Thursday, June 30, 2011
But what kind of dinghy to buy? Like most things boat related, there are many options and just as many opinions. Should we get an inflatable dinghy, such as this one?
Or should we get a hard dinghy, such as this one?
So what do we do?
Answer, for now: nothing.
And, about 90 hours of work (several months) later, finished with this:
Monday, June 27, 2011
In addition to the duplicates you’d expect to find when two adults move in together, since we also keep kosher, we had 2 sets of most all kitchen items, and a ton of dishes. Not including serving dishes, we had a set of porcelain Japanese dishes for parve meals, a set of 4 glass plates for restaurant leftovers, a large set of brown dishes for meat, as well as an identical set of blue dishes for dairy, plus formal china for holidays. We had a lot of dishes.
Right now, we cook only kosher meat at home. Sadly, this has resulted in us almost never eating meat because the only place to buy kosher meat is across town and we are too lazy to drive all the way over there. And, when we do have the energy to drive across town, we are pretty much limited to chicken, turkey, and generally unfavorable cuts of beef. Also, we don’t make meals containing both meat and dairy, and we have separate dishes for both meat and dairy.
For some, keeping kosher may seem like a self-imposed burden, but we like it because for at least 3 times a day, we get to feel very Jewish. On a boat, we knew there was no way to keep kosher in the same way we had been (it simply requires too much stuff). To consolidate our dishes, we got one set of glass dishes. You see, in Jewish law (non-Orthodox), glass is considered to be non-absorbent and, as such, may be used interchangeably with meat and dairy. Unlike our old sets, our new dishes stack incredibly well. Here is a photo of one of our old sets of dishes next to our new set (both should have 8 settings, although the old set is short a few due to casualties over the years):
On the positive side, since our new set, in addition to being glass, is also chip and shatter resistant, accidents, like the one above, should be a rare occurrence in the future.
Unfortunately, we did have to make some concessions when it came to how we prepare our food. For practical reasons, we now have only one set of pots and pans and use them to prepare both meat and dairy meals. We also got rid of our set of dairy utensils and now use only one set for both meat and dairy meals. Thus, although we will eat meat and dairy separately, we will be cooking and eating them with the same stuff (washed in between, of course). We are still going to eat only kosher meat on the boat, but thankfully, since Miami has a large Jewish population, there will be a lot of convenient places to buy kosher meat and other Jewish foods.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Some our bulk purchases have already stopped, not to prepare ourselves for boat living, but for purely economic reasons. It is easy to presume that all bulk purchases are cheaper per unit than normal purchases, but that is not always the case. For example, we used to buy a large tray of canned tomatoes at Costco every month or two, right up until I realized that we can buy them one at a time at our regular supermarket for less. It is definitely worth doing the math on bulk purchases; some of the results may be surprising. In addition, we realized that we were throwing away the remains of some our bulk purchases, either because we could not consume all of the product before it expired (e.g., five pounds of shredded cheese), or because we grew tired of it. A bulk buy that results in some of the product going to waste is unlikely to be a bargain in the end. So, an inability to buy in bulk is not always a bad thing.
Further, not all bulk purchases are too large to keep on a boat. The bottle of allergy medicine that I buy at Costco is still, well, a little bottle of medicine that fits in a medicine cabinet. The eight-pack of cans of tuna will similarly fit in our cupboard, the bulk package of dried fruit will fit in our refrigerator, and the big bag of frozen green beans--while big for a bag of green beans--is not too big to fit in a boat's freezer. So some of our favorite bulk buys are not going anywhere.
Bulk toilet paper, on the other hand, well, it's days are through. It is, to be sure, a fantastic bulk buy if you have the room. It is cheap per unit, and there is zero chance that any of it will go to waste--it lasts forever and you won't grow tired of it. But it is simply too big, much like the bulk paper towels, bulk pop cans (which are often not cheaper per unit than a 12-pack, by the way), and bulk potato chips. So we are going to have to return to the pre-Costco days of buying toilet paper in smaller packages, paying slightly more per roll, and slightly increasing the odds of running completely out of toilet paper at an inopportune time.
So, here goes one last look before we go our separate ways...
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Much like our mugs, our collection of glasses was larger than what the two of us actually needed. Specialty glasses aside, both Eric and I entered into our relationship with our own set of everyday water glasses (30 in total).
Our water glasses remind me of something you’d see in a pub. They are tall but, like the juice glasses, are tempered, so they, too, should be sturdy enough for a boat. Here they are stacked:
The only downside to the water glasses is they don’t stack as compactly as our new juice glasses or mugs. As a result, they require a cabinet with a tall interior. Here are both sets in our current kitchen cabinet:
I was worried that the tempered glass would feel cheap and artificial, but I was pleasantly surprised by their quality. Both sets of glasses couldn't be nicer (unless they were crystal, then they would be much nicer). So far, we are pleased with our new purchase and look forward to testing their seaworthiness in the coming months on our boat.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Earlier this week, we had a power outage in our area that lasted just over 23 hours. As a result, I had to shower without hot water, some of our food had to be thrown out, our house became hot and humid, and we were without the various electronic devices that we have become accustomed to. Certainly not the end of the world, but the blackout was definitely an inconvenience, and we are fortunate that it did not last longer.
In the summer of 2003, when I was living in Michigan, I was without power for over 48 hours during the Northeast Blackout. Power was out in the whole area, I couldn't get gas for my car to leave, and once my cold food that didn't require cooking expired, I had little more than potato chips to eat. That was much more of an inconvenience, but again, not the end of the world.
Blackouts can last for much longer than 48 hours, however. After Hurricane Wilma in 2005, for example, the power was out for over a week in many parts of the Miami area. We were not in Miami at the time, but it is clear that, at some point in our future, we are due for an extended power outage that will cause serious problems...
...for suckers living in houses. You see, cruising sailboats are designed to operate off the grid for extended periods of time and ours will be no exception. All of the boats we are looking at have both diesel generators and engines with large alternators, and most of them have solar panels and/or wind generators as well. With solar and wind power alone, we can run the refrigerator, freezer, lights, fans, and all of our electronics indefinitely. With occasional use of the engine, we can have as much hot water as we need, too, with enough fuel to last at least three months. Throw in the diesel generator, and we can even run the A/C if necessary, and still have enough fuel for at least a week or two. And we will carry at least enough propane on board for two months of cooking. At bottom, we will hardly notice the difference aboard our boat when the power goes out.
But surely, when there is an area-wide blackout, we will still be without phone and internet access like everyone else, you note. Well, not really. With our antennas mounted high and boosted by electricity (which, again, we will still have), we will be in a much better position than house-dwellers to pick up whatever signals might be out there. And, even when we are without cell-phone or internet access, our marine radios will keep on working, so we will always have a means of emergency communication no matter what situation. And, more significantly, if power is out in the entire area such that the entire city is shut down, we'll just sail our house somewhere else. No packing, no fighting traffic, no dirty motels, no stress--we'll just cast away the dock lines and take a vacation (in our house) until the city turns back on again.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Eric and I will be traveling to visit each boat in the coming weeks. Before we do, we’d love to hear your thoughts on which boat you’d pick if you were in our shoes!
Thursday, June 16, 2011
The Sailcruiser is a very unique boat in a variety of ways. As is by now something of a ritual, I'll start with the interior:
Starting with the stern (right side of this drawing), there is first an aft cockpit. The Sailcruiser is a center-cockpit boat like the others, but it has a second, smaller cockpit in the back of the boat for lounging, fishing, dining, etc. The aft cockpit is directly accessible from the master stateroom, which is forward. The master stateroom has a center line queen, a settee, and lots of storage. Attached to the stateroom is the master head with separate stall shower. Forward of the master stateroom on the starboard side of the boat is the galley. It is big and easily has enough room for two cooks. Forward of the galley is the massive salon. To starboard is the dinette, and to port is a bar and entertainment area with room for two armchairs (the Sailcruiser is one of very few boats with dedicated space for regular armchairs). Also to port is a large office area. Forward of the salon is a staircase leading down to the large engine/mechanical room and also a closet contained a washer and dryer and storage shelves. Further forward is a guest stateroom with two bunks and storage to starboard and the guest head with separate shower to port. All the way forward is the second guest stateroom with a queen bed, lots of storage, and a settee.
The Sailcruiser easily has the most interior volume of the boats we are looking at. The salon is also the closest to a real living room. It has a lot of open space and we could personalize it by selecting our own armchairs (which would need to be strapped down when sailing). The Sailcruiser is also a raised-deck-salon design like the Northwind, so it has large windows and is very bright below. Here is a photo of the salon:
The second cockpit also distinguishes the Sailcruiser from the other boats we are considering. It is a nice, comfortable place to relax and fish, and it is also lower to the water than the rest of the boat, which make it easier to get in and out of the water or dinghy. The Sailcruiser does not have a built-in boarding platform like the Northwind and Taswell, but the lowered aft cockpit will make access easier than in the Hans Christian, for example. Here is a good photo of the aft cockpit:
To get a sense of how everything fits together, here is a photo of the exterior of the boat. Note the second cockpit in the back and the large primary cockpit in the center of the boat. Note also the multi-tiered wedding-cake design, which allows for all sorts of room on deck and below but creates a rather bulky appearance:
The Sailcruiser is also unique as a sailboat. Although the boat is huge, the masts are very short--a full seven feet shorter than on the Northwind, the smallest boat we are considering. The result is that the Sailcruiser can make it under shorter bridges than the other boats, but clearing bridges that short is not essential to us, and the downside of the short masts is that the sailing performance, particularly when sailing towards the wind, is compromised. Similarly, the Sailcruiser has a far shorter draft than the other boats we are looking at. Of the three smaller boats, the Northwind has the shallowest draft, drawing about 6'4". Even though it is much larger, the Gulfstar draws only 4'11". Again, there are pros and cons to this shallow draft. The Gulfstar will have a much easier time navigating the Bahamas and other shallow-water cruising grounds, but its sailing performance will be even further compromised. Although the Sailcruiser may be slow and ungainly under sail, it excels under power. It is the only boat we are considering with two engines, which allows for redundancy as well as better handling under power.
And now a brief list of pros and cons of the Gulfstar 54 Sailcruiser:
Shallow draft (4'11")
Two engines (redundancy and may be easier to maneuver under power than others)
Big engine/mechanical room makes maintenance easier
Fiberglass decks easier to maintain than teak
Aft cockpit is an ideal place to lounge and fish
Layout allows us to bring armchairs aboard
Builder is long gone and brand is known to have quality problems
Most Sailcruisers will require frequent observation and repairs to minor structural problems
Interior build quality and materials are generally good, but not equal to the other boats we are considering
Worst sailing performance
Low headroom over master bed
Least attractive exterior (bulky appearance, no teak decks, etc)
Most expensive to dock and maintain (more length, more engines, etc)
Getting old (all at least 25 years old)
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Here is why: in 4th grade, I scored in the 4th percentile on a standardized spelling test. I think we can all agree that is a very bad score. However, in my defense, I didn’t try--and I’m not just saying that after the fact. I didn’t want to take the spelling portion of the test (I already knew I wasn't a good speller), so instead of taking it, I made little designs with the fill-in bubbles (drawing, something I am good at). Admittedly, I am not the best speller, but I’m not as bad as my 4th grade test results might imply. Unfortunately, this test score concerned my family (rightfully so) and tainted their view of my capabilities in language-related subjects. I guess the logic is, if you can’t spell a word, you are incapable of identifying it on paper, and therefore unable to read. So, I got a bad reading reputation early on, and it only got worse as I got older.
You see, I do read. I just read really, really dry books. They are all very informative, but not exactly page turners. They aren’t the kind of books you’d discuss with your friends, unless of course you don’t actually like your friends and want to bore them to death. I don’t recommend most of the books I’ve read because they simply aren’t enjoyable. So, my reluctance to discuss books I’ve read, coupled with my embarrassing 4th percentile score, has caused some family members to conclude I don’t/can’t read.
So what does this all have to do with living on a boat? Well, my reputation as a non-reader in a family of bookworms made me rather self-conscious. To prove my intellectual equality, I began hoarding books (most of which I have read) and displaying them for all to see. I wanted a bookshelf that said, “See, I am smart.” With the help of Powell’s Books (which was conveniently located just around the corner from my building), I was able to build such a bookshelf at relatively no cost. When I married Eric, his books became joint property, and since he was in law school, this meant I was the owner of some really big, important-looking books. I was in book heaven.
As it turns out, no one in my family actually thinks I’m illiterate, and no one cares about how many books I own, or whether or not I read books at all. So all of this hoarding was for nothing, and I was left with a massive book collection, which deep inside made me feel, well, stupid. When Eric and I moved from Chicago to Kentucky, our books accounted for at least 50% of our boxes. After straining various muscles from hauling our books up and down flights of stairs, we vowed to reduce our collection. Once we started considering living on a boat, getting rid of our books became imperative; they are simply too bulky to consider keeping.
You get a lot of reactions from people when you tell them you are getting rid of all of your books, but the central theme is always: “What?!?! How could you?!” Eric and I are certainly not advocating that people remove all books from their homes; however, for us, it doesn’t make sense to have them. We’ve read all of our books and have no plans to read any of them again. Therefore, keeping them serves no purpose (sort of like our DVD collection). Should the urge to re-read one of our old books arise, we can always go to the library and borrow a copy. So, we boxed up a good portion of our books and donated them to the West End School, a local boarding school funded entirely by donations from the community. The school was looking to expand their library at the same time we were looking to get rid of ours, so it was a perfect match.
Now, just because we are getting rid of our books and moving to a boat doesn’t mean we are going to stop reading. That would be silly. To keep books in our lives, we got Kindles:
Eric’s is black and mine is white. We love them!
Kindles have a lot of benefits. The obvious advantage is they can hold an entire library, yet only take up the space of one thin book. In addition, all of the classics and many recent publications are available for free, which is wonderful. We’ve owned our Kindles for almost a year and have yet to actually pay money for a new book. Kindles also don’t strain your eyes because they use E Ink, which makes the screen look almost identical to a page in a book. Also, unlike a laptop screen, you can read the Kindle's screen in direct sunlight, which is ideal for reading on a boat. Kindles also consume very little electricity, which is also ideal for a boat. Additionally, they have internet access! For surfing the Web, a Kindle doesn't rival an actual computer or smartphone, but for light internet use, they work well.
Eric and I (well, I) still have a stack of books to read before we move:
Will I get through them all by August? Doubtful. But, I’m going to try. I am sure we’ll take a few book with us when we move, but once they've been read, they will be donated.
I know there are some purists out there who will insist a Kindle can’t replace a book, and they are right. Kindles don’t smell like a book, they don’t feel like a book, and the reading experience isn’t quite the same. But, unlike a book, we can look up something we are reading about on wikipedia with a Kindle, and for us, this makes them superior.
The layout leaves almost nothing to be desired. The third stateroom is what really distinguishes the Taswell from the Northwind and the Hans Christian. Between the room with bunk beds and the room with the double bed, we could handle any combination of kids that we would ever want, and could even accommodate guests as well. One possible downside is the U-shaped galley. Although it is a nice size and keeps the cook secure while the boat is moving, it has only enough room for one person at a time, as opposed to the linear galleys found in the other boats we are considering.
The Taswell 49 is not a raised-deck salon like the Northwind (although later Taswell 50s were), nor is it a pilothouse like the Hans Christian. The result is that it has no area with huge windows and is darker throughout. The Taswell is brighter than many similar designs, but still darker than the other boats we are considering. To illustrate, here is a photo of the salon in the Taswell, which is the brightest part of the interior:
Monday, June 13, 2011
Despite all of my unfounded fears, I absolutely recommend pressure cookers. They are efficient, easy to use (in my case with help), and pay for themselves. On a boat, a pressure cooker is essential. Under pressure, food cooks at a much higher temperature, which means dinner is done faster and less fuel is consumed in the process. Even more so than on land, cutting fuel consumption on a boat is extremely important. Additionally, because the pressure cooker can re-hydrate dried foods in minutes, while on a long journey, you are less reliant on perishable food items. A pressure cooker is also more comfortable to use in hot weather. Whereas an ordinary pot spews heat and steam while you cook, a pressure cooker retains the steam until you are ready to release it, and that may be done outside without heating/steaming the cabin. A pressure cooker is also extremely flexible. You can cook anything you'd make in a slow cooker in it, except it cooks extra fast. You can also cook dried beans without pre-soaking, make stocks and stews quickly, roast meat in 1/3 time as in the oven, and even bake bread (although the bread doesn't come out with a crust, but rather a skin - like a weird bagel). Overall, the pressure cooker is a great kitchen tool whether on land or at sea.
- 8.8 oz package Israeli couscous
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 can red beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
- cubed raw chicken breast, sausage, or hot dog (optional)
- red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3-5 cloves garlic, minced or crushed (optional)
- seasoning (oregano, parsley, etc)
- salt & pepper to taste
- olive oil for cooking
- Baby spinach (several handfuls, washed)
- Onion (medium, chopped)
- Kale (1/2 bunch, washed and chopped)
- Bell pepper (washed and chopped)
- With the lid off, heat olive oil in pressure cooker over medium-high heat
- Reduce heat and add garlic; cooking until lightly browned (optional)
- If using raw chicken, add now and lightly brown (1-2 minutes)
- Add couscous and lightly brown (1 minute)
- If using pre-cooked sausage or hot dog, add now
- Add chicken or vegetable broth
- Add seasoning, red pepper flakes, and salt & pepper to taste
- Add red beans and tomatoes; stir a few times
- Cover pot with lid and clamp down tightly (follow directions for your model)
- Once cooker is at pressure, reduce heat to low and cook for 3-4 minutes
- Remove lid (there will be a lot of steam, so don't stick your head over the pot)
- Serve hot and enjoy!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
We have decided upon a combination of option 2 and option 3. We will use a service for most all of our laundry, but will also likely have a small washer/dryer combo on board for small jobs & emergencies (i.e. it’s 10pm on Sunday night and we realize we have no clean underwear).
Now, before you go thinking Eric and I are a couple of divas who are too good to do our own laundry, you need to understand a bit about our laundry history. You see, once you have a sense of what my husband has subjected me to with regards to doing laundry, you will understand my request--no, my demand--that we use a laundry service.
I debated whether or not to even address the issue of laundry because revealing our laundry history is both shameful and completely embarrassing. However, I think providing a bit of context is important to fully understand our decision, so I will forgo humility and reveal all.
Let me start by taking you back in time, to just before Eric and I moved in together. Prior to cohabitating, I lived in a beautiful building, while Eric lived in what can only be described as a slum. My building had a doorman and 24/7 security guard, while Eric’s had bars on the doors and a drunken super who stole tenants’ packages. Mine had gorgeous elevators lit by crystal chandeliers, while his building featured dank hallways and crumbling drywall. Upon seeing Eric’s apartment, his father commented “this looks like the kind of place where people are murdered in the hallways,” as opposed to my former residence which provided complimentary freshly brewed coffee and baked goods on Wednesday mornings. So, why didn’t Eric move into my building? Because mine was nearly twice as expensive (a major factor for two grad students) and it was not as well insulated as Eric’s (a problem in Chicago). In general, his place didn’t bother me--I can make lemonade out of lemons. But, his building’s laundry room was beyond awful. It showcased all that was wrong with his building: It was dark, dank, smelly, murder-scene-reminiscent, and within it lurked the building’s alcoholic super (or his vodka-soaked lady friend). As it happened, we never had a reason to enter the laundry room because the machines didn’t work. Essentially, his building had no laundry facility.
Under most circumstances, I don’t mind doing laundry. Dirty clothes go in; clean clothes come out. Not a big deal. What I do mind is when laundry involves more than what I just described. To solve our laundry predicament, Eric purchased a Wonder Wash, or what I affectionately refer to as the "butter churn.” Compare for yourself:
Wonder Wash vs. Antique Butter Churn
Take a look at this video showing how laundry is done with the butter churn. Please note the user in the video states the butter churn is “not going to take the place of a washer.”
Now, in the video, the Wonder Wash doesn’t look that bad. Seems simple to use, right? Well, it isn’t. A more accurate depiction would have featured a weeping wife kneeling before her rusted bathtub on the crumbling, cold, hard tile of her slum’s bathroom floor, while churning 5lbs of laundry in a plastic bucket, as she cries out “I’m not a pioneer! This isn’t how normal people live!” In addition to this sad picture, the entire process involves getting completely soaked by scorching hot water. You see, the butter churn was so wide we couldn’t fill it with the tub’s faucet--it simply didn’t reach. Eric’s solution: make a faucet extension with an empty plastic Dr. Pepper bottle. That’s right--we cut a hole in a Dr. Pepper bottle and stuck it on the end of the faucet in order to extend its reach. Classy. Of course, this didn’t work well because it was a Dr. Pepper bottle and not actual hardware. Water would spray all over the place and by the end of the entire process, a change of clothes was needed (which only added to the problem). I’m not even going to discuss the “dryer.”
Finally, the butter churn broke; however, my joy was short lived. Eric found some wire and jury rigged the butter churn back together. The butter churn limped on, but not for long. Like all things cobbled together, the mend failed and the butter churn was no more. Eric insists I broke it intentionally, but that is simply not true (not that anyone would blame me if I had).
So, for 2.5 years I put up with the butter churn contraption. Thankfully, our townhouse in KY has an actual washer and dryer, thus marking the beginning of a Golden Age in our laundering. I’m not eager to ever see this new age come to an end. I refuse to go back to anything remotely resembling the butter churn situation, hence, option 3: the laundry service. In addition to being traumatized by the butter churn, the advantage of living on a boat is that we can sail whenever we have free time. Since we want to enjoy sailing, we aren’t going to do laundry while at sea (boat washer/dryer combos also aren’t big enough to use for a full-load anyway). We aren’t going to do laundry at the marina's facility while docked because neither Eric nor I want to spend our evenings running back and forth between our boat and the laundry room. So, while paying a service to do our laundry may seem indulgent to some, I believe it is a price worth paying in order to enjoy our free time and get the most out of boat living.