Sunday, June 29, 2014

Biohazard

A dark, disgusting event--one involving toilets--unfolded recently aboard Sea Gem.

Our toilets operate much like airplane toilets. Upon flushing, there is a loud suction sound, followed by the robotic murmur of a vacuum pump. In general, the flushing process (and related sounds) last no more than 10 seconds.

Sometimes, however, the vacuum pump keeps running and the toilet becomes locked in a permanent flush. To remedy this situation, you simply flush the toilet again--not a big deal. The other day, however, when I attempted to stop the running toilet, it wouldn't stop cycling. Per protocol, I attempted to reset the pump by flushing the toilet repeatedly, but my attempts were in vain. The toilet wouldn't stop running, so I left the bathroom and made my way to the salon to cut the power to our toilets. The second I stepped into the salon, I was enveloped by a distinct and rather pungent odor (specifically, it smelled like sewage). Something was very wrong.

Upon investigation (which I did not conduct), it was revealed that the contents of our holding tank had leaked through a vent into our main salon (hence the raw sewage smell). Did I mention we were on our way to a dinner party at the time of the incident?

How did this happen?

The instrument we have that indicates the fullness of our holding tank malfunctioned. Instead of warning us that the tank was dangerously full, it showed that the tank was empty. Essentially we had a poop bomb on our hands, and it detonated when I flushed.

Despite the mess, we had only one casualty--my favorite bag--which happened to be sitting on the floor in front of the leaky vent (it was promptly banished to the deck, as it was now a carrier of the smell). Thankfully, our new floor cushion was spared (by inches).

Casualty 
I am, of course, devastated that my bag was caught in the toilet/holding tank crossfire. I loved my bag. It was a mix of everything I like most: metallic colors, inappropriate amounts of snake print, too-long tassels, and bulky gold hardware (I like a good tacky bag). Eric offered to hose it down for me, but obviously I can never use this bag again. All the soap and hot water in the world couldn't wash away the memory I have of it covered in fecal matter. Besides, even if it could, people I work with read this blog and I fear they would judge me harshly if I showed up to work toting a biohazard. 

Alas, it is goodbye bag... 

Toilet 1. Krissy 0. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ceiling?

The ceiling of our main salon is equipped with two handholds. As the name indicates, these bars are for hands to hold onto. Their intended purpose is to keep you from flying across the room if you are down below during a storm or rough water.

Teak Handholds
We have thankfully never needed them for that purpose (not yet anyway). Instead, we use them for all sorts of other things. When Helina was much younger, we relied on these bars to suspend her baby jumper. Now, Helina utilizes them as her own personal set of monkey bars.

oooh-oooh ahhh-ahhh
Helina points to the handholds, and with a one-word question (Ceiling?!), requests to be hoisted up to the bars. Once in position, she giggles maniacally as she effortlessly pulls herself up. 

Given her innate monkey-like abilities, I have no doubt that Helina will soon find a way to access these bars without our help. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Elf Is Good

In preparation for our rapidly approaching 1000-mile journey from Miami to New York, we are repairing, certifying, and upgrading several of Sea Gem's systems.  A recent addition to our navigation system is a unassuming little device called a "Bad Elf." 

Bad Elf
The Bad Elf is a battery-powered and water-resistant portable GPS receiver with a tiny LCD screen that indicates your position and speed.  The battery lasts for 30 hours of non-stop operation, and the Bad Elf is therefore a great backup navigation aid in case, for example, the boat's main electrical system goes down.  Although the Bad Elf does not have built- nautical charts, it can be used in conjunction with paper charts.

In addition, the Bad Elf wirelessly communicates with our iPad through Bluetooth.  Because the iPad does have electronic charts, the Bad Elf permits us to use the iPad as a stand-alone, battery-powered chartplotter.  This is not only a great backup in case something happens to our electrical system, but it is also an added convenience, as the iPad can be used from anywhere in the boat, as opposed to a fixed position like our other navigation devices. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Biting the Bullet

To date, one of the most satisfying moments in my life was the day I bid farewell to my over-stuffed winter coat. Upon ridding myself of the well-used coat, I happily declared that I would never again own another winter coat because I would never again subject myself to living in a place that experienced winter.

Fast forward to today--I am now the reluctant owner of--not one--but two winter coats.

For weeks, I have been scouring South Florida in search of a proper winter coat only to come up empty handed... until today.

This weekend, I braved the heat and humidity and found two amazingly perfect winter coats at a local vintage store's outdoor annual yard sale.

The first is a floor-length, fur-lined-and-trimmed (hopefully faux fur) leather coat that is so thick it nearly stands up by itself:

Added Warmth
It was $20--that's it!

The second coat reminds me almost exactly of the coat I had before moving to Miami, except it is a different color.

Puffy Coat 2.0 - Vintage Roffe Ski Jacket
It, too, was $20. 

In addition to the coats themselves, the memory of buying them will also play a role in keeping me warm. It was so hot and humid this morning that steam was practically rising from the ground--not exactly ideal conditions for an outdoor shopping session. By 10:00 AM, I was producing so much sweat from my brow that my feet were experiencing showers. It was disgusting and physically uncomfortable, but well worth it for both the deals and the memory. Come winter, if these coats can't keep me warm, at least I'll have a memory of being warm.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Reunited Again

It's back... again! Not long ago, one of our four aft-cockpit cushions blew away. I actually thought we were going to luck out again and find it after I spotted what appeared to be a blue cushion in the mangroves near our boat, but it was a false alarm. We figured there was no way we'd ever see it again, so we bit the bullet and had a new cushion made:


Like Old
The new cushion is nearly indistinguishable from the others (just a bit less worn looking). To prevent any more unexpected departures, we upgraded all of the cushions with new (and more) snaps:

Snap On, Snap Off
 Hopefully the cushions--all of them--will be sticking around for a bit longer this time... 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Storm Windows Are Back to Protect Us From...Cold?

Several months ago, we explained how we removed our storm windows.  Well, they are back on, and not just for hurricane season


Storm Windows
We have been told that one of the most serious impediments to heating a boat in the winter is large, uninsulated cabin windows, of which we have six.  Apparently, the windows do not only let heat escape from the interior of the boat, but ice can form inside the windows and make a real mess inside. 

In preparation for our upcoming winter in New York, we installed a weather strip in between the window frame and our storm windows to create a tight seal, much like the heat-shrink film that you can buy at the hardware store to insulate house windows, but our storm windows are of course much thicker. 

We'll see how this works out come next February, but we are hopeful that our storm-turned-insulation windows will do the trick.  When installing them, we did notice a significant difference in the amount of summer heat entering the boat, as compared the windows that we had not yet covered.  So, initial results are promising.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

But What About Winter?

As soon as people hear that we're moving our boat up north (and that we plan to stay aboard), the first question they ask is "What are you going to do in the winter?"

Despite having lived in the northeast (Massachusetts) for several years, until recently (about a week ago), I, for some reason, was under the impression that it didn't snow in New York City. So, until about a week ago, I would respond to the question about winter with, "I'm sure we'll be cold, but it isn't like there will be snow, so we'll be fine." Then, whoever was asking the questing would stare at me like I was insane. I now understand why.

We have be communicating with someone who lives on a boat in Bridgeport, CT, and the other day, he shared a photo with us that absolutely horrified me. This is a picture of his boat in the dead of winter:

Our Future
This is what the dead of winter looks like where we currently live:

February Frocks
Although Bridgeport, CT is farther north than Jersey City, NJ, I'm guessing the winters we'll be facing in the coming years will have more in common with what is pictured in the first photo than what is pictured in the second.

So what does this all mean in terms of what we'll do in the winter? Well, clearly it is going to be cold. Thankfully, our A/C system has a reverse cycle, which produces heat. Unfortunately, this particular system only produces heat when the water surrounding the boat is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. While our current system will be sufficient for most of the year, there will absolutely be months when the surrounding water temperature falls below 40 degrees. To account for this, we are making sure our boat's insulation it up to the task. We're also researching various types of heaters that are safe for boats. More on that later...

To keep our decks free of snow, we'll likely be tenting our boat in the winter. If you look closely at some of the boats in our new marina (picture can be found here), you'll see that several are wrapped in plastic. This helps with keeping both the boat warm and the decks clear of snow and ice. 

For good measure, I'm guessing we'll also be investing in a shovel. 

Stay tuned...