Thursday, September 29, 2011

But what about...um...you know...going to the bathroom?

One topic Eric and I are rarely asked about (only because our friends and family are much too polite) is our bathroom setup; or more specifically, our toileting situation. Now, just because we aren't asked about this topic directly doesn't mean the subject never comes up. Here is how the conversation usually unfolds:
Inquisitor: "So, does the marina have bathroom facilities for you to use?"

Eric/Krissy: "Yes, it does, but we don't use them. Our boat has bathrooms."

Inquisitor: [surprised] "Oh, it does? Bathrooms you say? You have more than one?"

Eric/Krissy: "Yes, we have two; each with a full-size shower."

Inquisitor: [surprised] "So it is a 2bed, 2bath?"

Eric/Krissy: "Well, actually it is a 3bed, 2 bath."

Inquisitor: "Ahhhhh....3 bedrooms, nice. So, that means...when you...um...you must have running water then, right?"

Eric/Krissy: "Oh yes, we are hooked up at the dock; lots of fresh water on the boat."

Inquisitor: "And then, so....the bathroom...it...the toilets...you can flush them?"

Eric/Krissy: "Yes, they flush. They're like airplane toilets. They have a vacuum flush. Very powerful. Great toilets. We love them."

Inquisitor: "I see...airplane toilets...interesting...very nice. So...once you flush...I guess it just...it goes...there must be...is there a...um...how...you know...afterward--how does that work exactly?
You see, what the inquisitor wants to know is what happens to our toilet contents upon being flushed. Of course, no one wants to ask this directly, as it involves bringing up the subject of latent meal-byproducts, which, for most people, is much too crude of a topic to discuss. Regardless of the appropriateness of the subject, we are happy to share the specifics about our toilets (and are not offended by your silent inquiry).

Once flushed, any and all materials previously residing in the toilet's porcelain belly are sucked into our boat's 45-gallon holding tank (picture a miniature home septic tank). Much like a land-based septic tank, our boat's holding tank must be emptied periodically (albeit, more frequently than an actual septic tank). We have two (legal) options for evacuating our tank:
Option 1: We move Sea Gem to the marina's pump-out station. Once there, a suction hose is attached to our boat, and the tank's "cargo" is removed from the boat and deposited directly into the city's sewage line.

Option 2: We sail at least 3 miles from shore and empty the tank's contents directly into the ocean (something to consider the next time you're selecting a swimming spot).
So how do we know when the tank is full? Easy, we just wait for our toilets to runneth over with waste. It's that simple. I'm kidding, of course. That's disgusting. In reality, we rely on our trusty Tankwatch:


This monitoring system allows us to know how much of our tank's capacity remains empty. While this instrument is helpful, it isn't as visually informative as, say, a car's gas gauge (not that those are the most accurate things around). Our Tankwatch only has 4 levels: Empty, Low, Mid, and Full. How many flushes is it from one level to the next? Well, that depends on the volume of each flush. Unfortunately, since that number varies flush-to-flush, there is really no way to accurately pinpoint when the meter will change from one level to the next. Although I have no idea what happens once our tank reaches maximum capacity, the (horrifying) possibilities seem endless.

In summary, yes, we have working toilets on our boat; however, our inability to accurately predict our holding tank's remaining capacity is a real stinker of a situation. Nevertheless, other than this minor difference, our toilets are nearly indistinguishable in form and function from the kind of toilet with which you are likely already acquainted.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

But what about cars?

I'll be honest. We are puzzled by this one. One of the questions we are most frequently asked is whether we have cars. And we are asked this by people smarter than we are who know that I work downtown every day. The cause, we reckon, is that when people hear that we are living on a boat, they immediately think of retirees out sailing the oceans of the world, not young professionals dressing for work each morning, and they can't shake that initial image. Sometimes, the question comes after a long pause and is posed with hesitation as our situation comes into focus. "So, you guys still have cars, right?" It seems clear that living on a boat is not easily associated with car ownership.

Although we understand the question, it sure seemed silly to us at first. Of course we have cars. We have normal, city-based lives, and in Miami, that means we drive. I drive to work each morning. We drive to Costco and load up on groceries. We drive across the state to visit my parents. We definitely don't drive as many miles as we did in Kentucky, which is great, but we still fire up at least one of our cars (we have two) almost every day.

And possessing and using our cars is no more difficult than for any condo owner. We have two spaces in a covered parking garage located right next to the entrance to our pier. From car to boat, we walk no further than 100 yards:

Distance from our parked cars to garage exit/entrance

Distance from our pier's gate to Sea Gem

It is as convenient as it gets without moving to the suburbs. Really, in terms of car ownership and day-to-day living, our housing situation in general is nearly indistinguishable from condo life. We have a parking garage and a mailbox. There is someone at a front desk who signs for our packages. There is a swimming pool. The primary difference between living at a marina and living in a condo is that, instead of walking down a hallway to your unit, you walk down a pier to your boat. And, in the end, our boat is more or less a condo that moves when we want it to.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cubbies!

I have loved the word "cubby" since I was a little girl. My affinity for this word (as well as the actual thing it describes) started when I was a kindergartener. Growing up, the public school system in my hometown only offered half-day kindergarten. Since my parents both worked long days, they opted to enroll me in a fancy schmancy private school that offered full-day kindergarten, as well as after-school programs to accommodate parents who worked past 3pm.

While I am a big fan of public schools, I have to admit that I loved just about everything about the private school I attended for kindergarten (although, I didn't fully appreciate all of these things until I attended public school the following year as a first grader). For starters, the teachers were extremely warm and caring (also true of most all my public school teachers). They taught us to speak words in French and Spanish, as well as how to read books in English. We leaned to dance (sadly, this was the peak of my dancing ability), and our art classes were held in an actual art studio. It was a marvelous school. However, the best part about the entire school was the cubbies (picture fat wooden lockers without doors). Every student had one. I loved my cubby, so I was quite disappointed when I entered the first grade the following year and discovered that cubbies didn't exist in the public school system. In lieu of cozy little cubbies, students had to put their belongings inside of cold metal lockers. Adding to my woes, when I referred to my locker as a cubby, I was corrected and told to say locker. This marked the period of my life I refer to as the "cubby-less period." Not only did I no longer have a cubby, I also no longer had a reason to say the word cubby. My two favorite things--gone...

...until now. Our boat is loaded with cubbies! We've got hidden cubbies, ceiling cubbies, tiny cubbies, large cubbies, floor cubbies, wall cubbies--we've even got cubbies within cubbies. Not only are cubbies back in my life, I now get to say the word "cubbies" on a daily basis. Happy days are here again.

Out of all the cubbies in our boat, this one is my favorite:

This particular cubby is located in our kitchen, above the refrigerator. Like many things in our boat, this cubby was added by Sea Gem's previous (and very thoughtful) owners. At first, I wasn't quite sure what I'd put in this this particular cubby, due to its shape and location, but we found the perfect items for it to hold:

Yes, this kitchen cubby may look small, but it holds our French press, coffee grinder, coffee beans and two water carafes (one carafe is not pictured because it is currently filled with iced coffee in our fridge).

Another one of my favorite cubbies is located in our bedroom:

This cubby is original to the boat's design (I think), and contained within it are my accessories:

As evident from the picture above, I don't accessorize very much; however, this cubby is just the right size to fit my few belts, clutches, headbands, etc.

Another one of my favorite cubbies is located in our bathroom, next to the toilet (technically everything in our bathroom is located next to the toilet, as our bathroom is rather small):

This bathroom cubby is the perfect shape and size to hold my curling iron, hairdryer, brushes, toothbrush charger, and Eric's hair clipper:

These are just a few examples of the many cubbies found aboard Sea Gem, each providing us with ample storage space for our many belongings.

I used to think the only way to create more space was to enlarge an existing structure. On a boat, expansion isn't exactly feasible, so you have to get creative if you want to increase a ship's storage capacity. It has been eyeopening to discover how much space can be created by carving into existing walls, as opposed to expanding them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

But what about TV?

Yes, we have a television on the boat.  In fact, we have four--one in each bedroom and one in the salon.  We are surrounded by televisions.  Back when we were landlubbers, we never even had a TV in our bedroom, so being able to watch TV in every room really feels decadent.

As far as content, we have all the same options as land-based tv-watchers.  We have a cable outlet at the dock that we can pay the cable company to activate.  Or, we can hook up a antenna to pick up the broadcast channels.  Or, we can go the satellite route.  Our liveaboard neighbors, for example, have a DirecTV satellite dish installed at their dock that they can plug into when they are at the marina. 

We also have DirectTV (honestly, that is how they capitalize it--ridiculous!), but we are not limited to watching it only when we are at the dock.  We are the fortunate recipients of a very elaborate (and expensive to install) omnidirectional, mobile satellite antenna that is installed over the cockpit:


 The antenna is that UFO-looking thing in the middle.  It is surrounded by solar panels (more on those in a future post).  A regular DirecTV antenna needs to be positioned to point in a very precise direction.  That works great for a house, but will not work if the boat moves, either from point A to point B, or even rocking back and forth.  Our super antenna, however, can pick up DirecTV anywhere (in most of North America) regardless of what direction we are pointing.  So, our full lineup of TV channels comes with us wherever we go, even to a windy anchorage in the Bahamas.  It is great.

Better yet, our boat is wired so that all four TVs are wired into the DirectTV receiver.  And there is a remote-control extension that allows the remote to work anywhere in the boat--it does not need to be pointing at or in the same room as the receiver.  So, we can watch and switch between all gazillion of our channels in any room  in our boat. 

The position and direction of our salon TV can be easily adjusted so that we can watch it from the table, kitchen, recliners, etc.  And, for when we are out sailing, it locks in place so that the mount does not get damaged if the boat gets tossed around.  Here it is locked in place:


Our bedroom TV is even better.  It is perfectly positioned for watching from the bed, and since we've never had a bedroom TV before, it feels like we are staying in a hotel every night. 


Both TVs are definitely smaller than the average house TV (and our other two TVs are even smaller), but because each room in the boat is small, the screens are appropriately proportioned and are easy to see.  So, please, don't worry that we are roughing it out here.  We can rot our brains in front of the TV just as easily as any of you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our collective bottom is clean!

The other day, Eric informed me that we needed to get our bottom cleaned. I responded with, “I clean my bottom every day.” My ever-patient husband smiled and said, “Sea Gem’s bottom needs cleaning.” Of course, I knew what he meant the first time he said it, but I simply couldn’t pass on an opportunity to make a butt joke.

Initially, Eric was thinking the two of us would clean the underside of our boat. This, of course, was not going to happen. Not only are there about a million other things I’d rather do than scrub the bottom of a 54-foot sailboat, considering the fact that I am afraid of the underside of boats, swimming around underneath one isn’t something I can do (at least not from a mental-health perspective). Just the thought of seeing our keel from underwater sends shivers down my spine. When I expressed this fear to my father (he, too, was under the impression Eric and I would be cleaning our own bottom), he lovingly suggested I stop telling people that I’m afraid of the underside of boats because it makes me sound unstable. He said I should say I find the underside of boats to be “eerie.” It’s all just semantics, but regardless of my precise feelings about the underside of boats, as long as I don’t look at them, I’m fine.

There were also some rational reasons for not cleaning the bottom of Sea Gem ourselves. For starters, there are tons of jellyfish in our marina right now, and we don’t have the appropriate gear to protect ourselves from a jelly attack. Also, since we aren't certified divers, without the use of scuba tanks, we'd need to come up for air every 15 seconds--not exactly efficient.

Thankfully, there are professionals who scrub bottoms for a living. We made arrangements for such divers to come out and clean Sea Gem’s underbelly and measure her zincs (yet another reason we needed to enlist the help of professionals--I know what zinc is, but I have no idea what it looks like, let alone how to measure it).

One of the cleaning services we contacted offered proof of their work in the form of before-and-after photos. Since this company cost a bit more than others we contacted, we opted to forgo the photo evidence and use someone more economical. However, I soon found myself wondering how--without photos--we would know if the divers came? I mean, I certainly wasn’t going to inspect their work!

Well, I found out how you know if there are divers swimming around under your boat--you hear them! I had completely forgotten the divers were coming, so I was quite surprised when I heard thumping sounds coming from below the boat. Moishe, too, freaked out upon hearing the divers. I could feel their every movement and was completely aware there were people swimming underneath me. If I had only one word to describe the experience, it would have to be “eerie.”

So, our bottom is clean, our zincs are measured, and I have successfully avoided having to see the bottom of our boat...at least for now.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

But what about air conditioning?

We continue to be frequently asked whether we have air conditioning aboard Sea Gem.  There is good reason why South Florida was not developed prior to the invention of air conditioning--it would be uninhabitable during the summer without it.  We both feel that the heat and humidity of Miami summers is greatly overrated.  It was much more uncomfortable in Kentucky during the summer, for example.  But we sure had air conditioning in Kentucky, and we knew that we'd need to have it on our boat in order to make living aboard a possibility.

To be sure, not every boat down here has air conditioning.  If you are using your boat only as a boat, there isn't much need for it, even during the summer.  At sea, there is usually a nice breeze, and we can just open up the hatches and turn on the fans in order to be pretty comfortable down below (as long as we don't run the engines too long, as they put out considerable heat).  But, at the dock, there really isn't much of a breeze, and air conditioning is a necessity.  I suspect that every boat used as a marina liveaboard down here has air conditioning.

We actually have two air conditioners.  They work great and can cool down the boat in no time.  They are controlled by modern thermostats that cycle the air conditioners and automatically adjust the fan speed based on the temperature that you select. Here is one of the controls:


As you can see, the A/C could hardly be easier to use.  It also has a reverse cycle so that, on the few winter nights that it is needed,  it can heat the boat (we haven't had anything close to an opportunity to try using the heater so far).

The only noticeable difference between our A/C and a house A/C is that, instead of having a massive, fan-driven heat exchanger that goes outside (which would look unsightly and compromise function on a boat), our heat exchanger works by sucking up water from the ocean, running it by the heat exchanger, and then spitting the now-hotter water out the sides of the boat back into the ocean.  The result is that, whenever our A/C is running, we have water pouring out the sides of the boat near the waterline (you have to look for it to notice it).  In addition, we need to periodically clean the water filter where the ocean water is sucked into the boat.  If we wait too long and it gets clogged, the A/C will stop working and give us an error message (this has happened twice already).  This is what the water filter looks like (it is in the engine/mechanical room, so we don't have to look at it unless we need to):


In the end, our boat stays dry and cool, even when summer is at is worst, and we stay as comfortable as in any other air-conditioned environment.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

But what about motion?

As someone who spent a good portion of her childhood vomiting in the back seat of her parents' cars due to motion sickness, the question of movement was one I raised as soon as we began discussing the idea of living on a boat. Other people, too, are very curious about this topic. Eric and I are frequently asked whether or not our boat moves and if so, how do we deal with it on a daily basis.

Clearly, water is not stationary, so there is just no getting around the fact that if you are in a boat--even a large, heavy boat--you can expect to feel some movement. So yes, our boat does move. Thankfully, we are docked in a protected marina, so this movement is, for the most part, subtle. Nevertheless, the boat is constantly moving. Even as I sit here typing this post, I am being gently rocked back and forth by the water. It is a very calm and relaxing feeling.

There are, however, times when the boat's motion is much more abrupt (like, when a large vessel enters our dock or when a cruise ship departs/enters the Port of Miami and passes near our marina). These occurrences are rare, but even when the motion does become significant, it isn't as dramatic as you might imagine (pictures don't fall from the walls and glasses don't shatter to pieces). It feels more like a rocking chair at full speed--not exactly soothing, but certainly tolerable.

It didn't take very long before Eric and I were acclimated to the movement of our new home. By the end of our first week, we were both accustomed to the ever-so-slight, yet constant rocking motion. We can barely notice it now--sort of like olfactory fatigue, but for the inner ear instead of the nose.

While adjusting to the water came quickly for both of us, I struggled when venturing onto land. Unlike Eric, who spends the majority of his day in an office building downtown, I spend almost all of my day on the boat. During our first week in Miami, I began noticing that although I felt fine on the boat, I felt seasick whenever I stepped off of the boat and onto dry land. Adding to my troubles, I also couldn't walk in a straight line when I was off the boat! My sea legs had me stumbling around town like a drunken fool (I found myself humming "What shall we do with the drunken sailor?" quite often that week).

After a brief period of time worrying I had seriously damaged my body and doomed myself to a life at sea, I am happy to report that my land sickness has subsided. I am now fully acclimated to both the motion of our boat, as well as the non-motion of the land. I can even walk in a straight line again.

So, while we certainly experience motion on a daily basis, it is, at least for the two of us, barely noticeable.

See for yourself:


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sirius

Before moving aboard Sea Gem, radio was never part of our routine.  I'd usually rotate through maybe five or six stations--none of which I liked more than 10% of the time and all of which seemed to be 90% commericals--on my way to and from work, but only because there was nothing better to do or listen to, and that was about it. 

Sea Gem came with a Sirius satellite radio.  When we moved aboard, we figured that we'd give it a try, look into the monthly rates, and then decide if we'd want to keep it.  The only thing I knew about Sirius is that it had Howard Stern (who, in the abstract, I think is funny, yet I never want to actually listen to him), and that it did not have commercials.  I liked the idea of not having commercials, as that is the primary source of my frustration with broadcast radio, but I didn't expect there to be any real differences in the substance of what is  out there to be listened to.

When I was growing up, we never had cable television.  I knew that there were certain shows out there that my peers liked (e.g. Beevis and Butthead) that were only available on cable, but other than that, I didn't think there was much of a difference between the 4 broadcast channels we got at home (if we desired, we could move the "router" in another direction--cardinal directions--to pick up one or two fuzzy channels out of Detroit) and cable television.  As I discovered when I went to college, however, cable television was a world apart from those 4 network channels. 

The difference between Sirius radio and broadcast radio is even greater.  Whereas cable tv has 100 extra channels, only a few are any good and they all have the same number of commercials, if not more, as broadcast tv channels.  Sirius, on the other hand, has over 100 extra channels and most of them are great.  We listen to several on a regular basis--the Jimmy Buffet channel, the reggae channel, the 90s channel, the grunge channel, blues, jazz, Sinatra, standup comedy, etc., etc.  We also get to listen to all the cable news channels, which gives us all the substantive news we can handle without having to look at the ridiculous graphics or Anderson Cooper's take-me-seriously-I'm-a-real-journalist expressions.  We also get up-to-date traffic and weather for Miami every ten minutes, and the radio can be set to automatically switch to the traffic/weather when it comes on so that we don't have to suffer through the Tampa and Orlando forecasts for 7 minutes.  And, consistent with my initial feelings on the matter, having no commercials makes a tremendous difference in the basic utility of radio. 

It gets better.  Because we live on a boat, sometimes our house moves out of range of our local broadcast radio stations.  Normally, just as is the case with a road trip, that would mean losing reception, finding new stations, or not picking up any stations at all.  But, because it is satellite radio, Sirius of course comes with us.  The channels don't change, the reception stays strong, and we have all the Jimmy Buffet in the world at our disposal. 

So, we unsurprisingly decided to get our own subscription for the Sirius radio that came with Sea Gem.  We listen to it all the time and we love that it keeps working while we are at sea.  For the $10 a month or so that Sirius charges, for us, it was an easy choice.

It gets better.  As it turns out, Sea Gem's previous owners purchased a lifetime subscription for the boat's Sirius radio so that they would not have to pay the monthly fees.  When we bought the boat, they signed the subscription over to us.  So, not only do we have and enjoy Sirius on Sea Gem, but it feels like we are getting free money each month--that fact makes me honestly happy each time I wake up and turn on the radio. 



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What’s that?! Did you hear that?!

In our very fist post, I explained that Eric and I knew a house was likely not in our future, for reasons that were both rational and irrational in nature. Eric, of course, had the rational reasons, while I had the irrational, fear-based reasons for avoiding houses.

Now, for all of you home-dwellers reading this, please know that, rationally, you have nothing to fear. My survival instincts are completely ineffective, resulting in me fearing what is safe and taking comfort in what is not. I am the one with the problem, not you.

I am happy to report that living on a boat has allowed me to completely avoid all of the fears that turned me off to living in a house. Unfortunately, new fears have emerged. To date, my greatest concern is that we are sinking.

During the day, I am, for the most part, fine. Whenever I think the boat might be sinking, I simply look out of one of the ports (windows), and confirm that we are still above water. At nighttime, however, I’m not so level-headed. At night, we cover the ports in our bedroom in order to block light and sound from entering our room and disturbing our sleep. Here is a before and after picture illustrating the effectiveness of the port covers:

As you can see, the covers create an ideal setting for sleep…as well as an ideal setting for fear! With the covers in place, my ability to visually gauge whether or not the boat is afloat is compromised, and I am forced to rely on my sense of sound to determine what is happening outside of the boat.

With the ports covered, only two sounds can be heard from inside of our room: the occasional Lamborghini speeding by and water moving alongside the exterior of the boat. While the sound of a Lamborghini's engine is easily identifiable and requires no interpretation, the sound of water is much more elusive. Almost every night, Eric ends up having to assure me that the liquidly sound I hear (and fear) is caused by water gliding past the boat as the tide goes in and out. His interpretation seems plausible, but I believe the sound is actually caused by water bubbling up the sides of the boat as we sink to the bottom of our slip.

Once the thought of us sinking enters my mind, my over-active imagination takes over. I begin thinking about the depth of our slip and wonder if the mast would stick out of the water if we became completely submerged. If not, how would our marina neighbors become alerted to our situation? Should I call for help? At what depth will cell service likely cut out? Do roaming-charges still exist? What about accessing the Internet? From under water, will our signal strength be strong enough to quickly post an SOS on Facebook? What about the pressure created by the water covering the boat? Will the deck hold? For how long? How much air do we have? How long can we live under water?

Once I’ve worked myself into a tizzy, my thoughts turn to escape. Do we wait until we are completely under water before opening the hatch or should we abandon ship now? What if we are too late and are already under water? Do we open the hatch all at once, or do we wait until the boat has almost completely filled with water before opening it? What household items can we use as makeshift diving bells? So many questions…

At this point, I usually turn to Eric and ask, “Do you hear that sound?!?! What is it?! Are we sinking?!” Eric always responds calmly with, “No, we aren't sinking. Everything is fine.” Unconvinced, I anxiously wait for the sound of a supercar speeding by to confirm we are still afloat.

So far, Eric has been right --the sound is only the tide, but should any of my Facebook friends ever see a cryptic status update from me that reads: “Send divers!” you'll know why.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Folding Bikes

When we left Kentucky, we sold our bicycles. Selling my bike was one of the more difficult downsizing decisions that I had to make. I bought my bike, or at least the bones of it, almost 20 years ago with my Bar Mitzvah money. It was the first big purchased I ever made. Over the years, I upgraded it, and I even motorized it when we lived in Chicago. I zipped back and forth from law school on that bike every single day for three years--snow or shine. Because a lot of effort went into that bike, I was sorry to see it go.

When we decided to live on a boat, we had plans to buy folding bikes. Actually, we had decided to buy folding bikes upon moving to Miami even when we planned on living in a condo. There aren't any hills here, we don't ride fast or far, and the smaller package of a folding bike is very convenient.

We were therefore very excited to find out that Sea Gem came with two nearly new Dahon Espresso folding bicycles. They are full-size folding bikes, so none of those tiny little wheels waiting to get stuck in a pothole. Here they are on the pier in front of Sea Gem:


We rode around our neighborhood (Miami Beach is one of the most bikeable cities I've ever seen) on them today and they were at least as comfortable as our old non-folding bikes. We already have our next bike adventures picked out, and because they fold and can be stored aboard Sea Gem, they will come with us everywhere we go (like everything else we own, other than our cars). They are a lot of fun for cruising around Miami Beach, but they will be essential for getting around some of the more remote islands we'll be sailing to where transportation would otherwise be very difficult.

For storage, Sea Gem's original owners had heavy waterproof bags made for the bikes. The bags can be strapped to the deck and appear secure for nearly any conditions. We've already had Sea Gem in tropical-storm-force winds, and the bags did not budge and the bikes stayed nice and dry. Here is what the bikes (in their bags) look like strapped to the deck of Sea Gem:


If you look to the left of the wooden post, you can see them (blue bags) right next to the main cockpit. Because we enter and exit the cockpit from the other side of the boat, the bikes are completely out the way, yet easy to access when we need them. My sentimental attachment to my old bike aside, moving to folding bikes was one of the most painless downsizes we made. For our purposes (i.e., not bike racing) we give up nothing and gain a lot of convenience.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

But what about washing dishes?

One of the modern conveniences our sailboat doesn't contain is a dishwasher. While having to hand-wash dishes every night may seem like a huge inconvenience, I’m actually completely fine with it. In fact, washing dishes by hand is sort of second-nature for me. Growing up, my siblings and I had to hand-wash our dishes prior to putting them in the dishwasher. As a child, I never understood why it was necessary to clean a dish that was about to go into the dishwasher, since that is the whole function of the dishwasher, but I went along with it (we also had to clean our hotel room for the maid, so this double-duty business was quite familiar to me). Whatever the reason, the practice of washing a dish before placing it in a dishwasher has stuck with me over the years (as has cleaning my hotel room for the maid).

So for me, hand-washing dishes isn’t that big of a deal. It certainly beats hand-washing, say, your clothes. In my mind, the only true downside to hand-washing dishes is that it requires having a drying rack--a kitchen accessory I happen to hate. First of all, dish racks are ugly. I also don't like that, unless you are only using them periodically, you have to leave them out. They take up a lot of space on the counter and are one giant eyesore when they are “off duty.”

When we moved onto the boat, the previous owners had left us a Dish Drying Mat, which is great for drying a few items at a time--especially glasses. Although we really like this item, we felt we needed something more substantial.

I began scouring the Internet for modern dish drying racks, and even found a few I liked. The first contender was this contemporary design by Black + Blum:


It is certainly eye-catching enough to keep on our counter top, but unfortunately, the dimensions of this rack didn't work for our particular space, so we didn't get it. Next, I found The Dish Doctor:


Again, the dimensions didn't work for us, and Eric didn't particularly like the design. Additionally, it was $70, and considering our entire set of plates didn't cost that much, even I couldn't justify the price. The search continued...

Finally, we found a collapsible dish draining device that fit into our sink. It is the perfect size for plates, utensils, pots, etc. In addition, since it sits in the sink, as opposed to resting on the counter, we don't lose any of our valuable counter space (we also don't have to look at it):


The only downside to this rack is that it isn't great for glasses. Luckily, I remembered seeing a unique baby-bottle drying rack that I though would be perfect for that purpose. These grass-themed drying trays not only look nice, their dimensions also work for our space. Here they are in action:


Best of all, Eric really likes them. He keeps walking by them and saying, "I'm so glad we got these! They brighten up the whole room." I couldn't agree more. As an unexpected bonus, our placement of the trays has created a hedge-like boarder separating our "living room" from the galley, which is ideal in such a small space.

What I also like about these grass trays is that they give the illusion that we are health-nuts. At first glance, it looks like we have an abundance of wheatgrass on-hand for smoothies and whatever other concoctions wheatgrass goes into. Just seeing these little grass trays in our kitchen makes me feel better about having a stash of Doritos in our cupboard.

So now, we have an abundance of dish drying options that, at least for the two of us, are eye-pleasing and functional. Here they all are in our galley, awaiting clean dishes: