types of sailboats, all fall into one of those categories (ignoring trimarans--three hulls--because those are not optimal for living aboard).

Personally, I have never been a fan of catamarans. I am a purist when it comes to sailboats. I like sleek, traditional boats.  I like the feeling when the boat heels (tilts) under the force of wind. Catamarans do not heel, and compared to the traditional boats I admire, look rather bulbous and alien.

That said, catamarans offer some serious advantages. As long as they are kept light, they are faster than monohulls on most points of sail (the direction of the boat relative to the direction of the wind). They also have shallow drafts (depth), so they can be sailed in shallow water, which is ideal in South Florida, the Florida Keys, and the Bahamas, where we will do most of our sailing in the near future. So they have some advantages as boats. Catamarans are also much more house-like than monohulls. They have big, square salons (living/dining rooms) over the bridgedeck. The salons are surrounded by big windows and are as bright and airy as any room you will see in a house. Further, the staterooms (bedrooms) are in opposite hulls in a catamaran. As a matter of privacy, this layout is ideal. The master stateroom and other staterooms are effectively in two different boats. Next, catamarans don't heel. In my view, this is a shortcoming as a matter of being a boat. But as a matter of being a house, it is a clear advantage (picture cooking in a kitchen angled 20 degrees). Finally, catamarans have huge, covered cockpits that serve as a covered porch area and can seat and dine as many guests as are willing to show up. As a result of these factors, we initially planned to get a catamaran, my natural aversion to them aside.

In February, we went to the Miami sailboat show and changed our minds completely. We liked the salons in the catamarans. They were as a bright, airy, and comfortable as we had anticipated. The cockpits were also nice. But three things that we had not expected killed the catamaran dream for us. First, although the salon area was big and open, everything else was narrow and cramped. Because the staterooms have to fit inside the two narrow hulls, they are no wider than than the
 beds.  All of the living quarters inside the hulls felt too much like a tunnel for us. Second, the motion was uncomfortable. Catamarans are light, which helps make them fast, but the result is that they have a quick back-and-forth motion. Although we would surely get used to it, it may be uncomfortable for guests, and it would be difficult for Krissy to work on her artwork when the whole house is quivering. Third, because they have much more surface area and must be kept lighter in weight, the fit and finish of catamarans pales in comparision to that on a similarly priced monohull. Whereas as a monohull uses solid woods, catamarans rely on thin veneers and have expanses of exposed fiberglass, giving many the appearance of giant bathtubs. Although there were a couple very impressive exceptions (some complete with suede ceilings), they were far outside of our price and size ranges.

In comparison, we found a number of monohulls that we were very comfortable on. The quality of the woodwork and general construction inside and out was far superior to that on comparably priced monohulls, and they were so big and heavy that you couldn't feel the boat moving at all, even with several people crawling around. Although most monohulls are dark tunnels inside, many of the newer designs have large windows around the salon, making them nearly as bright and airy inside as the catamarans. In addition, the center-cockpit designs that we liked place the master stateroom and guest staterooms on opposite ends of the boat, creating nearly as much privacy as in the catamarans. As an added bonus, because they are narrower than catamarans, we will have a much easier time finding a marina slip for a monohull. Some of the marinas we looked at had multiyear waiting lists for catamarans because so few of their slips were wide enough to accommodate them!

In the end, the choice was clear for both of us. We are getting a monohull.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Condensing the Kitchen, Part 2 – Blender & Food Processor

I forget exactly why we got a blender/food processor combo in the first place. We either decided we wanted a blender so we could make smoothies for breakfast, or I wanted a food processor to use for chopping onions. I really don’t remember. Whatever prompted us, the truth is, we really didn’t need either one. At the time of our purchase, we were both in school and were eating a lot of prepared food that only needed to be heated. Since we really weren’t cooking much from scratch, we really didn’t need many kitchen appliances. Like many impulse buys, shortly after getting it, it began collecting dust.

I’ve never been much of a chef, so once we finished school, I made a point of teaching myself to cook. As I became more comfortable in the kitchen, I suddenly found myself using many of our abandoned kitchen appliances, especially the food processor. I used it for everything: guacamole, sauces, dips, dressings, and glazes. From time to time, I also used the blender for soups – although I usually found it to be more trouble than it was worth. Although I had survived for many years without one, I could no longer imagine cooking without a food processor – the blender I could take or leave.

Compared to a lot of blenders and food processors, the combo we purchased was fairly small. This was great in terms of storage, but not so great it terms of use. You could only make so much in it because it had a limited volume. For just the two of us, this was fine, but when cooking for a group, we really needed something with greater capacity. The same was true for the blender. As we began thinking in terms of boat living, our needs became a contradiction. We needed something that was both bigger in terms of the volume it could handle, yet smaller in terms of the space it took up. The solution? We got an immersion blender.

Our old blender/food processor combo had a total of 9 parts (some are stacked in the picture):

Our immersion blender has only 4 parts (this includes a beaker and lid, which we could probably do without):

The new device meets both of our needs. It can handle an infinite amount of volume (at least for our purposes – I’m sure it has its limits) and it is extremely easy to store. While our food processor and blender worked well, the immersion blender is much more useful because unlike the other two, it isn’t a pain to use. It is easy to assemble (if you can even call it that) and there are fewer parts to clean. As a result, we find ourselves using it for small jobs we normally wouldn’t have considered hauling the old food processor out of the cupboard for, like mincing garlic. The immersion blender is a great tool for any home kitchen, but it is absolutely perfect for life aboard a boat.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Condensing the Kitchen, Part I - Pots and Pans

What will probably be the most significant difference between living in a house and in a boat is the drastic reduction in storage space. The result is that we need to prepare to live with far fewer things than what we are used to, and the things that we do have need to be as space-efficient as possible. Perhaps our biggest source of clutter in our house has been our collection of random pots, pans, cooking utensils, and other kitchen items. So the kitchen is where we began our condensing efforts.

Most of the boats we are looking at (more on that in a future post) will have less counter space and cabinet space than we are used to. Right now, maybe half of the counter space in our house is devoted to supporting various appliances and kitchen items. On the boat, we should be able to have the same amount of usable, appliance-free counter space that we have now, so long as we are able to keep everything stored in cupboards or mounted to the wall. The result is that we will need to store a greater percentage of our kitchen items in less space than what we do now.

Pots and pans were our first target. We started with several pots and pans of various types, almost none of which stacked together in any meaningful way. We also had more pots and pans than we used on a regular basis, so we had substantial room for improvement. Here is what we started with, stacked about as efficiently as possible:

Not bad for a house (we have certainly seen worse), but a different story entirely on a boat. Those pots and pans would consume most of our kitchen storage on a boat, leaving little room for, well, anything at all.

We knew that we would be keeping our pressure cooker. We use it frequently, and it is a great item for a boat because it cooks with a minimum amount of fuel and is well sealed. We also decided to keep our largest pan, which is 14" in diameter. We will be cooking for a crowd at some point or another, so we need to have a large pan. Also, because the big pan has small handles, it is actually pretty space-efficient for its size. Everything else, we decided, would have to go.

We decided to replace all of our space-wasting pots and pans with a stackable set with removable handles. The set we decided on is made by Fagor, the company that made our pressure cooker, which we have been very happy with. The set has 3 pots with lids, 2 pans, and 3 removable handles. Everything stacks together in less than a cubic foot. We also discovered that we can stack our new set completely inside of our old pressure cooker and large pan. Here is a photo of all of our pots and pans, all stacked together:

Now that will fit on a boat! It is not only small in volume, but also extremely space-efficient, considering everything we have. We have a 8-quart pressure cooker with steamer (which also serves as an 8-quart pot), a 4-quart pot, a 2.5-quart pot, and a 1.5-quart pot, all with lids. We also have a 14" pan with a lid, a 10" pan, and an 8" non-stick pan with a lid. Here is everything unstacked:

Not bad! We have been using our new pots and pans for a couple of months now, and we couldn't be happier with it. An unexpected bonus was that with no permanent handles, all of the pots and pans can be easily loaded into the dishwasher. Everything is well made, easy to use, and easy to put away. And, with the exception of the one large pan from our old collection, all of the pots and pans are made for an induction stove. Although we are prepared to make some sacrifices when we move onto the boat, it is nice to know that good pots and pans will not be one of them.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Whose idea was it to live on a boat?

My husband and I knew living in an actual house wasn’t in our future. For various reasons (some of which are admittedly irrational), the idea that one day we’d get a house with a yard didn’t appeal to either of us. It isn’t that we don’t like houses – we do –they just aren’t for us (although my parents assure me a house with a foundation is still in our future). Personally, I always envisioned myself in a penthouse or some kind of loft. When my husband and I first decided to move to a tropical climate, he informed me that since he was a child, he had always wanted to live on a sailboat. My response was something like, “How funny. When I was a kid, I wanted to live in a bio-dome. So, which condos do you want to look at?”

As we began our condo search, I noticed that my husband was also looking at boats. I became concerned. I began envisioning the two of us on some sort of floating wooden shack bobbing around in the water having to make do with hammocks for beds. Then, one day my husband came to me and coyly asked me to look at a boat he had “just found” online. Because I love my husband and because I’m an occasional good sport, I agreed. I could see how happy the idea of living on a boat made him. Imagine the look your child would have on their face if after asking you if they could have candy for dinner, you said yes. That is the exact look my husband had on his face as he began talking to me seriously about the idea of living on a boat. He was so happy and seeing him happy made me feel good. It also made me want to feel exactly what he was feeling. So, I decided to come up with something that he could give me in exchange for my agreeing to live on a boat. I knew immediately what I’d ask for: a Ferrari. To my utter dismay, he said that seemed like a reasonable tradeoff. His words instantly transported me to a state of euphoria. My immediate thought was “Yeeeeesssssssssssssss!!!!!! I am getting a Ferrari!!!” However, immediately following this thought was “Oh NOOOOOO, I’m going to live on a boat.”

Deep down inside, I didn’t actually want a Ferrari (it is true), I just wanted to get something too. So, like any sensible person who had just hastily agreed to live on a boat, I immediately withdrew my previous request for a Ferrari and came up with a new condition: I get to pick the boat. My husband agreed, and after some quick online searching, I settled on two boats: an Oyster 62 and a Sunreef 62. I found both to be of acceptable quality and size. Sadly, my husband did not. His reasons had something to do with “floating palaces,” “millions of dollars” and “you don’t understand how big a 62 foot boat is – we’d need a crew!”

Condo shopping resumed, although not for long. Soon enough, I was whisked away to the Miami Boat Show and after stepping on board some of the larger monohulls (although, not too large), I was instantly put at ease. I knew without a doubt that I could live comfortably and happily on board a sailboat. When I tell people it was my husband’s idea to live on a boat, most ask why we didn’t just compromise on something else. The truth is, I’m not sure what the compromise would be. I wanted a penthouse. My husband wanted a sailboat. What is the middle point between the two? A nautical-themed condo that neither one of us wants? Somehow that doesn’t seem fair. We decided to get a boat. My husband is over the moon, and although I didn’t get my penthouse, I couldn’t be happier with our decision.