Monday, January 30, 2012

But what about cooking?

Many people are surprised to know that not only do we have a kitchen (galley) on our boat, but what we have is large and fully functional. In no way do I mean to suggest our galley is comparable to the gourmet kitchens found in suburban homes; however, it is larger than the size of kitchen you’d likely find in a NYC apartment. Is a NYC apartment the best measure of comfort or desirability? No, but we feel pretty good about it.

Here is our galley:

During our last months living on land, Eric and I prepared for boat-living by making do with less (while we still had more). In the kitchen, this meant we used only a small portion of our available counter top and refrigerator space. While this exercise proved painless, once aboard Sea Gem, we soon realized it had been unnecessary. Sea Gem has plenty of counter top space, as well as an abundance of refrigeration and freezer space. Food storage and preparation on-board Sea Gem is just as easy as in a land-based kitchen.

So what appliances do we have to cook with? All of the standards: stove, oven, and microwave.

Unlike many stoves found aboard boats, our stove has 4 electric burners (most boats have a 2-3 burner gas stove). The best part about our stove, however, has nothing to do with its functionality. The BEST part is that our stove is famous! Well, not exactly; however, the exact same model was featured on the set of The Golden Girls (a show Eric and I happen to love):

We've considered replacing our current stove with a more modern version, but when your stove has the kind of pedigree that our stove has -- you think twice!

In addition to stove-top cooking, we also have a convection-oven/microwave combo that allows us to bake, roast, and microwave. Here it is baking some veggie spring rolls:

It looks like an ordinary microwave, but it is so much more. This type of appliance is great for a boat galley (or small kitchen) because it functions independently as both a microwave and oven. Our convection combo has baked cakes, roasted chicken, and nuked leftovers. Additionally, our model's interior is substantially larger in volume than what most boat ovens offer (at some point in the future, Thanksgiving Dinner will be cooked and eaten aboard Sea Gem).

So yes, we cook--not every night--but we definitely do.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Activated Charcoal, Quietly Separating Living from Camping

When we began to consider living on a boat, we realized that we weren't willing to make too many sacrifices in order to make the thought a reality. Most of the time I spent on boats in the past was much closer to camping than it was to living in a house. Although camping works for a few weeks at a time, we knew that our level of comfort had to be much closer to that found in a house in order for us to be comfortable on a boat all day, every day.

One fantastic item that helps us stay comfortable is something that, by design, never makes its presence known: activated charcoal, the stuff that makes filters, such as water filters, air filters, etc., "filter." Most people that have spent time vacationing on boats (or camping at campgrounds) are probably quite familiar with plastic-tasting water and stinky toilets/outhouses. Those are two anti-comforts that everyone can live with for a few days in order to enjoy the great outdoors, but probably not what many people would appreciate living with every day in their homes.

We, too, are unwilling to drink plasticy water and pinch our noses when we use the bathrooms in our home, and, thankfully, we don't have too--all because of activated charcoal.

We have two water filters on our boat, one that filters the water that goes into our ice maker and a second that filters our drinking water. The result is great tasting water (and ice) that you would never guess came from a 25-year-old, fiberglass water tank.

We also recently added an air filter to our holding tank vent line. Although our marine toilets are the type that smell the least (freshwater, vacuum flush), we were still catching some occasional odors when our tank approached full. Now, thanks to the activated charcoal, even those occasional smells are a thing of the past.

The lesson? Many of things that make a boat the most comfortable are not the luxuries you see (such as microwaves and television) but those you don't.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

They're Alive!

My former victims are doing rather well these days. The burgundy tint of my jade's leaves means only one thing - it's alive! Although my plants are not even close to resembling their former selves, they are making progress in their quest to once again resemble actual living plants:

The jade isn't the only one of my plants showing significant signs of improvement. Over the course of the last week, my holiday cactus demonstrated its heartiness by giving off a few delicate blooms:

Granted, the timing of my recovering holiday cactus is a bit out-of-sync with the holidays; however, I will overlook this minor detail. The fact that this once-wilted plant can produce even a single blossom (let alone several) is in itself a cause for celebration.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Blow Boreas, blow

Although I've never been much of a religious person, since moving aboard Sea Gem, I've found myself saying silent prayers to Boreas, who is responsible for the harsh, north winds of the winter and is one of the Ancient Greeks' four distinct wind gods. The Ancient Greeks were rather thorough when it came to thinking up gods - probably the result of having no television or internet to occupy their time. They seem to have had a god for nearly every naturally occurring phenomenon. Very elaborate. Very detailed. Very glad I'm Jewish.

In general, I appreciate the wind. It allows our boat to sail, makes pinwheels spin, and provides me with a perfect scapegoat for a bad hair day. In general, I also like sleeping on a boat. In fact, sleeping on a boat is one of the best things about living on a boat (I don't think Eric or I have ever slept so peacefully). That being said, neither of those statements applies during Boreas' busy season (which is occurring now).

It is hard to explain what it is like sleeping on a boat in the winter when the wind is rough. You'd think the movement would be the worst part, but you'd be wrong. The worst part is actually the noise (not the sound of the wind itself, but rather the sound of the water pounding against our hollow, fiberglass boat). Describing the sound and force of the water against our boat is difficult, but I can assure you it is absolute torture when you are trying to sleep. When the noise level becomes unbearable, I begin praying to Boreas for respite (well, it isn't so much praying as it is me having an internal dialogue with myself in which I pass through the stages of grief).

First comes denial. This stage only lasts for a few moments, and isn't so much actual denial, but rather the confusion that comes with being half awake and legitimately clueless as to what is going on. Once I get my bearings, I quickly descend into anger, which is typically accompanied by a dash of whining. I usually alert Eric to my feelings at this point. Next comes bargaining. This is when I lay in bed, wide awake, and make veiled threats to Boreas, which are immediately followed by half-hearted apologies and semi-legitimate offers to spread awareness about his existence (it's my bad cop/slightly better cop routine). This is usually the point at which Eric hands me a pair of earplugs and I fall back asleep before ever having to officially close any deals with Boreas.

Soon enough the winds will change, and I won't have to contend with Boreas' temperamental ways. Although I'm fairly certain he isn't reading this blog, I'm hoping word of it reaches him, and he graces me with at least a month's worth of restful nights in return. Until then, I have my earplugs standing by.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Choosing a Marina

When we first decided to live on a boat, we spent some time visiting various marinas to help us decide where to keep our boat.  Because we both have office jobs, a marina is a necessity for us.  We could certainly save some money by keeping our boat at anchor and taking a dinghy to shore, but I'd prefer not to show up at work each morning covered in salt and smell.  So, for as long as we are chained to a regular work environment, we will be keeping our boat at a marina.

So, how do you choose a marina?  Some selection criteria are easy enough: what neighborhood we'd prefer to live in, for example.  Indeed, in many ways, choosing a marina is no different than choosing a house or condo.  What is within walking distance?  How is the commute to and from work?  Crime?  Cost?  You get the idea.

Other criteria are specific to living on a boat, and in that regard, we really did not know what we were doing.  In some ways we got lucky, and in other ways our situation is less than ideal.  Here are some things to look for:

1. Docking: How do you get the boat in and out of the slip?  Is there enough room to turn around?  How much room for error?  How strong is the tidal current?

Because we had no experience with a 54' boat when we moved aboard Sea Gem, ease of docking was very much on our minds when we picked our marina.  We have more than enough room to turn the boat into the slip and dock.  However, our marina has a very strong tidal current at times, and we need to time our exits and entries accordingly.  Tidal current is not something that was on our minds before.

2. Boarding: How do you get on and off the boat?  Is there a finger pier?  Is it long enough to reach your gate?  Do you need to back in?

We picked a slip that we could pull forward into and have the finger pier on the side of the boat with our boarding gate and entry into the cockpit and cabin.  Seems simple enough.  But our finger pier comes at least ten feet short of the entry way, so we need to step over the lifelines and we cannot attach our boarding ladder where we board.  Measurements are important.

3. Comfort: How protected is the marina from prevailing winds?  From boat wake?

We visited marinas in the summer, when winds are calm and from the south, and boat traffic is minimal.  At that time, our marina seemed well protected from wind and waves.  Now that it is winter, however, we realize that we were a bit myopic.  In the winter, winds are strong and from the north, and boat traffic is heavy.  Although we were well protected from south winds, we have almost no protection from northern winds.  The result is that, when the wind picks up, the boat can get pretty uncomfortable at times.  Know the local conditions.

Overall, we like our marina.  The location is great, we have covered garage parking, and everyone is friendly.  But if we had to do it over again, we'd probably be elsewhere.  Of course, one of the biggest advantages of living on a boat is that it is easy to move...  Nothing planned for the immediate future, but stay tuned!