Friday, September 28, 2012

The Grass isn't Always Greener

In general, there really isn't much that Eric or I miss about living on land; however, ever now and then, I find myself missing a yard--the idea of a yard anyway. I don't miss having to mow grass, weed a garden, mulch, rake leaves, etc., but I do miss having a yard to look at and play in.

Well, I must have been good lately because the universe sent me a yard!

Sea Gem's Side Yard
And what a fine yard it is! Yes, this gorgeous side yard developed overnight and as it floated past our slip, it became wedged in between our boat, our neighbor's boat, and our finger pier. It is a delightful addition to the neighborhood.

Of course, by delightful, what I really mean is hideous. You see, our new yard isn't so much a yard as it is a garbage dump. And of course, by garbage dump, what I really mean is cesspool.

The really great news about the yard is that it has attracted wildlife--birds. Of course, the birds aren't hanging out in our "yard." They have taken up residence on our mast and have turned our deck into their preferred place to poop. We really enjoy having them there.

Helina, Moishe, and I pass the time playing "I spy" in our new yard. Here are some of our most recent finds:

A Water Bottle

A Plastic Lid

A Soggy Orange

Mini Plastic Pop Bottle
A Coconut

Chip Bag

A Boat Shoe (potentially a foot -- I did not investigate)

A Plastic Pill Bottle

General Debris and Organic Matter
The other day, the current picked up and our yard floated away. With it left the stench of rotting garbage and  of course, the birds. We are once again without a yard and we couldn't be happier.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Light and Magic

I recently wrote about an unanticipated boat project: the replacement of our hot water heater.  Although that project went much more smoothly than it could have, at the end of the day (and between removing the old heater, driving to and from West Marine, and installing the new heater, it did take nearly a full day), it was a $672, multi-hour project that left us in the exact same position we were in before the old heater broke.  Not very fulfilling.

After completing that task, I started on a new one--a boat project I had been planning to undertake over the weekend.  This project took all of 15 minutes, cost $13, and after it was complete, gave us functionality that we never had before.  Much more fulfilling.

The new project?  Connecting a wireless relay (remote control) to our deck lights.  When we leave the boat at night, we turn on our deck lights (bright lights mounted on the mast that illuminate the deck below) so that we can see where we are stepping and safely get on and off the boat

Forward Deck Light Mounted on Mast
Unfortunately, we've had to leave the lights on until we return, or if we leave when it is light outside and unexpectedly return late, the lights aren't on when we get back at all.

Our cheap and easy solution to the problem was to wire in a wireless relay that allows us to switch the lights on and off remotely.  The relay (which, again, cost only $13) came with two wireless remotes that attach to a keychain and are no bigger than the remote for a car

Deck Light Remote
Now, we can turn the lights off after we get off the boat, and we can turn them before we get back on.  The range, I found, was good enough--the remote works from about 50 feet away from the boat.

Or so I thought.  While I was experimenting with the remote, our neighbor came by.  After I explained what I was doing and he satisfied himself that I am not insane, he gave me a tip for extending the range of wireless remotes.  You can extend the range, he explained, by holding the remote to your chin while activating it.  Something about your jaw acting as an antenna, he said.  I had no doubt in my mind that he was joking--that he was hoping to catch me holding a remote to my chin and looking like a complete moron.  I did not give him the satisfaction.

But later, when nobody was watching, I gave it a try.  I walked further than what I knew the range of the remote to be, I held the remote to my chin, and--it worked.  To confirm, I tried again without holding the remote to my chin--nothing.  I tried again, this time several feet further away, and it worked again.  I doubled the distance, walking over 100 feet away from the boat, and held the remote to my chin.  It still worked.  After more trial and error, I was able to get the remote to work from the gate to the pier, which is 200 or more feet from the boat, thus quadrupling the distance with my chin.

Give it a try with your car remote.  I can't explain it, but it works.    

Saturday, September 22, 2012

In Hot Water

We've been pretty lucky since purchasing Sea Gem last August.  For the most part, boats needs constant repairs, and Sea Gem has had no major failures over the past year.  Sure, we've had to make a few minor (inexpensive) repairs along the lines of replacing light bulbs, fans, etc., and we've been keeping up with required maintenance, such as changing the engine oil, but we haven't had any major components break.  Part of our lucky streak is not attributable to luck at all, but rather the wisdom of Sea Gem's prior owners, who, through trial and error, fitted Sea Gem out with the most reliable components.  In any case, whether due to luck or wisdom, we've been fortunate enough not to have to make any expensive repairs.

Unfortunately, our lucky streak came to an end this past week.  On Friday morning, we woke up at about 3:30 am to the sound of our freshwater pumps grinding away at nothing but air.  We knew that we had at least 100 gallons or so of water in the tank when we went to bed, and so we knew pretty quickly that there was a problem.  And so I went out on deck to begin refilling the water tank in order to find and fix the leak.  I remembered that the previous owners once had a problem with the emergency pressure valve on the hot water heater, and that caused the water tanks to empty into the boat, and so that was the first place I looked.

Sure enough, the water heater was the culprit.  It was gushing water.  The valve that the previous owners replaced costs $25, so I was really hoping that would be problem again--but we were not that lucky.  The emergency pressure valve had, in fact, opened, but the tank itself was leaking.  We don't keep a spare water heater on the boat (it isn't quite as big as the hot water heater in your house, but it is close), and so the best I could do before going to work Friday morning was cap off the water hose to the water heater so we would at least have a functional--albeit cold--freshwater system until we could replace the water heater.

Friday morning, by the way, was as miserable as you'd imagine.  Awake at 3:30 am, crawling around in the engine room for two hours, a cold shower, and then off to work without time for either breakfast or coffee.  Awful start to the day.

This morning, I began removing the old tank and think I figured out the problem.  For our particular water heater, a 20-gallon Raritan, the emergency pressure valve is supposed to open if, for some reason, the water temperature reaches 210 degrees or the pressure in the rank hits 75 psi.  The valve on the tank, however, had been replaced with a valve for an ordinary hot water heater than opens at 150 psi.  Since that valve opened, my guess is that the thermostat failed and the pressure in the tank became so high that it not only tripped the 150-psi valve, but also cracked the tank, which was extremely rusty and probably structurally compromised to begin with.  In any case, we needed a brand-new water heater--Sea Gem's first major (expensive) repair.

Although our lucky streak came to an end, in many ways, we were still pretty lucky.  Raritan still makes virtually the exact same water heater, and the connections on the new model are in the exact same place.  That is crucial because we have two custom heat-exchanger systems, one for each engine, that connect to the hot water heater with copper pipes that are sized and bent for our precise installation.  If we needed to switch to a completely different model, we'd also need to rebuild our heat exchanger system, and I don't even want to think about how much that would cost.  And so we dodged one bullet.

In addition, our local West Marine had the replacement water heater in stock.  I had feared that we would need to mail order a replacement water heater and be without hot water for several days.  And so we dodged another bullet.

Third, West Marine had a price-match guarantee and will match the price of their competitors.  It just so happens that one of their mail-order competitors has the hot water heater on sale right now for $450 off retail.  The water heater was right on the shelf, West Marine matched the (much) lower price without a fuss, and so 5 minutes and $672 dollars later, we were on our way back to the boat with the replacement water heater.  Overall, were were pretty fortunate.

Out with the old (left), in with the new (right)
But there's more.  I usually estimate the time required for boat projects by coming up with my most conservative, educated estimate, then doubling it, then adding four hours.  I figured I'd be working well into the night in order to install the new water heater.  But, for perhaps the first time ever, there was no doubling, and there was no adding four hours.  The water heater went in with little fanfare in around three hours, and we now have hot water and no leaks.

Lowering the heater into the engine room through the (open) floor
Total cost of our water-heater failure?  Two cold showers, one miserable morning, 36 hours without hot water, 5 hours of labor (removing the old heater and installing the new one), and $672.  As far as major repairs go, we we were pretty lucky.  In fact, I'm not even certain that our lucky streak has come to an end yet...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Baby's First Salute!

Our tiny captain has grown a lot since she came aboard. Although she hasn't quite perfected her eye-hand coordination, that didn't stop her from mustering a salute for her 2 month birthday!

Baby's First Salute
Life under her command is wonderful. We can't wait to see what the coming month holds.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Cure for Colic?

I'm almost afraid to write this post because I don't want to jinx the situation, but I'm going to take the risk. As I mentioned in a previous post, Helina began sleeping through the night at 6 weeks. I'm told told this is quite unusual. Prior to 4 weeks, Helina slept between 3 to 4 hours--not great, but certainly nothing to complain about. Then, at four weeks, she suddenly began sleeping 6 hours at night--much better.  And at 6 weeks, she jumped to 8 hours a night, and she has consistently slept between 8 and 10 hours since.  It is AWESOME.

Sleepy Sailor
In addition to sleeping through the night, Helina also doesn't fuss when we put her down for the evening. In fact, the first night she slept in her own room, she only cried for about 30 seconds (although it felt like an eternity), before slipping into a deep sleep. Now, after her evening feeding, we simply plop her into her crib (while she is still awake) and she falls asleep for the night almost immediately. Sometimes she'll fuss a bit, but only momentarily.

As much as I would like to attribute our baby's ability to sleep through the night to something that Eric and I are doing, I'm pretty sure we just got (extremely) lucky. Both Eric and I are expert sleepers, so it is no surprise that Helina has a talent for it, too.

Despite a possible genetic predisposition for drowsiness, I can't help but wonder if Sea Gem has something to do with Helina's knack for sleeping. Many of our guests comment on how relaxed they feel aboard our boat, and even my mom, who is one of the most active people I know, seems practically sedate while aboard. Other evidence that points to Sea Gem is what happens when Eric and I stay on land for the night--we don't sleep, or rather, we can't (not very well anyway).

This phenomena seems to extend beyond sleep though. I've noticed that, during the day, Helina is extremely calm. Although this may just be part of her personality and natural disposition, I think the gentle motion of the water and coziness of the sailboat promotes tranquility, which helps produce a calm little baby.

So is it the boat or the baby? I guess the only way to know for sure is to bring a bunch of colicy babies aboard and see what happens. Sadly, I'm unwilling to conduct such an experiment aboard our sailboat, but I'd certainly be interested to read the results of such a study if someone else wants to take that one on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Arts & Crafts

Now that Helina has a crib and will be spending more time in her nursery, Eric and I figured it was time to get her a mobile. Unfortunately, all of the ones I liked were much too bulky for her small nursery. So, instead of buying something from a store, we decided to make her an appropriately sized ocean-themed mobile ourselves.

When I was little, I enjoyed fishing--mostly because I was intrigued by fishing lures (I still am). They are bright, detailed, sparkly, and extremely colorful. Essentially, they are the perfect ornament for a child's mobile (particularly if that child lives on a boat).

To make the mobile, we first needed supplies. Eric and I went to Bass Pro to buy the necessary components: lures, a hand reel, and fishing line.

Making the mobile was relativity easy. First, we removed the hooks from the lures:

De-hooked lures
Next, we drilled small, evenly spaced holes in the hand reel:

Finally, using fishing line, we suspended the lures from the hand reel and hung the completed mobile above Helina's crib:

Fishing Lure Mobile
Since there is going to be a lot of fishing in Helina's future, we thought it would be good to indoctrinate her to the sport at a young age. Hopefully, this mobile will do the trick.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Captain Cutie

I spend a bit too much of my time searching the internet for nautical-themed infant and toddler clothing. However, since Helina's closet doesn't have the capacity to hold everything I find, I must limit my purchases to only the cutest sailing outfits.

From time to time, Helina will share some of her favorite wardrobe pieces with our readers. First up--a timeless nautical look.

As captain of our ship, Helina was in need of a proper uniform. This striped cotton onesie fit the bill, and is Helina's go-to outfit for sailing.

Captain Cutie by Carter's
Although many shy away from horizontal stripes because they accentuate a person's mid-section, Helina embraces them. She believes the illusion created by the stripes counterbalances her humongous head (a feature she admits makes her a bit self-conscious).

While this is a classic nautical look, Helina broke with tradition by letting her diaper peek through the leg holes. (Personally, I find the exposed diaper look to be a bit dated. Very 2001.)

Helina completes her ensemble with a rather unconventional pairing--cowboy boots. While not the best choice for walking on-deck, these western favorites help Helina keep her crew in line. Nothing silences a mutinous sailor like a swift kick in the butt by a chubby baby leg wielding a pair of cowboy boots.

Helina may look intimidating in her captain's outfit, but she doesn't take herself too seriously. The crab applique covering her rear end lets her crew know that although she is tough, she still has a sense of humor:

Crabby Bottom

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Isaac Recap

Krissy recently wrote about our preparations for Isaac, Helina's first hurricane.  In truth, Isaac struck as only a tropical storm and did not become a Hurricane until after it had passed South Florida and crossed the Gulf of Mexico, and so Helina will need to continue waiting for her first hurricane.  Still, because Isaac was a named storm and because we shared everything we did in advance of the storm, I thought it appropriate to share our experience during and after Isaac.

First, yes, we stayed aboard Sea Gem during Isaac.  The high-rise condos on the east side of the marina blocked the worst of Isaac's winds, and the highest gust we recorded was 60 knots.  (Awfully strong, but not nearly enough to ruin our day).  Because the marina is protected, there was no room for waves to build up, and Sea Gem remained comfortable.  There was more movement than a typical day in the marina, for sure, but no rougher than a typical night at anchor.  I think that if we are hit by a true hurricane, we will stay with a friend on land or find a hotel, but we won't have any problem deciding to stay aboard Sea Gem during another tropical storm.

Second, no, we didn't suffer any damage.  We spent several hours preparing Sea Gem for the worst (removing canvas, adding fenders and lines, etc), and the result is that Sea Gem was, if anything, over-prepared when the worst never arrived.  Some of our neighbors lost their canvas awnings because they did not remove them in advance, and one of our neighbors suffered some serious deck damage: a cleat pulled right out of the deck, leaving a hole behind.  Torn canvas is, of course, easily avoidable by removing the canvas before the storm hits.  The disappearing cleat was likely more an issue with poor boat construction than anything else, but that can be mitigating by using dock lines with more "stretch" and not tying more than one line to a single cleat to spread the load.

We were actually more afraid of damaging the marina's property than our own.  Based on where the strongest winds were coming from, we knew that we would be putting a lot of strain on a single wooden piling that we were tied to.  Breaking the piling was thus a real possibility and would have been expensive to repair.  Fortunately, the piling held strong and both Sea Gem and our wallet escaped Isaac unscathed.

Well, probably sort of.  Isaac might have destroyed our GPS antenna, which was not working when we went sailing last weekend, our first sail after the storm passed.  The antenna was old and the timing of its passing could have just been a coincidence, but I do know that it worked before Isaac and was not working after Isaac.  Fortunately, the replacement cost only $25, and so determining blame does not merit any effort: we won't be filing any insurance claims this time around. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Most people don't imagine that there is enough space aboard our boat to accommodate two adults, let alone anyone else, so it is of no surprise that we are often asked about where the baby sleeps. Thankfully, unlike adults, infants aren't picky about where they sleep (at least ours isn't). Helina possesses the ability to fall asleep nearly anywhere, regardless of her surroundings or location. Not only can she fall sleep in unusual places, she stays asleep while in positions so contorted and dramatic that even the most experienced yogi would find them impossible to master.

We, of course, have taken full advantage of Helina's seeming indifference to her nighttime accommodations. For the past several weeks, Helina has been sleeping (in her bouncer) on a dresser top in our stateroom. Yes, you read that correctly--our baby has been sleeping on what is essentially a counter top. The co-sleeper we bought terrified us too much to use it more than a few nights, and since Helina was sleeping so well in her bouncer, we figured we'd leave her in it for the night (and before you condemn us, please note that our baby started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks).

Sadly, like all good things, counter-top sleeping too must end. Helina has grown too large to continue sleeping on our dresser top. So, this weekend, Helina got an upgrade--or rather, her nursery did. I know it doesn't seem possible, but we have somehow managed to stuff a crib into Sea Gem's smallest stateroom:

Graco Travel Lite Crib
After seeing the same model assembled in the store, I assumed we'd need to employ the dark arts in order to get it to fit inside her room. However, as it turned out, we only needed a screwdriver. If you look closely at the picture above, you'll notice that the door to Helina's room has been removed. What you won't notice (because I have strategically cropped the image) is the door's temporary resting place--the top bunk.

For the most part, this compact crib is perfect for our small nursery. In fact, the only downside (aside from absent door) is that the crib's placement obstructs the entrance to the room. Is this a problem? Only if you aren't flexible, but thankfully, we're limber enough to make it work.