Sunday, March 31, 2013

Moving Day!

As Eric explained in his previous post, we moved!

Here is a picture of our new, larger home:

Home Sweet Home

After suffering through more moves than we care to count, our most recent move will forever hold a place in our hearts as the easiest move to-date.

Moving day began with us lazing about while filling up on Nespresso. Then, we got down to business.

We began by moving over what we could to our new slip (bumpers, lines, and our steps):

Heavy Lifting
Not Quite as Heavy Lifting
Then, a manatee passed by near our new slip, as if to welcome us to our new home:

Welcome to the Neighborhood
Then, about an hour before we moved we thought "Hey, we should probably get ready to move. And, we should probably see if anyone can help us."

And so we did.

Then, 45 minutes later, we cast away our dock lines and moved. Maybe 2 minutes later, we were docked at our new slip.

Finished!
While this move has certainly been the least complicated and least stressful we have had, it has actually been the most disorienting. Usually when you move, everything changes. You find yourself in a new home, a new neighborhood, a new community--a new everything. In this case, nothing changed. We have the same home, the same furnishings--the same everything, but if feels totally backwards. Before, our boat was docked nose-in on the north side of the pier (the boat faced south). Now, we are nose-in, but docked on the south side of the pier (so the boat faces north). So, although the interior of the boat is identical to before, the sun is shining in on--what feels like--the wrong side of the boat. In the morning, the sun used to pour in from the port side (left), but now it is the opposite. It is quite possibly the oddest feeling I've ever felt, and one that makes it very apparent that we have moved.

Logistically speaking, this move was simple, but it is going to take time for us to get used to our new orientation.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

We moved!

After months of deliberation, we moved today.

Not off of Sea Gem, of course, but to another slip.  We've always liked the idea that moving would be very easy with Sea Gem--we simply go for a sail and return to a different location, with only the cars needing special arrangements.  Our move today, however, wasn't even that complicated, as we moved to a different slip in the same marina.

Why would we do this?  As it turns out, moving a couple hundred feet away makes a big difference.

First, at our old slip, our stern faced to the north, where the strongest winds come from.  Because we sleep in the stern, we sometimes get more noise and motion at night than is optimal.  In our new slip, our bow faces north, which will result in a smoother, quieter night when a wintertime cold front comes through.

Second, our old slip was close to the bridge, with lots of traffic.

Backyard Bridge
The noise wasn't much of a problem, but in the winter, when the wind is always from the north, we'd get this black dust all over the place.  It was a pain to clean, and it probably isn't all that healthy either, so moving further away from the bridge is a definite plus.

Third, Sea Gem was a a bit too big for the old slip, which was better suited for a boat 5 to 10 feet shorter.  Although we have ridden out a couple storms without trouble, we'd feel safer in a larger slip where we can tie ourselves down more securely.

Fourth, at our old slip, we were at the same pier (the large central dock with many smaller docks jutting out) as a large charter fishing boat that goes on three trips per day.  It is noisy, and maneuvering around it is extremely difficult if it is coming or going at the same time we are.  There are no commercial vessels at our new pier.

Fifth, our old pier was not very secure from intruders, as it was very easy to climb around the gate onto the pier.  There were, in fact, a few thefts on boats on our pier this past year.  Our new pier is much more secure.

Sixth, and perhaps most significantly, we decided it was time to move away from our immediate neighbor, who rents his boat out like a hotel to non-boaters. Most of the guests are pleasant, and some have even been friends, but a few have not been enjoyable, and we'd rather not have to simply hope that our neighbors won't make our lives unpleasant each weekend.  We've also had some issues with the neighboring boat nearly hitting our boat (it did hit another neighbor), as well as the general lack of maintenance of the neighboring boat, as evidenced by the constant stream of liquid coming from the holding tank vent (and on a couple of occasions, it has actually sprayed out of the vent, missing me and Moishe by only a few feet).

Rental Boat
And so we moved.  Downsides?  So far, there are a couple.  We no longer have the neighbors we liked and it is a little more money each month.  Our cars are also parked further away.  Overall, we are optimistic, and if things don't work out here, we can always move again...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Boat Babysitter?

Eric and I knew that, at some point, we'd need to find babysitter for Helina. However, other than recognizing that we'd need to do this, we never gave the matter much thought because, up until a few weeks ago, we didn't have the need for one. Helina has been on a strict schedule pretty much since the day she was born, so it was easy for us to go out to eat, run errands, etc. We knew exactly when she would fall asleep, wake, eat, get fussy, etc., so it was easy to plan around her schedule. Here is what eating out used to look like:

Dreaming at Dogma
Relaxing at Shuckers
Snoozing at My Ceviche
We now refer to this time as the golden era.

Eating out with Helina has become more trouble than it is worth. It is stressful, messy, frustrating and completely unenjoyable (for us, that is--Helina has a blast). Helina is no longer content to sit beside us while we dine, sip wine, and engage in conversations not spoken in babytalk. She now demands to sit at the table, so she can pound on it with her fists all the while demonstrating her most authentic primal scream for all to hear. Adult conversation? I don't think so. Instead of engaging with each other, Eric and I spend all of our time and energy attempting to keep Helina quiet by distracting her with toys, napkins, and funny voices. The only time Eric and I actually communicate with each other is when we exchange mutual glares of contempt, which we both understand to mean: "oh-my-god-this-is-so-awful-I-can't-believe-we're-paying-money-to-do-this-everyone-hates-us-we-need-to-get-the-hell-out-of-here-right-now!"

Here is a glimpse of Helina's current restaurant behavior (your ears will be thankful that there is no audio accompanying these images):

Barbaric at Brio
Maniacal at Mandolin
So, if we want to eat out and actually enjoy ourselves, we need to leave our precious baby at home. We need a babysitter, pronto.

I know that finding someone to watch your child is always a challenge, particularly when your child is a baby (not to mention your first baby). However, the fact that our home is a boat further complicates an already difficult situation. There is no way I'm going to let some random teenager (or random adult for that matter) hang out on our boat while they "watch" our baby. I'd be freaking out the entire time we were gone (What if they try and take the baby off the boat? What if the sitter falls in? What if Helina falls in!? What if they break something? What if they accidentally hit the wrong switch? What if they sink the boat?! What if--god forbid--they attempt to take the boat out!?!"). And honestly, how many parents are going to let their teenager babysit a baby on a sailboat? Probably not many--for all of the same reasons I don't want them doing it.

Despite my fears, the search is on. Right now, my focus is on finding someone--preferable an adult--who will watch Helina at their house. Of course, this opens the door to a whole host of other concerns (Who else lives in their house? Who are their neighbors? Is their house childproofed?).

Will I find someone? Sure... perhaps not soon, but we'll find someone eventually. Until then, Eric and I are beyond thankful that we live in a place with fabulous restaurants that deliver.

Monday, March 25, 2013

B.O.A.T (Bring Out Another Thousand)

For a variety of reasons, last week was probably one of the most emotionally draining and stressful weeks aboard Sea Gem. In fact, it was so taxing, that at one point--independently of each other--both Eric and I thought it might be best if we moved into a house (with each other, of course). However, it was a fleeting thought, which we both agree would have been shortsighted.

So what happened? Life. Life happened, and then like clockwork, things started to break. Actually, things started to break about a month ago, but our breaking point didn't happen until this past week.

Here's how it all began...

About a month ago, we ran into an issue with our freezer. We have a custom chest freezer, built directly into our galley's counter top. After spotting condensation on the outside of the lower portion our cabinetry (below the freezer), it became apparent that the insulation failed. The result? Water damage to the interior of the cabinetry and our beautiful hardwood floor. Unfortunately, we can't just run to the freezer store and buy a replacement for our current freezer model, as our freezer doesn't have a model:

Freezer 

Our options are either to have a new custom freezer built or to find a freezer that will fit into our current space. As you might guess, neither of these options is cheap. And with either option, we will need to have some of the cabinetry replaced and a small portion of our floor mended--also not cheap.

The good news is that we had planned on renovating our galley anyway, so we'll just be doing that sooner than later. Eric and I have also come to the realization that we really don't need a freezer. This is not to suggest that we didn't use our freezer--we did--but we only used it because we had it. The other good news is that if for some reason we absolutely had to freeze something (although I can't think of a legitimate "freezing emergency"), we could always rely on our ice maker to keep a few small items frozen.

In order to prevent further damage to our woodwork, we needed to turn of freezer off. Unfortunately, disconnecting our freezer turned out to be a time-consuming, irritating, and expensive ordeal involving the help of two separate handymen (excluding Eric). Here is a glimpse of the action:

First Attempt at Disconnecting the Freezer
But finally it was over and the freezer was off.

Then, our refrigerator stopped working. It is one thing to make do without a freezer, but not having a refrigerator is another story. As it turns out, our freezer and refrigerator are interconnected, so when we turned off our freezer, we inadvertently turned off our refrigerator. In order to get our refrigerator working again, we needed to have another repairman come out and sort out the connections, so that the refrigerator could run independently of the freezer. To further complicate the situation, during the process of turning the refrigerator back on, we discovered there were multiple leaks in the entire refrigeration system which needed to be fixed--a problem that was camouflaged while the freezer was running.

Then, we had some issues with our drinking water, as I explained in a previous post.

Then, the toilet in our master head (bathroom) started having problems, which I believe Eric will explain in a future post.

Then, after a light rain shower, our TracVision antenna stopped working--presumably water got into one of the cables, so now our TV doesn't work.

Then, the toilet started acting up again.

And so on and so on...

So you see, our readiness to abandon ship was cause by the totality of small problems combined with an endless amount of other non boat-related stresses. Fortunately, at the end of the day, every boat-related problem is fixable and not everything has to be done at once. We can certainly live without TV for a few weeks. The toilets, not so much...  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Galley Tools Galore!

If you've been reading our blog since before we moved aboard, you know that we replaced many of our kitchen necessities with boat-friendly versions prior to moving aboard Sea Gem. However, some things, like our measuring cups, we didn't replace because we figured we'd be able to stash them somewhere, whereas our old pots and pans were something we knew we wouldn't be able to fit on board.

I'm now in the stage of replacing non-necessities with things that are a better fit (quite literally) for a boat even though we've been able to manage without them just fine.

Next items to replace? Random kitchen tools.

Let me start by saying there is nothing wrong with our current collection of kitchen tools. They are well made and they work just fine; however, we live in a very small space (one that gets smaller and smaller as our daughter becomes increasingly mobile), so keeping it clutter-free is a necessity. Although our kitchen tools are very nice looking, given our space limitations, they would look a lot better in a drawer. Since we don't have an available drawer, I got new tools.

We stash our cooking tools in a utensil crock by our stove. It is convenient, but the result is a jumbled mass of stainless and silicone that is difficult to navigate. It is frustrating to have everything right in front of you, yet not be able to find what you're looking for. And for heightened drama, somewhere lurking within this mass is our pie cutter, which is guaranteed to slice your hand regardless of what you are reaching for.

Before
To keep our galley clutter-free and easy to navigate, I replaced the bulk of our galley tools...''

Old Galley Tools
With something a bit more streamline:

Nest Utensils by Joseph Joseph 
Magnetic Closure
The set contains a spatula, pasta server, slotted spoon, solid spoon, and soup ladle, yet only takes up as much room as any one of these items.

The result? A slightly more organized feel to our galley:

After

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Blinking Lights and Tiny Buttons (An Expensive Oversight)

We previously explained how baby-proofing Sea Gem is much easier than a landlubber might expect.  Because boats are designed to be tossed around in the waves, our cabinets and drawers all latch closed and there is not a sharp corner to be found anywhere.  The same features that are designed to keep adults safe from sharp objects, etc., while tumbling around in the waves also keep babies safe from the same hazards.  That prediction has turned out to be true, and Helina remains safe and sound with hardly any modifications needed.

Protecting Sea Gem from Helina, however, is another matter entirely.  What we were not anticipating (and what now seems painfully obvious) is that Helina likes blinking lights, pushing buttons, pulling knobs, etc.  And she is not content to play with her blinking, button-filled toys, either--not when she is surrounded by much more substantial blinking, buttony devices.  Devices like radar screens and electrical control panels.  Devices that, if played with, could seriously ruin our day.

Take, for example, our inverter control panel.  It is about 24" off the ground (eye level for a toddler), has red and green buttons, and flashing lights.  And, if those buttons our pushed, funny things happen--like our power turns off, our generator starts up, or our batteries discharge and need to be replaced.  We never thought twice about it.

Exposed Inverter Control Panel 
Once our friend's one-year-old son visited and immediately went for the control panel, we realized our substantial oversight.  Something needed to be done to protect Sea Gem from Helina before it was too late.  Over the past few weeks, she has begun to pull herself onto her feet, and we realized that we had precious little time to fashion some sort of cover for the control panel.

Fortunately, we were able to find a beat up old teak cabinet door at the Dania Beach Marine Flea Market this past weekend.  A steal at $5, and after a quick sand and a couple coats of varnish, it matches Sea Gem's interior perfectly.

Hidden Inverter Control Panel
Our solution protects the control panel from button-hungry fingers, looks great, and cost $5--what could be better?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Whisked Away

I continue to check things off of my "want" list. My latest acquisition is a new whisk.

I was a late bloomer in the kitchen and as such, I came late to whisk ownership. In fact, for almost 30 years, I used a fork to do poorly what a whisk does well. In the spring of 2008, however, my life was forever changed. While making breakfast at Eric's then apartment, I used a whisk to combine ingredients for an omelet (Eric was already a veteran whisker when I met him). It was a glorious discovery. I loved the whisk. The omelet was deliciously fluffy and I never returned to fork-whisking again.

Fast forward to present time. I hate my whisk. More specifically, I hate cleaning it. I still love the feeling I get standing, bowl-in-arm, effortlessly whisking together ingredients a la Betty Crocker, but it is a short-lived pleasure. We don't own a dish washer, which means all of our dishes must be hand-washed...and a whisk is probably the most annoying kitchen tool to wash by hand (followed immediately by all electric mixer attachments). Composed of what seems like 12,000 interloping metal wires, you'd need a toothbrush and ten, extra long, creepily thin fingers to adequately wash the thing. 

So, I found a whisk that twists: 

Joseph Joseph Twist
Since it twists into a flat position after use, you can easily and thoroughly clean all of the wires by hand. And of course, because it is flat, it takes up much less space in our galley than its bulbous predecessor, which is always a good thing when you live on a boat. 

Old and New

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Friday, March 15, 2013

Measuring up

Since moving aboard, I've been keeping a mental inventory of items I'd like to replace with less-bulky alternatives. While nothing on my list is pressing--it is a list of wants, not needs--since we've been living aboard for over a year, the list was getting a bit long. Thankfully, I had a birthday recently, which was the perfect excuse for making a dent in my list. First up, replacement measuring cups.

Our current measuring cups are very nice. In fact, they are so nice that pre-boat, I would have envied these cups if I hadn't already owned them myself. Sadly, their arched handles aren't ideal for storing in a drawer, which is a problem because we keep nearly all of our kitchen tools in a drawer (yes, as in one drawer). Additionally, I'm becoming less and less of a fan of having metal "stuff" on board. No matter how hard we try, we drop things on the floor, and since our floors are varnished, it is best if what we drop on them isn't made of metal.

Old OXO Measuring Cups
There are many collapsible measuring cups on the market, but surprisingly I wasn't interested in any of them. As you can see, it isn't that we don't have the room for our current set. The problem is that they take up too much space, which leaves our drawer's interior a bit messy:

Galley Tools - Before
So instead of finding something that collapsed, I wanted something that was streamlined. So, I got these:

Joseph Joseph Nesting Cups
Since these are nesting measuring cups, their handles are flush...

Compact Cups
...which makes storing them in our packed galley drawer much easier:

Galley Tools - After
And because they are plastic, I don't have to worry about them chipping our varnish if they were to fall on the floor.

I'll admit, they are a taaaaad bold color-wise. I certainly wouldn't list "blinding colors" as an advantage over our old set; however, when you combine bright colors with a soft plastic composition, you get something that cold stainless can never be--a magnificent baby toy:

Yummy!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Resolution

I've been quite delinquent in writing a follow up post to my previous post about our water woes, and it is my understanding that I have left some of our readers hanging. Well, fear not, readers. You'll be happy to know that we've had fresh, clean water available on the boat since my last post; however, it took us a bit of time to fully identify and fix the problem.

So here it is...the exciting conclusion to the mystery of our foamy water.

In my last post, I explained that we had run into a strange problem with our fresh tap water. It had, for all intents and purposes, become carbonated.

Thankfully, our water tank, which holds 267 gallons of water, was full of pre-foam water, so at the first sign of trouble, we disconnected from the city line and switched the boat over to our water tank.

Then our investigation began...

Since we had ruled out a decaying hose as the source of the problem, we figured there was an issue with the connection between the hose and our boat, and we believed our recently installed "quick release valve" was the culprit. I'm not going to get into the details of why we thought this or what a quick release valve is, since discussing a water hose and its accompanied accessories is probably the most boring topic ever, but suffice it to say, we have a hose, a valve, and a boat, and we believed that air was getting into the pressurized water through a gap in the hose-valve-boat connection, thus carbonating it.

After tinkering with our quick release valve (we tightened it), the problem appeared to be solved, but a few days later, the foam returned. We assumed the valve had become lose, so we (Eric) tightened it again. Everything appeared to be OK. Then, the foam returned. And so on and so on. We repeated this song and dance about 10 times. And what a fun dance it was. I'm not sure what exactly tightening the valve involved, but each time Eric returned from doing so, he was soaking wet, as though he had taken an impromptu, fully clothed shower mid valve-tightening. Needless to say, this wasn't a sustainable situation.

So, regardless of whether or not the valve was causing the problem, the fact that you couldn't tighten it and hope to remain dry prompted us to replace the valve with something a bit more user-friendly. Now, to connect/disconnect from the city line, we only need to move a lever:

Connected to the City Line
Disconnected from the City Line
We also got a new hose, as the one we were using appeared to be in the early stages of decay.

For good measure, we also got a 3rd, land-based filtration system, which filters the water from the city before it enters the hose (and our water tank). Hopefully this will help the hose last longer and should keep our water cleaner (and better tasting) as well.

So, the problem has been solved...for the time being anyway. And, while I have no doubt foam will once again flow freely from our tap, when it returns, we'll know how to fix it...or at least we'll know how to bandage the problem for 3-6 months.