Sunday, October 23, 2011

Signs of life

In a previous post, I documented my plants' failing health. Since then, my once-vibrant houseplants continued to deteriorate:

Woolly Pocket #1: Jade and Mother-in-Law's Tongue

Woolly Pocket #2: Spoon Jade, Holiday Cactus, and Aloe Vera

If you look at earlier photos of my jade, and compare them to the sad picture above, you'll likely notice that, in addition to the plant no longer having any leaves, a large section of its tallest branch has actually fallen off. As this particular plant is rather dear to me (a gift from my mom), I thought its fallen limbs deserved a proper sea burial, so I laid them to rest in the Gulf Stream during our last sail:

Farewell...

What remained of my plants wasn't exactly pretty:

Rotting jade leaves

Shriveled spoon jade

Shriveled and wilted spoon jade

Dehydrated holiday cactus

However, as I began photographing my plants' unsightly state, I discovered something remarkable and unexpected--signs of life! I noticed tiny little buds sprouting from within the cracks of the wilting branches of my large jade:




Two weeks later, these same buds are now flourishing:



This rejuvenation wasn't confined to just the large jade. My other plants, too, experienced a rebirth. Although the spoon jade remains a hopeless shriveled mess, its Woolly Pocket roommates have sprung back to life. New aloe vera stems have begun to surface, and the holiday cactus is looking heartier by the day:



So how did I manage to turn my plants' health around in just a matter of weeks? Simple--I moved my plants to our aft cockpit (out of sight) and ignored them (out of mind)! Unlike some people who have green thumbs, I have what is best described as a "death thumb." Essentially, the greater role I play in the survival of my plants, the less likely they are to live. Thankfully, with my plants located far from the reach of my death thumb, nature was able to take its course and restore my plants' health (at least for 4 of my 5 plants). Proof yet again that I chose wisely in selecting a career that didn't involve either agriculture or healthcare.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Perfect Table

Our dining area (boatspeak: "dinette") is in the same room as our living area (boatspeak: "salon"). It's not only that there is no wall separating the two areas, but rather that they are the same area--the couch (boatspeak: "settee") doubles as the seat for the dining table, for example. The arrangement make sense in terms of saving space, but a high dining table gets in the way of conversation in a living room. Fortunately, Sea Gem's original owners replaced the fixed dining table, which really breaks up the room, with a table that folds and collapses into a coffee table. The result is that, by reconfiguring the table, the dining room converts into a comfortable, open living room.

Here is the table in its coffee-table configuration:


The halfway point:


And here it is as a dining table:


It may not be apparent in the pictures, but when viewing the room as a whole, changing the configuration of the table really does change the character of the room. As with everything on a boat, we need to do more with less, and our ability to use one room for two distinct functions is a great space-saver that does not compromise livability. Also, the base of the table has extra storage space for wine, nonperishable food, etc, making it even more of a space-saver. The engineering is also very clever--it moves up and down on hydraulic pistons and even slides towards and away from the seat (I never really thought about it before, but you sit much closer to a dining table than a coffee table). There is nothing this table can't do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The sharpest knife in the drawer

If you've been following our blog, you know we've devoted many posts to the process of condensing our belongings as we made our move from house to boat. Although we were able to anticipate many of our future needs and condense accordingly, there were a few necessities we were unsure of what to do with. We decided to hold off on figuring out solutions for these items until we were living on the boat and had a better sense of our actual needs. A great example of this is our knife collection (kitchen knives, that is, not throwing knives).

In our townhouse, our knifes were stored in a wooden knife block on our counter top. One of our previous posts contains a picture of our old knife block, so I will forgo posting another (although, I'll save you the trouble of clicking on the link to that previous post--our old knife block looks exactly like whatever you are currently picturing in your head). Since we knew our boat's counter top space would be limited and valuable (which it is), we knew this bulky block wouldn't make the journey to Miami with us.

Once on the boat, our temporary solution for securing our knives was to wrap them in aluminum foil and shove them in a drawer (I'll let you guess which one of us came up with that inventive solution). Of course, not only did a drawer full of foil-wrapped knifes pose a danger for our fingertips, it was also hazardous for the knives themselves. Eventually, we purchased a sleek magnetic knife holder and mounted it just above the sink:


Not only is storing the knives above the sink functional, the placement of the strip also covers a slight blemish on the wall (nothing major, just chipped paint). Best of all, the magnet is powerful enough to overcome any movement of the boat, so our knives stay securely in place.

Unfortunately, this wall-mount didn't work for our entire knife collection, as three of them are ceramic, and therefore impervious to magnetic attraction. Although these three remaining knives continue to be housed in a drawer, they (and we) are now properly protected with the help of Blade Savers (a substantial upgrade from the foil in which they were previously wrapped):


Secretly, I've always wanted a magnetic knife holder, so I am quite pleased with our purchase. And, although storing our remaining ceramic knifes in a drawer isn't exactly the most innovative solution in the world, so far, it is working just fine.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Climbing home

A house is designed for nearly anyone--from a stumbling two-year-old to a shuffling nonagenarian--to be able to move from one room to the next. A boat, not so much. Boarding our boat from the dock can, at times, be an adventure. Even once we are aboard, we don't enter the cabin (really, the house) by walking through a door from the front porch, or even walking through a door at all. We need to literally climb into the boat through a tiny door and down a ladder. Our cabin ladder, or companionway ladder as it is properly called, is actually about halfway between a staircase and a true ladder. If you are good and the boat is at dock, you can climb down the ladder without turning around and climbing down backwards, as you would have to do with a real ladder. No matter how good your balance, however, you won't be bouncing up and down the stairs while carrying the laundry and playing with your iPhone--the companionway ladder requires at least half your hands and all of your concentration!


Although no two-year-old is going to get up or down the companionway ladder, we do just fine. The companionway ladder, after all, is made for adult humans. It is not, however, made for tiny dogs with stumpy legs:


Miraculously, Moishe has figured out how to ascend and descend the companionway ladder. It isn't pretty, but he manages. Going down is best described as a controlled fall: he tumbles down the first two steps and then jumps the rest of the way to the rug below. Going up is much worse. He starts with his paws on the second step, as you can see above, then rocks back and forth a few times--possibly to build up momentum or courage or both--and then quickly and clumsily scampers to the top. He succeeds about 90% of the time. The remaining 10%, he makes it about halfway to the top and then tumbles down backwards to the floor. He's a good sport, though--he wastes little time in trying again until he makes it up.

Here are some videos of Moishe showing off his mastery of the companionway ladder:


Going up...


Going down...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Let the decorating begin!

Before Eric and I considered living on a boat,we knew we wanted to live in a small space. Our plan was to purchase a modest 1 bed/1 bath condo and renovate it to fit our needs (i.e., turn it into a 2 bed/2 bath).

Since I enjoy putting the cart before the horse, I began drafting elaborate plans to renovate (and decorate) our nonexistent condo. Even Eric got into it. He purchased a book about small-space living and drafted a few potential floor plans. All of our effort was, of course, a huge waste of time, considering we're now boat dwellers.

I was particularly excited about the prospect of renovating a home, so once the reality of our decision to live on a boat set in and I realized all of my HGTV-knowledge was no longer relevant, I was sad. Thankfully, one of my close friends and her husband are building a home, so I have an outlet to discuss things like hardware, flooring, light fixtures, etc.

Much like our plans for renovation, the bulk of my decorating ideas weren't exactly transferable to a boat. For instance, I pictured our Miami home containing some of my dad's (huge) oil paintings, which both Eric and I like:


If you're an art-lover, I know what you're thinking, and the answer is, no--Henri Matisse is not my father; however, three of the four paintings above are copies of the famous artist's work. The painting at the bottom left is my dad's version of Edouard Vuillard's In Bed. These paintings hung on the walls of the home I grew up in, and seeing them reminds me of my family. This is particularly true of the Vuillard-inspired piece because, in my dad's version, he altered the subject to resemble my mom. At some point many years ago, one of my older siblings referred to this painting as "Mommy Sick in Bed," and that has been its name ever since.

Sea Gem's wall space wasn't sufficient to accommodate even the smallest of these four paintings, which was unfortunate because, upon moving in, Eric and I discovered that we needed paintings for our salon. You see, Sea Gem is not a new boat and her exposed interior wood has become bleached over the years due to sun exposure. Take a close look at the wall in the picture below and you'll easily spot where the previous owners' two paintings used to hang:

Before

My solution? I photographed two of my dad's oil paintings and had the images printed on canvases that were appropriately sized to camouflage the darker wood. Here they are hanging in our salon:

After

While I have not been able to come up with boat-friendly versions for everything I had envisioned for our condo (like the humongous crystal chandeliers I planned on hanging in every room), I'm glad that these sentimental paintings were able to make their way onto the boat.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ice or wine?

Sea Gem, like all Gulfstar Sailcruiser 54's, has an open salon with room for two chairs.  We have La-Z-Boy recliners, and we can confirm that they are aptly named.  In between the two chairs, there is an area designed to contain one of three items: an icemaker, a wine cooler, and a cabinet.  We have seen Sailcruisers with each.  The cabinet is a bit boring, of course, but good arguments could be made for either the icemaker or the wine cooler.  Sea Gem has an icemaker, and in the end, that makes the most sense on a boat. 

Here is what the icemaker looks like, neatly installed between the two recliners and right above Moishe's bed:


And here is what the icemaker looks like with the door open, filled (well, half filled) with ice:


If you are wondering what happens to Moishe when we open the icemaker to get ice, the short answer is that he kindly sacrifices his comfort to suit our needs.  Each and every time we get ice, Moishe wakes up, leaves his bed, and patiently waits for us to finish filling our glasses so that he can return to sleep.  We certainly sacrifice our own comfort to suit Moishe's needs in many, many ways, so don't feel too bad for him. 

Our icemaker is a U-line model that makes 23 pounds of ice a day.  We don't go through 23 pounds a day, but we certainly use a lot of ice.  Cold drinks are nice, and they are particularly nice when we are out sailing on a hot day (and there are plenty of hot days in South Florida).  Moishe likes ice, too, and we put a few cubes in his water bowl throughout the day to keep him happy.  Even though he has to wake up throughout the day when we open the icemaker, it seems to be a net positive for him. 

The icemaker also doubles as a spare freezer in case our main freezer malfunctions or we manage to run out of freezer space.  Being that our freezer is so big that we have it half filled with ice-filled bottles so that we can easily reach our food, running out of space seems unlikely.  Having a spare is always nice, though, and even if our freezer never breaks, we will have to defrost it at some point, and when we do, we will have another freezer where we can put our food while we wait. 

So, the icemaker gives us cold drinks, a happy dog, and a spare freezer.  All are very nice to have on a boat.  A wine cooler, on the other hand, is not nearly as versatile.  We had a wine cooler in our house in Kentucky, and we can safely say that it does only one thing well--cooling wine.  Admittedly, a wine cooler looks nicer than an icemaker, but sometimes function carries the day.  We can still chill white wine in our refrigerator, and although a wine cooler would allow us to age red wines for many years, having a cooler full of wine that we aren't supposed to drink for many years is something we'll just have to manage to do without.  So far, we've had a pretty easy time buying wine and then drinking it, as opposed to testing our patience by looking at it for years at a time.  Meanwhile, the ice keeps coming.