28 February 2010

Optimizing Space and Storage

With two people living aboard a 34' sailboat, space is at a premium. Imagine sleeping, cooking, and doing everything else you would do in a normal apartment, but in the space of a small bedroom. For a yard, you have a space about 34'x8' and even that space is comprised of varying levels, angles, and contains all sorts of obstructions. There's just not a whole lot of room, to say the least. So, here we'll share a few modifications that were made during the refit to enable more useful, and just some general storage tricks we use to optimize what we have.

In the V-berth is a pair of storage bins. Once upon a time, the bin pictured here was actually a pair of drawers. Each drawer was about big enough to stow a pair of socks, or a half-dozen field mice. There was actually more wasted space around the drawers than there was in them. So, we fixed it. Now in their place is a top-loading bin, with a horizontal divider built in between. The divider is simply two 1/4" pieces of luan resting on cleats. The drawer fronts were removed and placed on hinges to allow access from the front if the berth is made up in bed form.

I've had a few people ask me where we keep our clothes, after seeing the hanging closet's miniscule size. Well, they are in fact ALL in there. One of the refit projects was to retrofit the closet with shelves, which netted us a HUGE gain in usable storage. To any boaters out there who are looking for the solution, let me tell you this: shelves beat out hangers any day. As seen in the picture, one half of the closet was converted. Space that once could hold about 12 hanging items (tightly packed) now holds our entire wardrobes, including shoes. LED touch lights are installed to make finding things at least slightly easier. Also added was a small shelf along the contour of the hull at the back of the hanging section that would otherwise just be open space.

Long items can be problematic to store on a boat. Rarely do we have a compartment with the length required to store long items. One of our solutions to this was to add tall stakes to a narrow but long shelf tucked under the nav station.

Even items that you wouldn't normally think of as being hard to store become a problem when your space is so limited. Some things that you would never notice tucked into the back of your closet can become impossibly hard to find a place for. One such example would be Darcy's canvases (for painting). The biggest one is 24"x24," which fits absolutely nowhere on the boat, and thusly floated around the cabin for a few weeks. We finally found a large, flat spot to store them: the overhead.

And of course, we have the almost always present net hammock above the settee. This holds a vast amount of snack foods, and tends to accumulate daily essentials like hats and gloves, green suspenders and pub signs. Seen under the hammock is the settee berth lee cloth, also being used in hammock form.

And, that's it for now. As an update, we're still trying to leave. Again. Since our tides here are wind driven, we're waiting for a south wind to blow the water in enough to bump our way out. Unfortunately, several gorgeous weather windows have passed with us sitting in the mud at the bottom of the canal.

13 February 2010

Blog Update!

Don't worry, this is still the same Winds and Water.  But now that we're a real blog, we needed a little facelift - something more topic-appropriate. 

With all the snow, things are progressing pretty slowly, but we think we'll be able to leave Tuesday or Wednesday.  We now have a heater, we are prepared to battle the condensation, and the books have been stowed until we reach more comfortable weather.  I hope no one has been too adversely affected by the unseasonable snow.

Thanks to everyone for the support and advice.

09 February 2010

A Tour of Southern Cross

So, I was going to write more about our first attempt (I am referring to it as a "shakedown cruise"), but I think Darcy summed it up quite well. So, instead I'll give you a tour of Southern Cross. As an update, we're still here in Moyock finishing up some repairs and upgrades. A few more days and we'll be done, and ready for round two.

Southern Cross is an Yachtcraft/Islander 34, built in 1975. Designed by Robert Perry, she's designed to handle almost anything you could throw at her. I'm trying to track down the exact builder of her, but having some difficulty. It's been difficult to track down the exact history of this hull, but from what I can find she's one of the 14-16 boats built by Islander.

We'll start at the bow, in the V-Berth. Normally made up in bed form, this "stateroom" has some of the most voluminous lockers aboard under the cushions. As seen in the pictures, immediately under the removable center section, drawers used to reside. One of the refit projects was to remove these drawers and build top-loading bins, giving us an almost 300% gain in storage volume. Dividers were installed horizontally in between the old drawer fronts, and the drawer fronts were removed and hinged. This allows us to either access these bins from the top or through the old drawer face. Our library, while not pictured here, resides on the shelves seen here as well.

Immediately aft of the V-Berth, on the port side (left as you're looking forward), is the head. Nothing too fascinating here. The sink is plumbed to drain overboard, but water supply into here is currently limited to carrying in a jug of water.

Directly across from the head is a hanging closet and bookshelf. The shelf is pretty much the "reference" section of our library. It also has acquired the storage of hats over time. The hanging closet was yet another refit project. Formerly just a large closet with one rod, and two small shelves in the back, it now houses two deep shelves and a shoe bin in the forward section, while aft of the new partition the hanging rod was reinstalled for a typical hanging closet. LED touch lights were also installed in the shelves, as it is almost impossible to see into them in anything other than optimal light conditions. At some later date, I plan on painting these shelves white (right now they're just poly over plywood) to make them a bit brighter and easier to see into.

Aft of the head (we're back on the port side now), is the salon. Shown here with the new cabin table (another refit project), it's a fairly simple L-shaped settee, with storage beneath. The new table can be used as shown, lowered and locked in to form a double berth, or removed completely. 95% of the time outside of dinner, we have it removed completely and stowed. This gives us MUCH more room to move around the cabin, or dance wildly to videos, or do yoga, or whatever else you can do in 40 square feet of wide open space.

On the other side of the cabin, we have the galley. Equipped with a Force 10 propane stove and infrared broiler, we have plenty of btu's available for cooking. Forward of that, we have a deep stainless sink, plumbed for running fresh and raw water, along with foot pumps for both as well. Right now the only use the electric water pumps have seen is for shock treating the tanks, but we're retaining them for now. As a side note on our consumables, we carry 40 gallons of fresh water in two tanks, along with 14 gallons on deck, and 10 gallons in jugs in the bilge. Propane is contained in twin 40# tanks stored on a platform off the transom. Anyway, aft of the stove is the ice box, which has been divided into sections for ice and food.

Moving on to just aft of the ice box is more storage and some tools. This used to be a quarterberth, but is now a resting place for one of the twin diesel tanks, thus rendering it too short for sleeping. Even for me. In any case, this whole area is now used for storage. A locker under the former berth is used for maintenance stuff, two totes hold crushable food items (and currently, all the books), the ditch bag, tool kits, flares, and first aid kit reside on top of the berth.

Aft of the salon (yes, we've zigged and zagged back to the port side again) is the nav station. Navigation aboard SC is pretty basic. GPS coordinates are read off one of the three handheld GPS units aboard (two Garmin Legends and one Magellan 315) and plotted by hand on paper charts. Other electronic navigation aids aboard are a depth sounder and Pathfinder RADAR system. I'm currently designing and building a NMEA network that will connect all these devices to a central PC. This will allow us to plot courses and waypoints on the PC, transfer data back and forth between the PC and GPS, and in the end, link to the autopilot (ST2000+ TillerPilot). Essentially, my end goal is to be able to plot the course and have the boat handle itself via autopilot while showing a realtime location on the PC. But of course, positions and course data will ALWAYS be logged and charted by hand on paper. I like my gadgets, but still don't fully trust electronics in a marine environment. Anyway, I'll be doing a post later on all our navigation practices and equipment.

That's pretty much the entire interior. Not much to it, but more than enough to get by.

02 February 2010

Tales of Woe

On Wednesday, we left around noon.  Nothing too fancy, we just spent the night in Tull Bay - we stayed close to home in case any system wasn't working properly or if any unforeseen needs arose.  The weather was gorgeous, we were smiling, everything seemed fine and dandy.  Kyle took the helm to lead us out of the canals.

So, we spent the afternoon getting minor things settled in or stowed, then got out our books and lounged in the sun.  The plants were loving it!  And so were we, quite frankly.  That afternoon we celebrated our departure with the aforementioned champagne, and later that night the parents (Ken and Kelly - oh, sorry to forget you, Short One - Brittany, too) and neighbors (Dwayne and Janet) came out to cook us dinner and wish us farewell.  

In the morning, the real adventure began.  We had an uneventful trip down to Coin Jock, where we filled up on diesel and chatted with some boys delivering a mega yacht from New Jersey.  It was pretty chilly on the boat because even though it was 50-60* out; the wind was bitter.  Little did I know what was to come...

So anyway, we made it to our first anchorage, no problem, around 1pm.  We "battened down the hatches," as they say, because the weather was about to turn inclement.  The forecast was COLD and WINDY.  Those are the proper nautical terms, Kyle taught me those.  We learned that the dinghy cannot be used to set an anchor (the gravitational force of the chain is greater than the pull of the boat when rowing).  Hmm, what else.  It was cold that night, but we had a giant pile of blankets.

The next morning the waves were kind of rough, and that was before we even got into the Albemarle Sound.  Also, they were parallel with the direction we were heading.  I learned then that the direction of the waves is nearly as important as how big they are.  If we had been heading with the waves or even against the waves, we probably would have crossed the Sound.  But going parallel is pretty brutal.  There was utter destruction of the bookshelves, but we already knew that there was insufficient stowage in that area.

So, even though it hurt our pride, we turned around and went back to the anchorage.  This was a tough decision, because the weather reports had already advised us that if we didn't cross Friday, the next earliest we'd be able to cross was Sunday or even Monday, which meant a couple days being confined to the sailboat, no land, no people, just a test of how long we could stand each other.

But it turned out to be more than that.  On Saturday we woke up to snow.  Keep in mind we have no heat on the boat at all.  There is a stove, and we can derive heat from that, but I think that every time we ran the stove it set the CO detector off, which was annoying.  And it was tolerable with 2-4 layers of clothing on.  Most of what I packed was intended for tropical zones, however.  So we kept our spirits up by learning how to make popcorn in a pan (not too difficult) and doing a puzzle I picked up at Goodwill (surprisingly difficult).  But even by Saturday I was hardly eating at all, because my body just wasn't using the energy.  Every bite was forced, because I knew it would warm me, but I just wasn't hungry.

Sunday, we didn't wake up to anything, because we never slept at all.  Winds gusting up to 45 knots, I think Kyle said (gale force).  That meant the dinghy constantly thumping on the deck above our heads, halyards pinging against the mast, winds howling everywhere, and constant fear that the anchors would break loose and we'd be grounded.  And just when I dropped off, the radio would crackle in with a "Pan-pan" or "Securité."  In all honesty, not sleeping wasn't such a bother because by that point, we were going to bed at seven and getting up at nine as there was nothing to do in or on the boat, and nowhere to go because our anchorage was very remote.  More importantly, there was nowhere warm except for bed, covered in blankets. 

And it was Sunday afternoon when I finally broke down.  By Sunday, any cheeriness I felt was a little bit forced anyway, but when I saw my two precious art books - Art of the Louvre and History of Art - getting water damaged, I just couldn't take any more.  The condensation was so awful; we were both spending so much time wrapped up in blankets in the v-berth, our breath was causing every surface in the v-berth to drip.  Also, one of the ports in the v-berth had leaked in our short, rocky trip Friday morning, which had also done some damage to the books.  They're nearly all second-hand, crappy books so I don't care about most of them, but it was then that I realized the extent of the damage.  There was even water between the books at that point.  The main salon wasn't as bad, but there was a lot of condensation there too.  So there was water everywhere - all around us, outside the boat, in the boat, and snow on the boat.  It was pervasive, relentless.  Just like the cold.  And we were still only six hours from home.

We talked Sunday night, and we decided that we should just return to Moyock.  That decision was really hard, because we're both proud and stubborn to the core.  But even though the winds were forecasted to be fairly calm, the weather wasn't supposed to get warmer than 40* for quite a while.

Monday we woke up to ice.  It was so calm in the river that ice had formed.  Gloriously calm, even.  Heading back to the ICW from our anchorage, we seriously discussed continuing on, because the winds were perfect for an easy crossing of the Sound.  And, making actual progress made everything seem so much happier than the dull sitting-and-waiting that had been our main focus of the last few days.  But calm winds weren't going to make it much warmer, so we did in fact return to Moyock.

And that's where I am right now.  Sitting at the counter, watching cable, in a house warm enough that I only need one layer of clothing.  There is a fridge and a microwave right there in the kitchen, I can cool or warm food at will.  There are actual people here.  I can go the grocery store if I decide I want ice cream.  I can stretch out as far as a I want, and it takes me more than three steps to get from one end of the house to the other.  I'm not saying I can't handle the confines of the sailboat.  But weather this cold makes the boat so much smaller.

When we got back, there wasn't enough water to handle our 4.6' draft in the canals, so we parked it at the end of the canals, and rather than wait until our water taxi got home from work, rowed the dinghy all the way down the main canal home.  It was actually a pretty nice day for it.  Today Kyle spent about six hours trying to get the sailboat back to the dock; we ran aground just around the corner from the house.  It was cold today.  Carolina shouldn't be cold.  Carolina should be at least 50* at all times, and any snow that falls should never stay.  Carolina shouldn't look like this.

So it was a big learning experience, and I think it's safe to say that while we knew turning back was the best option for our sanity, it was a HUGE disappointment to both of us.  But I find it really encouraging that Kyle and I got along really well through the whole thing.  I am extremely impressed by his tolerance for misery - even when I'm cold and the warmth of the house is right there ("Let's just go back and warm up quick a second before we take the dinghy out again and try to haul to boat to the house"), he isn't willing to give up.  It makes me feel like such a ...GIRL.  But it also challenges me to be stronger, and despite our initial setbacks, I think we're going to do okay.

Also, now we get to watch the Superbowl!