Thursday, January 30, 2014

Good Times...

Yesterday was the first day in many days that my 8-mile commute home from work did not consume almost an hour of my life. Needless to say, after an unprecedented 20-minute return trip home, I was feeling good. No, I was feeling great. To celebrate, I stopped by Home Depot and loaded up on a few finishing touches for our galley. I envisioned a relaxing--yet productive--evening at home (er, boat) sipping on wine, while Eric and I knocked out some fun little projects. On deck for the evening? Swapping out our galley's purified water tap, replacing our galley sink's faucet, and updating our foot-pump faucet. Sounds easy, right? I estimated everything would take less than an hour.

I was wrong.

It took us an hour to discover that we were unable to unscrew the majority of our fixtures! And, of the few fixtures we were able to remove, the replacements I bought didn't work with our connections.

While frustrating, the fixture debacle isn't what monopolized our evening. Not even close. As I made my way to our engine room to retrieve yet another pair of pliers for Eric, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a slight dark mark on the floor of our front passageway...the floor just outside of our forward head (bathroom). I knew immediately what I was looking at--water damage.

I alerted Eric to the issue. Then, we hurriedly repackaged our never-to-be-installed galley fixtures and headed to the forward head to fix the leak.

Of course, before you can fix a leak, you need to locate the leak. So, despite already being exhausted from our previous (failed) endeavor, we decided to rip apart the forward head. By 9:00 PM, the floor was covered in screws and corded nails. Shortly thereafter, we removed a wall. Then, we struggled to put it back in place. At some point, I touched toilet water. We lost screws. I discovered a filthy spot behind the toilet that I have never once cleaned. We wore lights on our heads. There were knives. There were razor blades. Our backs burned. It was awful.

As I sat crumpled in the base of the shower dangerously attempted to pry open an access hatch with an untrustworthy pocket knife, it occurred to me that perhaps we should just turn off toilet and call it a night. At that same moment, Eric popped his head into the shower and said, "I don't want to do this anymore." I concurred.

Evening Fun Aboard Sea Gem
So, we turned off the water, put down our tools, switched off the lights, and wearily retired to our quarters. 

Tonight, Eric determined that there was no leak. I have no idea how this is even possible, as there is clearly a leak, but I have no motivation to continue the investigation. For now,"sweaty pipes" is what was named as the culprit. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Galley? Check.

Three-and-half months after we started, our galley upgrades are finally complete.

We started by adding a tile backsplash behind the stove.

Next, we added black enamel drip pans to our stove (a 60-second installation, but amazing how a small change can make a big difference on a boat).

Then, we installed our new freezer (which took hours and had no effect on the appearance of the galley--pretty much the opposite of the drip pans).

After installing the freezer, we added a built-in garbage and a matching vent to keep the freezer area cool.

To keep the freezer area even cooler, we next installed a little exhaust fan by the vent.

Then, we replaced the old freezer lid with a removable chopping block (before pictures can be seen here).

The chopping block is big enough to fit over the stove or between the existing counters to serve as extra counter space.

Freezer Basket
Better yet, when it is removed, we have better access to the contents of the freezer than before.

Finally, we came full circle by adding another tile backsplash--this time behind the sink.

Smart Tiles
Overall, our galley is more functional and attractive than before, and with the exception of the freezer, everything cost about $300 combined.

Now, the only thing left to do is decide on a new project.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pump Out? Yes.

Helina's newest language skill is the art of asking questions. And, because she is so helpful, she accompanies her questions with her desired answer. For instance, if she wants a bottle, she'll say, "Ba-ba? Yes." Her "yes" is spoken in a tone that is equal parts assertive and adorable.

This morning, the first inquiry of the day was "Pump out? Yes." Initially, I assumed Helina was requesting to go above deck and wave at the pump-out boat; however, when I turned to her, I discovered she was not interested in the pump-out boat at all--she was trying to unhinge the manual bilge pump's lever (aka Helina's magic wand) from its holster.

Eric has been having Helina assist him whenever he manually pumps out our bilge, and apparently, she has taken a liking to the job. Here she is a few days ago after she mastered the task:

Proud Pumper 
I'm proud to see Helina attempting to pull her own weight around here? Yes!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Brightwork in Progress

We are in the process of having our teak refreshed, and stage 1 is complete! Our deck handholds and eyebrow are now painted white and navy, which mirrors our hull's paint job:

Fresh Paint
I'm not going to lie, both Eric and I felt (and still feel) a little guilty about painting over some of our boat's beautiful teak, but in the end, we're both happy with the final result (of course, should the guilt ever become too much to bear, we can always sand off the paint and varnish the wood once again).

In addition to painting a few things, we also had our toe rail touched up (which thankfully didn't involve as many steps or as much time as last year):

Like New, Again
Up next? Our cockpit combing (before pictures can be found here and here):

Ready for Varnish
To be continued...

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Official...5 Years Later

Like many married Jewish couples, Eric and I signed a ketubah during our wedding ceremony.

Blue Mist by Bernice Greenberg
Our intent was to hang it prominently on our wall immediately upon returning home from our wedding. To expedite the process, we bought a frame before the ceremony. Sadly, we opted to buy a cheap frame that didn't fit the irregular detentions of our ketubah instead of waiting a few extra weeks to have it professionally framed. (I can not emphasis enough how cheap this frame was, nor can I convey how completely awesome both Eric and I thought it was at the time, and how proud we were to have found such a great deal.) Needless to say, although we kept our hideous frame on our wall for several years, we never enjoyed seeing such an important document trapped in such an ugly encasement.

When we moved aboard, we knew there was no way we were going to sacrifice the integrity of our beautiful teak walls for such a sad, ugly, plastic frame--no matter what it contained. So, years after we put pen to paper, we finally got our ketubah professionally framed

In addition to the role the ketubah plays for us personally, it is now also serving an important purpose aboard Sea Gem. The TV in our main salon is mounted to a relatively thin wall:

TV Mount
Because the wall is thin, the hardware used to mount the TV to the wall was visible on the backside of the wall. Our newly framed ketubah now hangs over the hardware, hiding the nuts and bolts of the TV mount: 

Finally Framed
Years ago, when we selected our ketubah, I remember thinking the design reminded me of water, so I suppose it is only fitting that this beautiful piece of Judaica is now at home inside a sailboat.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lots of Wires

In addition to our galley upgrades, we have also been hard at work updating our electronics.  Sea Gem's electronics were replaced about ten years ago, and although there have been several advances in the past ten years, our old system should serve our needs (and continue to work) for at least another few years.

However, one significant new technology from the past few years is AIS (automatic identification system), which utilizes VHF radio signals to identify the location, speed, and course of other vessels, and so we decided to partially update our electronics system by incorporating AIS.  The heart of the upgrade is our new VHF radio, which has a built-in AIS receiver.

The VHF is located at our navigation station (desk) in the corner of the salon and has a small screen that shows the location of nearby vessels.

We also wired the VHF to our computer, which permits us to more clearly view other vessels on our chartplotter software, which also warns us if we are on a collision course based on the speed and direction of both Sea Gem and the other boat.

Navigation Station
Because the VHF is located in the salon, we also wired a remote microphone into the cockpit.  The microphone allows us to control all functions of the VHF, has a little AIS screen, and even serves as an intercom between the cockpit and the salon.

Cockpit Connection
In addition to AIS, the new VHF also has a built-in horn and hailer (megaphone), and so we wired it to the speaker we have on the mizzen mast for that purpose.  Now, from either the cockpit or the salon, we can use our horn and loudly hail other boats.

Built-in Megaphone
Another recent technology related to VHF radios is DSC (digital selective calling) technology.  Sea Gem was equipped with this technology initially, but the new VHF makes it easier to use.  DSC permits us to communicate directly with an individual vessel, as opposed to using public channels, and permits boats to share their GPS coordinates with each other.  DSC-equipped boats have an MMSI number, which is the equivalent of a phone number, and you can either call or obtain a boat's GPS coordinates based on its MMSI number.

To further take advantage of this technology, we also bought a new handheld VHF with built-in GPS and DSC.  The handheld VHF has its own MMSI, so if we get lost in the dinghy at night for example, we can use Sea Gem's MMSI to determine its GPS coordinates and navigate right to it using the handheld.  Or, if someone with the handheld (which floats and is waterproof) falls into the water, whoever is on Sea Gem can use the handheld's MMSI to navigate to the person in the water.

Handheld VHF
The nice thing about the handheld is that it required no installation.  I took it out of the box, and it worked.  It has a wall charger for the battery, and that is it.

The other new equipment, on the other hand, involved lots and lots of tiny wires.  Specifically, 16 tiny wires that needed to be connected to the VHF, thread to various parts of the boat, and connected to something else (battery, speaker, computer, GPS, etc.).  But, in the end, everything works, and we've breathed new life into our older electronics system.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pump Out

Helina's vocabulary has exploded. She is picking up 2-3 new words each day. At last count, she had mastered 140 words and phrases (yes, I keep a detailed list). Not surprisingly, much of what she says is nautical in nature. Words like fish, oc-ta (octopus), agua, and boat were some of the first that came from her mouth, but lately, Eric and I have noticed a distinct shift in Helina's vocabulary--it's becoming very marina-specific.

Upon returning from work the other day, my parents told me that Helina had been saying "Dock box" and "Pump out" all day.

I find this very amusing.

Even if you're not familiar with marinas, you can probably guess what a dock box is--a box that sits on the dock. These nondescript boxes serve the same purpose that a backyard shed serves for landlubbers. Each slip in our marina has a large, rectangular dock box mounted to the pier in front the boat. Given that we live at the end of a very long pier, Helina sees dozens of dock boxes a day. We also access our dock box on a somewhat regular basis (it is where we store our poop hose!). Given our daughter's daily exposure to dock boxes, it is not surprising that "dock box" has worked its way into her vocabulary.

"Pump out" is in reference to the pump-out boat (aka "honey barge") that circulates through the marina. This boat's main function is to pump out the holding tanks of boats in the marina and mooring field (ew). It also shuttles people back and forth to the boats bobbing around in the mooring field.

Delivery in Progress
Not only does Helina say the word "pump out," she is able to identify the pump out boat from all of the other boats that pass through the marina. When she sees it, she points at it and chants "Pump out. Pump out. Pump out."

I'm quite hopeful that Helina will learn two languages as a result of growing up in Miami--English and Spanish, but it looks like she is also becoming fluent in a third language--boatspeak.

Friday, January 17, 2014


It's that time of year again--time to refresh our teak work. Thankfully, I didn't need to bear a child in order to initiate this year's touch up.

For the most part, our varnish is in good shape. The toe rail surrounding the perimeter of our boat looks as good as new, but for some reason, the varnish on our boat's handholds and eyebrow didn't hold up very well:

Worn Out

This year, we decided that, instead of varnishing these two elements, we'd paint them. Our handholds will be white and the eyebrow will be painted navy to match the stripe running along the outside of our hull. 

As you can see, both features are primed and ready for paint!

Prepped, Primed, and Ready
To be continued...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Welcome Home

When we first moved aboard Sea Gem, there was a "Welcome Aboard" doormat (hatchmat?) on the floor of our cockpit in front of the main hatch. We liked how it looked, but unfortunately, it ended up becoming a bit of a nuisance (or rather, it invited a nuisance to our front door). Our former mat took forever to dry. After it rained, the mat would remain soggy for days. During this time, mosquitoes flocked to our boat's entrance, and multiplied. Since mosquitoes are not welcome aboard, we ended up retiring the worn out mat (and bid bon voyage to our mosquitoes friends).

Recently, however, I found a new welcome mat for Sea Gem:

Kikkerland Anchor Doormat
Unlike our old doormat, the new mat is made of durable PVC coil, which means it is ideal for getting wet:

Welcome Home
So far, no mosquitoes are using it as a breeding ground.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Weighing In

Eric and I haven't owned a bathroom scale since before we moved to Miami. It was one of those things we sold before moving aboard Sea Gem because the scale we had in our townhouse bathroom was big and made of glass--not exactly boat friendly. I distinctly remember stubbing my toe on our old scale every morning, and I have no doubt that, had we brought our old scale aboard Sea Gem, my foot (or feet) would have been severed long ago.

Although we have alternative ways of weighing ourselves on board, the only time Eric and I get an accurate reading (i.e. a number) is when we visit the doctor's office or brave the public and weigh in at the grocery store (yes, we're those people). Well, we no longer have to wait for a check-up or until we're low on milk to know our weight--we bought a bathroom scale, and it is tiny:

Were we in the market for a scale? No. But, when you live on a boat and see something that would be absolutely perfect for a small space, you feel obligated to buy it. The scale is sleek and small, yet despite being made of glass, it has no sharp edges. And just how small is the scale? Freakishly small! It is only slightly larger than our remote control

Taylor Mini Digital Scale
While I am very happy that this scale exists, I can't help but wonder why it exists. Who is the target market for this scale? Certainly not people who live on boats (although I highly recommend it if you do)! On the box, there was a picture of a female putting the scale in her backpack. Was she taking it to school? Work? Out for a night on the town? Can't weighing yourself wait until you get home? I have no idea. What I do know is that I love this little scale, and I have no plans to remove it from our bathroom floor. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Galley Renovations

We have recently blogged about our ongoing efforts to update our galley, including our new tile backsplash behind the stove and our new freezer.  We still have more work to do over the next month, but we have made enough progress since our last post on the topic to warrant an update.

Although we are happy to have our freezer inside the galley counter where it belongs instead of on the floor in the salon, there are two issues with the placement that need to be addressed.

First, we created a heat problem.  Refrigerators and freezers work by pulling heat from inside the box and putting it somewhere.  Our refrigerator works by pumping the heat out into the ocean through a water pump.  Our freezer works in the same fashion as household fridges and freezers--by blowing the heat into the surrounding air.  Since the freezer essentially sits inside a big box (the galley cabinetry), that area gets very hot.  A higher ambient temperature makes the freezer work harder in order to keep its contents cold, which makes the surrounding air even hotter, and so on.  Our solution was to install an attractive teak vent in the side of the cabinetry to vent the heat generated by the freezer (click here to see a before picture).

Second, the freezer lid doesn't open all the way.  More on that in a future post.

In addition to adding the vent, we also added a louvered door in the side of the cabinetry holding the freezer.  The louvers will further help keep the area cool, but the primary purpose of the door is to hold our garbage can. Previously, we kept our garbage in a custom bag that more or less hung in the middle of the galley.  Now, it is easy to access and out of the way.

New Galley Garbage Storage - Closed
Galley Garbage
Finally, to make use of some of the extra space around the freezer in the cabinetry, we installed one of those over-the-door shoe racks.  We had to cut the length down, but it otherwise fits perfectly and holds and organizes our cleaning supplies, making great use of otherwise empty space.

Unique Cleaner Storage
Overall, we are happy with our upgrades, but we're not done yet.  More to come.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome to Miami

In the winter months, the marinas in Florida fill with people escaping the cold (And if you Northerners knew how nice it is down here right now, you'd be quite upset. Here's a hint--I went out for ice cream today!). This year, we're extremely excited by the presence of a special boat in our marina--my parents' sailboat, Bull's Eye! Here she is:

1966 Grebe 41
Bull's Eye and crew made their way down to South Florida all the way from Rhode Island. It was a long (and cold) sail:

My (freezing cold) Mom
Thankfully everyone made it in one piece.

Yesterday, we took Helina aboard Bull's Eye for the first time. Not only was it her first time aboard my parents' sailboat, it was her fist time being aboard another sailboat, period. Being with her on board a different boat made me appreciate how much effort we have put into child-proofing ours. For the most part, the interior of my parents' boat is just as safe as our boat, but while attempting to board my parents' boat, I had flashbacks to our pre-Helina days of boarding Sea Gem. In order to get Helina aboard their boat, Eric and I ended up having to rely on our beloved technique, "Dangle Dog" (and let's just say that dogs dangle much more naturally and compliantly than do little tots). Then, as soon as we were safely on board, Helina made a beeline for the helm, then fearlessly crawled onto the aft-deck (which caused her mother and grandmother to nearly faint).

Peanut Overboard?
Needless to say, our little captain is going to be spending her time aboard Sea Gem, not Bull's Eye. Although it is true that my parents' boat is rigged and ready for open water, our boat is equipped for something much more unpredictable--our daughter.