Spring is here. Time to get to work.

My God, what a long, miserable winter. But it’s over. Well, mostly. It is going to approach freezing overnight for a night or two later this week. For all intents, though, it does appear to be done. And not a moment too soon.

Lulled into some carelessness by the recent mild winters, I was planning on spending several nights every week aboard, and figured with a little heater running I didn’t need to winterize the fresh water system. Bzzzz… Wrong answer. It got cold enough to not only freeze the water; but bust the water pump.

This weekend, finally, I replaced the electric pump. I also installed a backup manual foot pump and faucet. A new inline filter is in place leading to the pressure galley faucet (I wanted the filtered water to go everywhere; but the plumbing system was turning into a spaghetti like nightmare, so I simplified it). It all works very well. In fact, the foot pump is so effective I sort of regret keeping the pressurized system. Ah, well. It’s in now. Removing it might simplify the water system; but it would do nothing to simplify my life, so it stays.

Unfortunately, just when I was testing all the systems I discovered that the Head sink faucet (an old, brittle, plastic thing) had cracked as well. I guess I’ll replace that at some point, though the head sink doesn’t get a tremendous amount of use.

This weekend also saw the recommissioning of the engine. Truly, it is much easier to restore it to service than it is to winterize it. Still, it is a relief to see it running.

The sails come back from the sail loft next week, all fixed and clean. At that point, while many projects remain (as always), I can go sailing.

I. Just. Can’t. Wait.

 

Winter Solstice

It’s officially winter. Yay. Notice the exclamation point on the banner. That means I love this time of year.

Except, of course, I’m lying.

I’ve got the worst case of self diagnosed SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It’s unseasonably warm this weekend, which is nice, but not enough to shake me out of my funk. I really, really want to head out on an adventure. This would be the perfect winter weekend to make a break for warmer climes. Alas, the bank account is a bit anemic and I’m going to have to keep working for a while longer.

Perhaps I need a project. Something to achieve. Being as I own a boat, there is no shortage, of course. I just need to get off my tail and begin. I’m thinking the modification to the cabin table is the right place to start. The table takes up a little too much room, so needs shortening. Thinking about that makes me just a little happier.

The good news: today, being the shortest day of the year, also marks the return of sunshine. Just a little more daylight every day from here on out. In a little over three months, early sailing season should begin. And that really will warrant an exclamation point.

Water

I have tankage for twenty gallons of water on board Seeker. Frankly, that isn’t a lot for the extended sailing I have planned and I hope to augment that in the near future. But, given that I have what I have, even on shortish week or two trips it is critical to conserve water.

Brita Water FilterNaturally, some water shouldn’t be conserved. It is important to drink plenty of water, especially in the warmer months. Many people do their drinking solely from disposable plastic water bottles, which is a great way of consuming good tasting, clean water. It’s also expensive and wasteful. Admittedly, I do do this; but I am trying to break myself of the habit. I have installed on the pressure water system a Brita filter which produces fine tasting water from my 30+ year old water tanks.

Pump up solar showerOther daily water uses can easily be reduced. Baby wipes are inexpensive, and wonderful for a daily sponge bath. They aren’t as nice as a real shower, of course; but they do greatly reduce the need of the daily shower dirt dwellers are accustomed to.

For an on-board shower I mostly use the Pump Up Solar Shower I found on Duckworksmagazine.com. I can either use it in the head (where I also can use the wasteful, and cold, pressure water shower), or on the deck. I sort of like to sit at the bow with my legs in the anchor locker and clean up there as the second best solution is the cockpit, which I’d much prefer to keep dry and comfortable. I fill this shower before leaving so as to not use the tank water, and find I can comfortably get several showers out of it. The black container also warms up in the sun which is nice. The portable nature of this shower also allows me to rinse off the boat and gear with it, or even dishes if I’m inclined to do them in the cockpit. A real bonus.

Speaking of dishes, I believe that doing them is one of the most wasteful uses of water.

Dish soap sprayer

A good way to save water while doing dishes

One solution to this that I found is to mix up some dish soap and water in a heavy duty spray bottle. A few pumps of the lever and the dishes are wet and soapy and ready for cleaning. One bottle lasts a really long time and uses hardly any water. I have been rinsing using pressure water; but I think a separate water only spray bottle would work really well. There is a minor issue with this method. on the bottom of the pickup tube there is a little plastic strainer that the dish soap seems to coagulate around. After a day or two it is necessary to pull the sprayer nozzle and tube and clean off this intake strainer, or the bottle just won’t pump. The strainer itself pulls off easy enough (at least in the bottle I have), so I removed it from mine and will see if the dish soap starts gunking up more important and less easily cleaned parts of the pump works. Either way, I definitely recommend grabbing a bottle or two.

Oh, and a word about pressure water: I’ve always bought into the common knowledge that pressure water equals waste. That may be true if you have dirt dwellers aboard, or maybe teenage girls or something. With a little care, however, I have found that it is real easy to use a miserly trickle of water. I still desire a manual pump; but more as a backup than to save water.

Coming soon eventually: more water tankage. I’m looking at installing a fresh water tank where the holding tank used to be. The holding tank was twenty gallons and ideally I could get the same for fresh water. Sadly, I can’t find an off the shelf thank to properly fit the spot so will likely end up with a smaller 13 gallon flexible tank in that area (that may or may not be able to be fully utilized). I suspect custom tanks would be too expensive, although I suppose I can look into building one myself. I’m also considering installing another twenty gallon tank under the starboard settee. I’m a little uncertain of this one, as I hate to take away too much of my limited stowage. But, I really hate having to dig under the settees anyhow, so maybe the compromise is worth it. I should still have a fair amount of stowage available. Upping my water tankage from twenty gallons to fifty would really extend my range.

Snow and the Chuck Wagon Boat

Today we got the first snow of the season, mixed in with a little sleet. The winter storm warning, or advisory, or whatever it is continues until ten AM tomorrow morning. I figure this is a good weekend to stay aboard!

Seeker in the snow

Seeker in the snow, 8 Dec 2013

I have completely fallen in love with my cockpit enclosure. Throw a little electric space heater in there (or, if away from the dock, a little propane catalytic heater) and it stays pretty comfortable even when the temperature outside falls well below short sleeve weather. Unfortunately, I’m pretty certain that it isn’t designed to withstand the weight of what winter has to dump. So yesterday afternoon I purchased some 1/2″ PVC pipe, and a 10′x16′ tarp, and built the little bowed shelter you see in the photo. Frankly, I was less than convinced it was strong enough, as it only has three bows along the ten foot length; but at least for this storm it is doing well. The snow and sleet just slide right off of it! Do to the geometry of the rig, it wasn’t easy to cover the aft part of the enclosure; but at least a ton of snow isn’t falling on the more vulnerable top.

I have to say, it was a pleasant day spent reading, listening to football games, and just generally screwing around out in the cockpit while watching the snow fall. While, given the choice, I’d prefer to find myself halfway to the Bahamas, if I absolutely must remain where winters get cold, this is the way to do it!

The brown tarp does impede the view out the sides of the cockpit; but I can enjoy the world fore and aft. Unfortunately, it does further complicate the already not so easy process of getting on and off the boat; but I don’t really see a reasonable solution. I take extra care as going for a swim this time of the year could well have unpleasant consequences.

I can’t wait for spring.

Tarp Label

Tarp label clearly states that it is not recommended to use tarp on automobiles

OH, and just for a little fun, I copied the labels that where on the tarp packaging. The label on the back clearly warns against using the tarp on automobiles. The eye-catching front label naturally shows the tarp wrapped around a … well, guess.

The photo on the unopened tarp package is of a wrapped up car

The photo on the unopened tarp package is of a wrapped up car

Carbon Monoxide alarm

I’m spending the night on the boat, as I try to do a couple times a week. It is in the lowish 30s. I’m snug as a bug in a rug when, quite rudely at 0400, I am woken by the insistent chirp chirp chirp chirp of my Fireboy-Xintex Carbon Monoxide Detector. Shit. I tumble out of bed, open the hatches (brrr), and start the fans. The alarm happily silences after about fifteen or twenty minutes.

What the hell just happened?

The boat is being heated with a 700 watt miniature radiator style Homebasix CYPB-7 Mini Oil Filled Radiator, which seems a bit undersized, so I supplemented with a little ceramic Holmes HFH103-UM Compact Heater Fan. It is electric heat and shouldn’t generate any carbon monoxide. I did light the lantern for awhile last night, and I cooked dinner onboard, but given the hours that have passed, I don’t think they could really be a factor either. When opening the hatches I listened carefully for any sounds of generators or engines. Nothing. The marina is a ghost town. Where did the CO come from?

TaffrailWithEnclosureBesides the mysterious introduction of CO to the cabin, I wonder why it lingered. I have a cockpit enclosure but there are big areas for ventilation as it attaches to a taffrail that is five inches off the deck. Surely there is more than enough air exchange. I do have some curtains in the cabin to close off the main area from the galley/navigation area, and from the head in order to contain warmth (and, I guess CO); but they are several inches off the sole to aid compartment to compartment ventilation (and, being curtains, aren’t exactly air tight). The top drop board has about 60 square inches of screened opening protected with a rain shield, and a one inch gap between the top board and the sliding hatch. I would think this is plenty of ventilation. I have only a small solar vent in the forward head, so perhaps there is inadequate through venting, but the total lack of interior condensation suggests to me that the whole ventilation is working fairly well.

I had a very minor headache, that eased over an hour or so; but I’m not sure if that is from CO poisoning or from waking up hours before normal. I’m prone to headaches, normally, so I’m not terribly confident in using them as a symptom. I don’t have any other symptoms that I can associate with CO poisoning.

Best guess: somewhere out there someone is running an engine, generator or heater, and somehow the CO managed to make its’ way to my boat and get sucked in through the cockpit enclosure and into the cabin. It seems rather unlikely; but what else can it be?

I’m now snuggled in my bunk warming up with a healthy new paranoia. I’m leaving the curtains open and the top drop board out to increase the airflow, suddenly comfortable with the chill of a cold morning and happy that I went to the hassle and expense of installing the CO detector. I’m not sure how dangerous things really were; but figure since I woke up readily without any disorientation (strangely, not even the usual morning just awake groggy disorientation) or other significant symptom (outside of the questionable headache) I tend to feel the levels may have been unhealthy, but not yet critical. However, since dying in my sleep would be a significant detriment to the adventures I have planned, I am glad the detector is there and working.


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms:

    • Dull headache
    • Weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Shortness of breath
    • Confusion
    • Blurred vision
    • Loss of consciousness

A little progress

Spending quality time on the boat working on a bunch of little projects…

Finally vented the Natures Head composting toilet outside into the deck anchor locker. I was temporarily just having it vent into the below decks chain locker, which was mostly OK; but once in awhile (after particularly heavy use) I’d get a whiff of something I generally prefer not to think about. I think finally finishing this project will take care of this occasional issue.

I removed the door to the head and replaced it with a curtain. Oh, sure, the door gave a more finished appearance and contributed to the illusion of privacy; but when open it intruded into the cabin way too much, and since it needs to remain open to get the benefit of ventilation through the fore-hatch, the curtain becomes more than a bit more practical. Besides, the door knob broke on the door. And it usually didn’t shut right anyway.

I installed a new 110VAC electrical outlet on the front of the starboard bunk. Since I prefer to keep all AC power cords safely tucked inside conduit, this was more work than I anticipated. The new outlet will allow running the miniature oil filled radiator style portable heater I purchased without having to plug it into an extension cord. It also is in a convenient place for plugging in an electric blanket, if I go that route.

Regarding the heater, I stayed on the boat last night and the temps dropped to the low 30s. While the heater managed to keep the boat in the mid sixties during the evening, as it got later the inside temperature dropped into the mid-fifties. Not really horrible; but cooler than I’d like. I think for real winter temperatures the boat just won’t qualify as the comfy warm cocoon that I desire. At least not with this little 700 watt heater. UNLESS, perhaps, I slide up the dividers between the galley/nav station and the main cabin area (they are really cool…I should take photos), and perhaps add a dividing curtain there as well. Then, with a smaller area to heat, I think the little heater might be able to keep up. If it doesn’t work I can always buy a bigger portable heater (or install a built in heater), or better yet, just stay in the nicely heated girlfriend’s house, with the very snugly and nicely heated girlfriend.

Nature’s Head Composting Toilet

I installed the Nature’s Head after having an unfortunate experience last year with an over filled holding tank (a very messy version of Old Faithful was the odorous result). I had considered making a home-brew version (off the shelf parts would be sweet); but my time is not unlimited and I had other things to spend it on (rewiring the boat, for starters). The boat show price was high; but not unreasonably so.

With me and my gal, the two plus gallon liquids container generally needs emptying every other day. I do have a spare jug which I feel is mandatory and should come standard. I will soon be making a custom fit bracket to snugly hold the spare jug to the bulkhead to reduce the risk of it going flying and spilling the contents all over the interior (a horrifying thought).

The solids container does seem to last quite awhile; but I’m not convinced it makes the advertised 60-80 uses. Of course, if putting the toilet paper in the head (and it is somewhat distasteful to put it anywhere else), it will fill up much faster. The TP takes some time to break down. The poop does become inoffensive in a couple of days, although it surely takes much longer to fully compost than the practical time it can remain in the toilet. There is rarely a smell (the cat box is much more of an issue). The small fan barely registers on the amp meter and does an admirable job of venting to the anchor locker.

Dumping:

From a philosophical point of view, I think that discreetly pouring pee overboard is not much of a health risk anyplace that is not unusually sensitive and not morally shaky, unless it done in a really crowded harbor at which point it is bad manners. Legally is a different thing altogether, and I’m pretty certain it is universally frowned upon by those men with shiny badges. You makes your choices and you takes your chances. It should be easy enough to find a shore side facility every two or three days, although I can think of more pleasant things than carrying around a couple of gallons of smelly pee.

By the same token, I think that putting partially composted solid waste in a thick contractors trash bag (the Nature’s Head site suggests a regular kitchen garbage bag…given the subject matter I think I prefer the extra toughness of the thick bags) and putting it into the dumpster is no more offensive or generally harmful to mankind than disposing of dirty baby diapers in the trash; but it may still be illegal. The Nature’s Head folks suggest it is dirt at this point (assuming some time between last deposit); but I am not certain that it really, truly qualifies without having at least months of time to cook. Choices. Chances. I read somewhere (the c-head homepage, perhaps) that sealing it in a pickle bucket (aka Home Depot ‘Homer’ bucket) with some bleach qualifies it as “treated” and it suddenly becomes legal for about the same price as a pump out. I’m not sure; but it sounds like a reasonable compromise assuming an offshore dump is not practical. I emptied mine after using it occasionally all summer plus regularly for a ten day trip for two. It was not anymore distasteful than a pump out, and more pleasant than dealing with a porta-potti. I expect the next time I empty it will be when I recommission the boat next spring. Although I’m now living aboard part-time, so that estimate might not hold true in the end.

The bottom line:

Everything in life is a compromise. But as far as compromises go, this one ain’t that bad. And I no longer have nightmares of exploding holding tanks. Bonus: By pulling the holding tank, I now have room for a new water tank to augment the somewhat anemic twenty gallons of the primary tank. If only I can find an off the shelf tank that would properly fit…