Friday, December 27, 2013

Nightmare on All Streets

People seem truly baffled by the fact that we are raising a child aboard a boat. We encounter a lot of confusion and genuine curiosity about how (and why) we are doing it. (Where does the baby sleep? What about her toys?). In the end, I have no doubt that, after discussing our baby-on-board lifestyle with people, many suspect we're a bit "off" in terms of our mental stability. Fair enough, but however crazy you might think we are, I can now, with confidence, say that I feel the same way about you if you are, in fact, someone who has elected to raise a child in a house (unless your house has only one room...if that is the case, you're golden).

We recently spent some time with Helina at her grandparents' house, which allowed me to experience what it would be like to raise and wrangle a toddler in an actual house. I have to say, after comparing the two dwellings, there is no way I would willingly choose a house over a boat.

House nightmare number 1: Staircases

Based on Helina's short stature, a traditional staircase is the equivalent of a mini mountain--one that beckons her to scale its Berber-coated terrain. While at her grandparents' house, a good deal of my time is spent either carting Helina up and down the staircase or spotting her while she crawls up the steps. I also spend every other moment in which I am not doing one of the aforementioned activities worrying about whether or not Helina is climbing the stairs without my knowledge. I guess that is why those rickety little gates were invented (I sure do hate those ugly little gates).

House nightmare number 2: Pools

I know, I know. It it both illogical and inconsistent for me to be concerned about swimming pools given the fact that our home is literally surrounded by (and partially submerged in) water, but I am. Much like staircases, swimming pools call my child's name. Although she is completely dismissive of--perhaps even bored by--the water in our marina, she has an uncontrollable urge to touch pool water, feel its lukewarmness, and smell its chlorine. Here she is directing a rescue mission to save a darling little "oc-ta" (aka a floating chlorine dispenser resembling Helina's octopus bath toy) that, tragically, managed to strand itself within the waters of a residential pool.

Mission Impossible
House nightmare number 3: Kitchens (more specifically, kitchen cabinets, drawers, and cupboards)

If you ever want an experience that is equal parts mind-numbing and blood-boiling, lock yourself in a kitchen with a 17-month old. It is awful. Here is how it will likely unfold:

You: No.
You: Stop.
You: STOP!
You: Don't do that.
You: No.
You: NO!
You: Stop.
You: S-TOP!
You: Why are you doing that?
You: Why are you doing that?
You: Don't touch that!!
You: That belongs to the dog.
You: Do NOT eat that!
You: That is truly disgusting.
You: I can't believe you just ate that.
You: I'm gonna be sick.
You: No.
You: Do not touch that!
You: Hot!
You: HOT!
You: Hot, I said Hot!
You: [mumbled] I told you it was hot...
You: No touch.
You: NO touch!
You: Dear god.
You: DEEEEARRR GOD!!!!!!!!!!!
You: No.
You: No.
You: No.
You: I said NO!
You: Stop.
You: Stop.
You: Stop that.
You: Stop touching that!!!!!!!!!
You: You are making mommy crazy!!!!

This scenario has never once happened in our galley.

House nightmare number 4: Space

I always tell people that the only luxury we don't have aboard our boat is space (well, that, and a dishwasher). I will never again make such a comment, as I no longer view space as a luxury. Quite the opposite. Space is actually a major source of worry. Whenever we are in a house with Helina, I constantly find myself asking, "Where's Helina? Where's Helina?" In a blink of an eye, she is able to magically disappear. On our boat, we never have this problem. I always know where my child is and I always know she is safe.

Thankfully, when we're at Helina's grandparents' house, there are two additional sets of eyes watching her (although we could use about 10 additional sets on top of those, plus a few cameras, heat sensors, bells, and whistles).

Needless to say, we won't be buying a house anytime soon. And, now that I know what I'm missing, I strongly encourage new parents to consider adding "boat" to their registry.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tying it Together

When I think of true adults, I think of people whose children's rooms look like this:

Not My Home...
I am not an adult. 

The room I decorated for my child in no way resembles what is pictured above. Helina's room has over 8 dozen colors, many of which clash (harshly, I might add). Other than a generally juvenile feel, there is no real theme to the decor. I attempted to keep her room nautical in nature, but it has morphed into a psychedelic under-the-sea mash-up of octopi, turtles, baby dolls, angles, pirates, and mermaids. 

Despite the lack of cohesion happening in Helina's room, I found something to tie it all together--a rug:

Li Mo Hipster Funky Kids Rug
The quasi paisley print looks a bit like splashing water, which works well with the sea(ish) theme of Helina's room. And, just like the room's interior, the rug's dominant colors of blue and purple are paired with a seemingly senseless mix of other shades that have no business being together.

Somehow, it all works though:

Helina's Quarter Cabin

Monday, December 16, 2013


In a previous post, I mentioned that Eric and I rotate Helina's modest collection of toys and books to ensure she always has something "new" at her fingertips.

When Helina was a baby, the majority of her toys were plush, and most all of them were relatively small (or could at least be tucked out of the way). As Helina morphed from baby to toddler, her toys, too, have evolved. Compared to her baby toys (most of which are now off the boat), Helina's toddler toys are much bulkier. This is concerning because our storage space is both fixed and limited. Although Helina's assortment of toys is modest compared to that of her toddler friends, she has more than enough stuff to keep her entertained:

Helina's Current Collection
And where do we store this smorgasbord of bulk? Believe it or not, most everything in the picture above fits (with room to spare) in the same cupboard that housed Helina's baby toys:

A few of her smaller toys reside in a little cupboard that also houses a small portion of Helina's book collection:

Tiny Storage Space
In addition to all of her everyday toys, Helina also has several bath toys. Unfortunately, because Helina bathes in our shower, our master head (bathroom) has become the de facto dumping ground for her bath-time toys:

There are few things I detest more than little kids' toys cluttering up a master bath, but fortunately for us, Helina doesn't have many bath-time toys (which makes sense considering she doesn't really have a bathtub).

I'm not sure what the next iteration of age-appropriate toys will look like (size-wise), but I'm hopeful that we can figure out a way to cram them inside the toy cupboard.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Boat Math

I once came up with a rule of thumb for estimating the amount of time it takes a complete a repair or installation task on a boat.  First, think the task through, step by step, and by conservatively estimating the amount of time required for each step, estimate the total amount of time required to complete the task.  Second, double that.  Third, add four hours.

Why would a  repair take so much longer on a boat than in a house?  The short answer is that, on a boat, everything that could go wrong goes wrong.  The longer answer is that, on a boat, you are working in tight spaces, the construction is much more robust (and thus more difficult to dissect), and you never really know what is lurking beneath the surface, waiting to cause problems once discovered.

Foolishly, after a few recent projects went more smoothly than expected, I ignored that rule when I estimated how much time it would take to tear our old freezer box out of the cabinetry so that the new freezer, which had been on the floor of the salon since we bought it, could be dropped into place and wired in.  I gave myself three hours.  Krissy took Helina to run some errands to keep her away from fiberglass dust, etc., and I asked her to return three hours later.

When she returned, 4 hours had passed (I begged for more time due to an unanticipated trip to the hardware store), and I wasn't even half done.

So how long did it take to finish the job?  3 hours times two plus four equals ten hours.  And, sure enough, it took ten hours.  Ten hard, painful hours.  But that was only the beginning.

The remaining steps, dropping in the new freezer and installing the wiring, I did not think would even take one hour, total.  But, I should have known that 1 times two plus four equals six hours.  And, yes, it took six hours.

The wiring was no more difficult than I anticipated, but dropping the freezer into place was grueling.  The freezer was a much tighter fit than expected, and it had to be finessed into place, pausing only to strip off as many obstructions from the freezer and surrounding cabinetry as possible.  In the end, I did not have one millimeter to spare. 

Tight Fit
One more millimeter in height or width, and the freezer would not have fit.  But, after 16 total hours of awful labor, it did. 

6 Inches Under
Mission accomplished.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


My vintage rya rug is disappearing right before my tear-filled eyes. It is truly horrifying (to me, anyway). I have been assured that, back when my particular rug was new, it was quite lush, and although this state of fullness occurred well before my time, through the magic of the internet, I have located a like-new version of the same rug and confirmed that, yes, it was, in fact, quite fluffy. Here is what it once likely resembled:

Not My Rug
My rug has no where near the volume as the rug pictured above. In fact, I'd go so far as to say my rug is balding (and not balding à la Patrick Stewart--think mangy alley cat). This is because that, in addition to the rug being 40(ish) years old, for the past 2 years, we've subjected it to ongoing abuse by having it lay across the most heavily traversed part of the boat.

To combat the consequences of intense use, I've been grooming the rug in a rather unorthodox manner, with the hope that my beloved heirloom might magically return to its Mid-Century plumpness. More specifically, I've been crawling around on my hands and knees, meticulously combing the matted wool with a baby comb intended for Helina's head. While I understand that this technique ventures into crazy-cat-lady territory, short of buying a new (old) rug, I'm not really sure what other options I have for getting my rug to look like the one pictured above.

The downside to re-fluffing the rug in this manner is that, in addition to feeling like a bit of a weirdo, I'm directly contributing to the root cause of the problem itself--wool loss. Each combing session results in a significant pile of wool fibers being removed from the rug (which I think resemble fuzzy bacon):

The Departed
Even without combing the rug, it expels fibers on a daily basis, but not at the rate implied by the picture above. As Eric noted upon seeing my last pile of "bacon," an appreciable percentage of the rug is disappearing with each grooming session. Despite the rather grim implication, I'm too addicted to the immediate result to stop: 

Post Combing - Fluffy
For now, the combing technique is helping breathe a bit of life into the old rug, but I'm not sure how long it will last (and I mean that quite literally). 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Domesticate Me

As I mentioned in a previous post, a lot has been going on aboard Sea Gem. Among other things, we bought a sewing machine:

Baby Lock: BL9

Exciting, I know.

I can't say that I was particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of owning a sewing machine. I don't have very fond memories of sewing machines. My only real experience using one was back in junior high during home economics class. Students were assigned to make decorative throw pillows. And what horrible little pillows we all made. Although I have managed to successfully block much of my junior-high experience from memory, I do recall two lessons I learned in home economics: (1) don't burn your eyes with steam and (2) sewing machines jam...often. Coincidentally, Eric and I attended the same junior high and have the exact same takeaways from home economics--steam in eyes is bad and sewing machines are finicky. While both Eric and I are extremely cautious when removing the lid from a pot of boiling water, only one of us (Eric) was interested in testing our luck with a sewing machine (I assume Eric's pillow turned out better than mine). 

Although I was not inclined to buy a sewing machine, I am truly excited by the idea of being able to produce as many (horrible) little pillows my heart desires. Before I fulfill that fantasy, however, we have a few small boat-related projects in mind for the near future (more on that later).

Monday, December 2, 2013

Seeing Clearly

Sea Gem is a raised-deck saloon boat, which means that the salon area of interior is raised (two steps in our case) above the rest of the interior and is surrounded by large windows, as opposed to the small opening ports typically found on sailboats.  The result is a very bright, airy salon.  On the other hand, the larger windows are more likely to be broken by waves (in a really big storm) while at sea, which would severely compromise the safety of the boat.  To address this weakness, Sea Gem's former owners had storm windows made, which bolt on over the windows to provide additional protection in a storm.  (Really, no different than storm shutters on a house.)

When we bought Sea Gem, the storm windows were installed, and we never got around to removing them until just recently.

Removing the Storm Windows
Although the front windows are crazed from the sun and in need of replacement (more on that soon), the side windows are in great condition and allow us, for the first time, to clearly see what is going on outside the boat while we are inside the salon.

Before and After
Our plan for the near future is to replace the clear windows with tinted ones so that we have a little more privacy with the blinds open and to prevent the cabin from turning into a greenhouse in the summer.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving Recap

We managed to do it again--cram 10 people aboard our boat and consume mass amounts of turkey and pie!

Thanksgiving 2013
This year's preparation was surprisingly easy. In fact, I'm fairly confident that I didn't actually do anything. I remember roasting a head of garlic (which requires almost no effort) and then making the cranberry compote (which also requires almost no effort), but that's about it. The secret to our stress-free Thanksgiving? We outsourced turkey production! This was key, as our galley contains only one microwave-sized oven and a stove with only 3 working burners

A few Hanukkah-inspired dishes made their way onto the menu in honor of the never-to-occur-in-our-lifetime-again phenomenon known as Thanksgivukkah

Main Course

Latkes with Cranberry Apple Sauce
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
Baked Sweet Potato Mash with Pecan Crumble
Oil-less Fried Jerk Turkey - Courtesy of JR's Jerk Joint
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Corned Beef 
Celery Root, Potato, and Pear au Gratin
Cranberry Bourbon Compote
Crescent Rolls 


Pumpkin Pie
Blueberry Pie 
Sweet Potato Pie
Old World Apple Cake 


Red Wine
White Wine
Apple Cider

Like last year, we spent the Friday following Thanksgiving on the water for--what we can now refer to as--our 2nd annual Black Friday sail. Unlike last year, though, we didn't spend the day basking in the sun. It has been raining for days here in Miami, and although it didn't rain while we were out, the weather wasn't all that great:

Dark Sky, Dark Water
It wasn't just the cool air, lack of sun, and threatening sky that contributed to the less than ideal sailing conditions--it was also extremely windy. Although wind is arguably the most important factor in the sailing equation, it is also the most sensitive component--it can't be too weak or too strong. As such, we were one of only a few sailboats on the water that's why:

(He popped back up--don't worry.)

After it was determined that the wind would not, in fact, roll our boat, everyone enjoyed the sail--especially Helina.

Black Friday Sail 2013
Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


We've certainly been absent from our blog lately. We have a good excuse though. Our boat sank. Just kidding. We're still floating. The real reason, sadly, is that our little captain spent the majority of November being quite sick, which means Eric and I spent the majority of November tending to Helina, driving to and from the hospital, being stressed out of our minds, and attempting to stay afloat professionally by working late into the night--all while also being sick ourselves. If it were not for the energizing high we experienced from dosing on large quantities of fear and coffee, I don't know how we would have survived the month.

Hospital Visit #3
As you might have guessed, this 24/7 craziness left us with little time for blogging. Of course, just because we haven't posted recently doesn't mean we haven't been doing anything exciting aboard Sea Gem--we just haven't had much time to document our efforts. The good news is, our little tot is on the mend (Hallelujah!), which means our schedule is returning to normal (if there even is such a thing).

Among other things happening aboard, Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and we are once again hosting! Although I know we have the tools and ability to cook a meal of this caliber aboard, I'm concerned that Sea Gem is not interested in cooperating with the planned festivities. Like clockwork, yesterday morning, our water pump broke. Then, a hose came loose in the engine room and flooded the floor with water (thank god for bilge pumps and elevated engines). As chaos was unfolding down below, the port-side A/C unit decided to leak all over the floor in the salon. It was an awesome day. Oh, and did I mention it has been raining for days on end and we're all trapped inside the boat?

Thankfully, we have outsourced turkey production this year, so despite what is or isn't working aboard the boat, we'll still have turkey in our stomachs and a happy Thanksgiving it will be!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Galley Upgrade Take 2

Not long ago, I gave our stove a facelift (more like a chemical peel, really) by swapping out its crusty drip pans with new ones. Generally speaking, I don't do a good job maintaining drip pans (hence the crustiness). I'm more of a glass cooktop kind of gal. Although I excel at Windexing flat services, I fall short when it comes to scrubbing burnt food off of domed aluminum. Thankfully, however, I'm great at replacing things I struggle to clean.

The last time I replaced our drip pans, I bought a cheap aluminum set. They quickly blackened. This time, I splurged and bought black ceramic pans. Eric was skeptical that black pans would look good against our off-white stove, but I figured they couldn't look any worse than the charred set I was replacing. To our surprise, the dark drip pans complement the light stove and our appliance once again looks new (well, not quite, but it does look sanitary, which is a nice change).

Even Newer Drip Pans
The surface of the new pans is shiny, so I'm optimistic that cleaning them won't require a tremendous amount of elbow grease. Worst case, the dark surface will be just perfect for camouflaging cooked-on disgustingness.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Not so TEArrific

As I eluded to in a previous post, Eric and I often buy things that we believe will solve a boat-specific problem or will make living aboard easier or more comfortable. Although all of our ideas make sense in our heads, in reality, they don't always come together as intended. Sometimes, this is because we don't fully understand the situation (like when we made plans to move aboard without ever having lived on a boat), and other times, it is because we are solving a problem that doesn't really exist (I tend to be guilty of these types of purchases). A great example of a solution to a nonexistent problem is the collapsible tea pot I purchased back in February.
At the time I bought the teapot, we had already made the decision to retire our electric kettle to the depths of one of our on-board storage spaces because the pleasure I got from drinking a cup of tea every now and then was not greater than my distaste for having our kettle take up space on the counter top. A short time later, my parents happened to mention that they had seen a collapsible teapot in a store. Naturally, I immediately went online in search of this mystical kettle. After all, a collapsible teapot seemed like the perfect device for a small kitchen. Mostly though, I just wanted a collapsible teapot because it sounded cool.

Although I absolutely love our collapsible teapot, it just doesn't work well for our purposes.

For starters, it takes forever to boil the water because the kettle can only be placed over low(ish) heat (which all of the reviews clearly state). Is this a big deal? No, not really, but the combination of this, plus the kettle's lack-of-whistle (also noted in the reviews) resulted in me routinely forgetting that I was boiling water. And, by the time I remembered that I was, I was no longer in the mood for tea.

My main frustration with the kettle though, was that it took forever for it to dry. No matter how many hours I left the teakettle up-side-down in our drying rack, a little bit of water always remained trapped inside. Although I'm sure this had more to do with the humidity in Florida rather than a fatal design flaw of the kettle, the end result was the same. The whole desirability of the teapot was that it could easily be stored after use, but I was reluctant to stash it in a drawer with water trapped inside (I don't actively seek opportunities to introduce mildew into my life). So in an ongoing effort to encourage evaporation, I left the kettle expanded on the stove.

The last reason the teapot didn't work for us was because of something Eric and I hadn't factored into the equation: Helina. A main staple in Helina's diet is instant oatmeal. In fact, there was a time when she was eating it every morning, and I was relying on the microwave to "cook" the oatmeal. This technique resulted in one of two outcomes: (1) a rubbery block of congealed oats or (2) an almost broth-like puddle of mush. Upon witnessing my galley skills in action, Eric said, you know what would be nice? Our electric kettle.

So, we dug it out of its hiding spot and returned it to the counter top.

It's Electric 
With the electric kettle back in the galley, tea consumption has increased, our oatmeal's texture is consistent, and Helina has a great new toy:

Spot of Tea

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Safe Snoozing

Living on a boat comes with an endless stream of unique challenges. Sometimes, when Eric and I come up with a solution to a problem we're facing, we strike out. What works well in theory fails miserably in reality. Other times, however, we get lucky and find a solution that works exactly as we had hoped--sometimes even better. Helina's new bed is an example of us hitting a home run. 

Conceptually, I thought Helina's floor bed was a good idea, but I had my doubts. I was concerned that Helina wouldn't adjust well to suddenly being left, crib-less, in her room with the door shut. I imagined Helina abusing her new freedom by rummaging through her now accessible dresser drawers, munching on diapers, and causing vast amounts of unimaginable damage. I anticipated tears, screaming, sleepless nights, a cranky baby, cranky parents, and annoyed neighbors.

What I wasn't expecting, was Helina adjusting to her new accommodations almost immediately. In fact, I wouldn't even say that she has adjusted to her new sleeping arrangements--she has fully embraced them and seems genuinely happy about having her own room. At night, when we tell Helina it is time for bed, she ushers herself into her room, shuts the door, then promptly falls asleep.
Now that Helina is no longer caged inside a crib, making sure she remains in her room for the duration of the evening is important. Although the boat is locked at night, we certainly can't have Helina leaving her room and roaming the boat even if escaping from the hatch is impossible. Thankfully, Sea Gem's previous owners had installed a latch on the outside of the door to Helina's room back when their grandchildren used the room as their own (and the door cannot lock from inside the room). With the latch locked, Eric and I sleep soundly knowing that Helina is safe in her room.
The only challenge we now face as the result of the new setup is opening the door. Helina sleeps at ground level, so having a door that opens inward is a bit of a problem, as she is often sleeping directly in the path of the opening door. Solving this problem was easy, however. So that we can check on Helina at night and confirm her location prior to entering her room, we reinstalled her video baby monitor. Now we are able to spy on our daughter whenever we want--even with the door shut.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Eric and I are often asked about whether or not we're able to cook aboard the boat. This is one of those questions that gives us insight as to how others envision our life afloat. When we're asked about cooking and food storage, I suspect that the person inquiring about our accommodations pictures us eating out of cans and storing perishables in a dirty cooler that doubles as our coffee table. Although that scenario couldn't be farther from reality, these days, I'm starting to feel like we're living up to other people's expectations (or, rather, spiraling down to them).

Awhile back, our freezer died, and since then, we've been relying on our ice maker to freeze a small number of necessities (ice cream and pizza). Then, our refrigerator died (or rather an integral component of the refrigerator died), so we purchased what is essentially a freakishly expensive cooler (it can either refrigerate or freeze--hence the cost), to serve as our makeshift fridge. And where does this magical cooler live? On the floor of our salon under the navigation station (basically in plain sight). 

The good news is, now that our refrigerator is back up and running, we can convert the cooler from refrigerator to freezer. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, the only draw back is that we haven't yet fully remodeled our galley, which means that the freezer must remain on the floor of the salon for a short while longer.

The timing of our refrigerator/freezer re-birth couldn't have been more perfect (with the exception of the whole galley remodel hiccup). A Trader Joe's, which is new to Miami, just opened, and as you might know, they carry a wide variety of delicious frozen food. It may not seem as though a cooler-sized freezer could hold much, but it absolutely can. Ours is now packed full of goodies:

Freezing Cold
The freezer currently holds weeks worth of food (plus one teething ring):
  • Pasta sauce
  • 2 cheese pizzas
  • Fish sticks
  • Vegetarian burritos
  • Spinach quiche
  • Danish pancake balls
  • French toast
  • Vegetarian corn dogs
  • Dark chocolate covered bananas
  • Beef & vegetable pho
  • Chimichurri rice & vegetables 
  • Kung Pao chicken
  • Vegetable tempura
  • Stir fry vegetables
  • Fried rice
  • Mini chicken pot pies
There isn't much room to spare, but overall, it isn't bad for a cooler!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A New Life For an Old Dinghy

There are a number of boat-maintenance tasks, such as washing and waxing the hull, that require a dinghy or raft tied next to the boat.  Since we don't have a raft, and setting up and putting away the dinghy takes way too much time to justify, we haven't been able to do these tasks ourselves.  To remedy this, we had been thinking of getting a work float/raft to keep in the water next to Sea Gem.  However, since we have a new dinghy, we decided to to just use our old inflatable dinghy instead. 

This week, we inflated the old dinghy and tied it off in our slip next to Sea Gem.  (A cooler will take the dinghy's former storage space on deck.)

Back from Retirement
And today, we made use of it for maintenance tasks for the first time.  We didn't do much--just scrubbed some streaks off of the hull, but the inflatable was a very comfortable work platform that we'll be making good use of in the near future.

I was also joined in my work by our very young apprentice, who will someday be taking over our hull-scrubbing duties. 

Quick Study

Friday, November 1, 2013


I am forever on the hunt for little upgrades for the boat. And by little upgrades, I mean, teeny, tiny versions of everyday items. My latest find? Mini garbage cans (fyi, the pumpkin (also a mini) is just there as a point of reference...I don't typically keep pumpkins on top of our toilet):

Blomus Pushboy Wastebasket
As you can see, these little cans are comically small, and although they do not have the capacity to serve as our boat's main trash receptacle, their size is sufficient for accommodating our bathroom garbage disposal needs. Even though our bathrooms' former wastebaskets were more compact than most, they were just big enough to get in the way, and as you might imagine, the floor space in our bathroom is limited, so every precious inch counts toward making the room feel spacious.

In the master head (bathroom), the new trash can fits snugly next to the toilet, as opposed to resting on the floor where our old basket once stood: 

Almost Out of Sight
And in the forward head, the new wastebasket resides on top of the counter, directly behind the toilet. 

 Micro mini
These mini cans are somewhat of a novelty, but I have no doubt they'll do a masterful job holding used dental floss and the occasional tissue.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Lowly Water Pump

All refrigerators pull heat from inside the refrigerator and expel it--somewhere.  Most refrigerators have a radiator, and sometimes a fan as well, used to disperse the heat to the surrounding air.  For a refrigerator that runs nearly all the time, like an ordinary land refrigerator, the heat generated at any particular time is minimal, and the air-cooled method works just fine.

Our refrigerator, however, is designed to run for only a couple hours a day.  During that time, it pulls a massive amount of heat out of the box in order to freeze a steel block that, like a big block of ice, keeps the refrigerator cold for several hours.

Because the refrigerator generates substantial amount of heat in a short period of time, it needs to be water-cooled to more efficiently dissipate the heat.  The system is simple enough--a little pump pulls water from the ocean, runs it through the refrigeration system, and spits it back out into the ocean.  The problem, though, is that if the water pump does not work, neither does the refrigerator.

This is what happened to us this weekend, when our refrigerator stopped working.  The same problem happened almost a year ago, but we fortunately had a spare water pump at that time.  This time, no working spare.  The pumps are rated to last for 3000 hours, which at 2 hours a day, is over 4 years.  The pump we installed a year ago did not, of course, last 4 years--it lasted one year.  The spare came with Sea Gem and may have already been previously used for a different purpose, leaving it with only a quarter of its life span.  Also, when we ran out of freon earlier this year (this has not been a good year for our refrigerator), the pump ran almost constantly for a week or two while the refrigerator struggled to stay cold.  In any case, the pump died, leaving us with no working refrigerator.

And so I ordered a new pump, an updated version of the old one.  This pump uses a different type of motor (brushless) and is rated to run for 50,000 hours--at 2 hours per day, that is over 68 years.  Do I expect it to run for 68 years?  Of course not.  Part of the magic of boat ownership is that everything breaks before it is supposed to and at the worst possible time.  But I sure expect it to last a good deal longer than one year.  Stay tuned for an update sometime before 2083

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


One of the strangest experiences you have when living aboard is that from time-to-time, your neighbors disappear. I don't mean they disappear as in they become lost at sea, but rather in the more literal sense of the word--one moment your neighbors are there and then the next, they are gone. Although it doesn't happen often, every now and then, Eric and I wake up, open our hatch, and discover that the boat that was next to us when we went to sleep has vanished, never to return. No note, no call--just gone. This weekend, as is sometimes the case, one of our neighbors disappeared: 

Having a boat docked in the slip next door is nice for several reasons. Among other things, its hull creates the illusion of a wall, and when walking on-deck or disembarking the boat, this "wall" makes you feel safe and secure even though it provides absolutely no protection with regards to preventing a fall into the water.

Now that our neighboring slip is empty, as I step off our boat and make my way down our finger pier, I consciously have to remind myself that I am just as safe (or not safe) as I was when our former pier-mate was tied up at dock. It has been a few days since our neighbor departed, and I'm still not used to the wide-open space just outside our door:

Needless to say, I've been feeling a bit vulnerable lately. On a positive note, however, now that the slip next to us is empty, our view of the setting sun is completely unobstructed, which makes for a pleasant end to the day:

Unobstructed View

Monday, October 28, 2013

Our Refrigerator is Broken (Again) and Our Freezer is a Refrigerator (For Now)

Our refrigerator died this weekend.  It was the third time in a year.  The first time, almost exactly a year ago, the water pump died.  Fortunately, we had a spare water pump and were up and running again in no time (after figuring out that it was the water pump that was broken).  Repair cost: free.  The second time, the refrigerant leaked out, and we needed to pay someone to come out with fancy refrigerant-sniffing equipment to find and repair the leaks.  Repair cost: too much to say.  This time, the water pump died again (I think).  Unfortunately, we don't have a working spare on hand, so I needed to order one. Even assuming that it arrives and I can get the refrigerator working again (without calling the expensive refrigerant sniffer man) that leaves us with about a week without a working refrigerator.  With a baby on board, that is not a workable situation.

And so I came up with two plans to hold us over for the week until the pump arrives (or longer, if the new pump doesn't fix the problem), neither of which required that we spend any money that we weren't planning on spending anyway.  As it turns out, we were planning on making two food-cooling purchases in the coming months.  First, a big marine cooler to keep on deck.  And so, my first plan was to buy the cooler now rather than later, fill it with ice, and use that as our "refrigerator" until the real refrigerator comes back online.  Second, a freezer to replace our old freezer (that has been disconnected for months).  And so, the second plan was the buy the freezer and set the thermostat to refrigerator temperatures and use that as our "refrigerator" until we get the refrigerator working again.

Krissy's preference, quite reasonably, was plan two, which does not require that anyone go up on deck to grab and return a carton of milk.  My preference?  Whichever one was the better deal.

As it turned out, West Marine had the freezer we wanted at exactly the same price we'd have paid had we comparison shopped online, but they were charging far more for the cooler than the best price I've found.  And so we bought the freezer, an Engel MT45.

The freezer keeps a nice, steady refrigerator temperature in the mid-30s Fahrenheit, and it is whisper quiet.  It also has a very solid feel.  Compared to the competing brands we looked at, the Engel is far more solid.  Since it is top-loading, it isn't as convenient to use as our refrigerator with shelves, but when the time comes, it will be a perfect freezer. 

The one downside to plan two is that, while we already have a place to mount the cooler on the deck, we have not yet prepared the kitchen to accept the freezer (it will eventually be built into the counter).  And so, for the time being, we have to put it wherever it will fit, which happens to be under the navigation/computer desk, currently next to my feet. 

Hide and Freeze
Better than in the middle of the salon, for sure, but not quite as discrete as inside the countertop.

We'll give a more thorough review of the freezer later, but for now, it is doing a great job as a refrigerator.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

An Even Comfier Place

I recently wrote about a minor cosmetic upgrade that we made to our cockpit--the addition of outdoor throw pillows. Originally, I intended to purchase a total of 6 outdoor pillows for the main cockpit, but I resisted temptation because I didn't think Eric would be thrilled at the sight of a half-dozen decorative throw pillows strewn about the cockpit. While my ideal room/cockpit resembles this...
I Dream of Pillows
...I can appreciate that Eric does not share this same vision.

On the day our new outdoor pillows arrived, the weather was perfect and the water was calm (which is pretty much the case every day). It was a Friday, so we ordered a pizza (yup, we get delivery) and ate it while lounging in the cockpit. I don't know if it was the gluten or the wine, but toward the end of the evening, Eric turned to me and said, "I really like these pillows. We should get more." And so we did.

Throw Pillows, Take Two
We now have a grand total of 6 all-weather pillows in the main cockpit. I'm tempted to buy a pair (or pairs) of matching pillows for the aft-cockpit, but given the luck we've had retaining our aft-cockpit cushions and accessories, I think I'll hold off for the time being.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Last September, Helina began sleeping in a crib in her own room. Just before her 1st birthday, we bought a safety rail for the built-in bottom bunk in her room because we figured she'd be transitioning out of her crib in the coming months.

Well, a couple of months have passed since then and, as predicted, Helina has officially outgrown her crib:

Where's Glow Worm?
Unfortunately, Helina is still a bit too little to be trusted to sleep alone in her room's bottom bunk. Safety rail or not, Helina has the will and the ability to crawl out of her bed and tumble head first onto the hard wood floor.

As I contemplated the options for keeping Helina from falling out of her bed, it occurred to me that perhaps I was approaching the problem from the wrong perspective. Instead of trying to find something to prevent an inevitable fall, I decided that a better option might be to simply eliminate the bed altogether, since that was the source of the problem in the first place. After switching mental gears, I began searching the Internet for "toddler floor mattresses," which eventually resulted in the discovery of the German Wohnling kinderbettmatratze!

Wohnling Kinderbettmatratze
Although it does not seem to be the case in the United States, in Germany, it is apparently perfectly acceptable for small children to sleep on the floor. And why not? They are likely to end up on the floor anyway.

The Wohnling floor mattress is soft, comfortable, and appears durable (enough). It folds compactly, and Helina enjoys using it as a chair when it's not being used as a bed.

Off-duty Kinderbettmatratze
Once Helina finally does make the transition into her bed, we can still use the floor mattress as extra padding on the floor, just in case Helina ever does fall out of bed.

Unfortunately, since this bed is from Europe, its size is not compatible with sheets made for U.S. toddler beds. So, we got a sheet from England, which came courtesy of Royal Mail.

Royal Baby
Having a toddler bed and linens shipped in from Europe seems very extravagant, but the truth is, nothing we ordered is very fancy (we found everything on Amazon). And, at the end of the day, our daughter is sleeping on the floor, and there is certainly nothing fancy about that.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Staring at the Sun

We have written in the past about our use of LED bulbs, and our desire to eventually upgrade all of our bulbs to LEDs.  We started by replacing the majority of our remaining (Sea Gem's prior owners had already installed LEDs in most of the major fixtures) halogen bulbs.  For the most part, the LEDs have been slightly less bright than the halogen bulbs they replaced, but they use significantly less electricity and, just as importantly in a small space, generate significantly less heat than halogen bulbs.

In addition to the halogen fixtures, Sea Gem also has several fluorescent fixtures that use 12" fluorescent tubes.  These are fairly bright, but they of course give off that irritating, flickering, unnaturally-white light, and they are nowhere near as energy efficient as an LED.  The fluorescent fixture that we use the most is in our head (bathroom), and so that is the fixture that we planned to upgrade to LEDs first.

Because our head was underlit, I figured that we would not only convert the fluorescent tube to an LED tube, but we would also replace the single-tube fixture to a double-tube fixture.  Based on our experience with the halogen-to-LED swap, I figured we'd lose some brightness with the LED tube, and switching to two tubes would compensate for that and also, hopefully, brighten up the head a bit.

And so we removed the existing fixture (which, it turns out, is date-stamped April 1986 on the back and was thus original equipment with the boat) and installed a spare, two-tube fluorescent fixture we had lying around.

The Original
Because LED tubes do not require complex circuity like a fluorescent tube, we had to make some wiring changes to the fixture.  Nothing too complicated or time-consuming.  Then, in went the new LED tubes, I flipped the switch to test, and...

Blinded by the Light
I was seeing spots for minutes.  The LED tubes are WAY brighter than the fluorescent tubes.  Way, way brighter.  On the plus side, we can now see much better for shaving, make-up, etc.  And, the light doesn't generate as much heat or require as much electricity, even with the two tubes.  On the negative side, however, our head is so well-lit now that every speck of dirt that was previously unnoticed was suddenly illuminated.   We spent half the morning scrubbing the master head to perfection.  Plus, even though we can now see every corner of the room better than ever before, we now have to be careful not to look at one area that was never as issue--at the lighting fixture.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Knock, Knock...

We recently upgraded the lock that keeps our hatch securely in place so that, in case Helina manages to scale our companionway ladder, she won't be able to let herself out. This week, we added an additional barrier between the interior of our boat and the water--drop boards:

Welcome Home
Before Helina was born, the entryway these boards now cover was completely open. From time-to-time, Eric and I would cover the gap with a blue canvas (the sun cover for the drop boards), which provided us with an illusion of security. Given that we now have a mobile baby on board, the security measures we rely on must be significantly more robust than a mere illusion.

With the drop boards in place, it would be all but impossible for Helina to escape from the cockpit. Helina is still too short in stature to climb the cockpit's seats or scale the cockpit's walls, and now, her only mode of egress has been complete obstructed.

These boards may not look like much, but each one is solid teak and extremely heavy. Helina simply doesn't have the upper body strength, dexterity, or coordination to remove them from their track (not yet anyway).

For now, Helina now has a fully enclosed, outdoor playpen, and we have a nice new door.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Back on the Water

It has been awhile since our last sail. In fact, we haven't been sailing since moving to our new location. Many factors have contributed to us remaining at dock (weather, work, health, etc.), but the main reason is, of course, Helina.

Although Helina is an incredibly patient and well behaved baby (biased? me???), at the end of the day, she is a baby (well, she's a toddler now), and as such, she doesn't understand the concept of lazing about in the cockpit for hours at a time. Quite the opposite. From the moment she wakes until the moment she sleeps, Helina is buzzing around all over the place like a little maniac, and as you might suspect, sailing with her isn't exactly enjoyable (for any of us). When we're on the water, one of us (usually me) is tasked with the responsibility of wrangling Helina, entertaining Helina, encouraging Helina to behave, comforting Helina, feeding Helina, changing Helina, singing to Helina, and coaxing Helina to sleep. While I'm consumed by all things Helina, Eric is responsible for operating the boat. Although it is quite possible to single hand Sea Gem, should anything go wrong, it isn't as though I can plop Helina down and assist. Throw a few guests into the mix and you have yourself a stressful afternoon. Needless to say, we haven't been sailing for awhile.

Both Eric and I have been itching to get back on the water, but Eric was reluctant to go for a sail without an extra set of hands, while I, on the other hand, was reluctant to subject any of our friends to the lunacy of being trapped in a cockpit with a 1 year old. So, we invited our family to join us for a sail.

As we exited our slip, Helina was in good spirits--rested and enjoying a light lunch.

As we made our way through the channel, Helina entertained herself (and others) from the comfort and safety of her little chair.

As we emerged from the channel and headed south into the bay, Helina demanded to be let out of her chair. I secured her life vest and braced for a tantrum. After a brief objection, Helina calmed down and settled in at the helm.

Captain Serious
So that Helina could feel a bit more free while confined within the cockpit, we tied a line to her life jacket, so she could roam, yet still be kept at bay.

Tied Up
Unfortunately, the leash/life jacket/diaper combo resulted in an atomic wedgie (of sorts) for Helina, but for the most part, she didn't seem bothered by her leash (or the obnoxious wedgie).

Happy Sailor
Overall, Helina had a good day on the water, as did the rest of our crew.

Jumping for Joy
Were there tantrums? Yes. Was there stress? Yes. But, the good moments outweighed the bad ones, which means more frequent excursions are likely in our future.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Almost Timeless

For the most part, Sea Gem could pass for a new sailboat.  Cruising sailboats are designed conservatively, and have changed very little over time.  Electronics, of course, change all the time, but there is nothing about Sea Gem's design and construction that would appear dated if it were in a boat show with brand-new boats.

With two exceptions: the galley (kitchen) and the heads (bathrooms).

Although most of Sea Gem's interior is varnished teak, as has been used in good boats forever, the builder, for some reason, decided to make the galley and heads "modern."  In 1986, when Sea Gem was built, modern meant an unrelenting expanse of off-white formica.  And today, that looks dated.

Since our galley and heads are perfectly functional, modernizing them is not a high priority, but it is on our list of future upgrades.

This weekend, we took our first step towards modernizing the galley by installing tiles over what was the blandest expanse of off-white formica: the "backsplash" behind the stove (I don't know why it's a backsplash if it's not behind the sink, but apparently that's what it is).  This area had no trim, no texture, no color--just off-white formica as far the eye can see.

Our solution was to install multi-colored vinyl tiles over the entire backsplash area. Vinyl may seem like an odd choice for tile, but despite being synthetic, the backsplash looks just like the real thing:

The Smart Tiles
The tiles match the rest of the galley and provide a much-needed break to the sea of formica. 

We have more changes in mind, but I think we're off to a great start.