Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The end of the beginning

Today is Jenny's last day working at the library in Watertown. This is a huge day. All of our income and expenses will suddenly change. In fact, our lifestyles in general will change, and change rapidly, because this is also our last week living at Constitution Marina. This coming Saturday, May 1st, we leave for Thayer's Landing in Weymouth.

The boat is all ready for the move. This past week I replaced the electric head/undersized holding tank combo with the Airhead composting toilet that we had originally purchased for the Fitzcarraldo. There will be no regular pumpouts there, so a new solution was needed. Having such a small holding tank on an electric head with 2 liveaboards just sucked anyhow. I also installed a Nicro Day/Night solar vent to assist the composter and provide our head with some much needed air circulation. Over the winter I installed a direct from dock water system to go along with our tank water. That way we can take showers with normal amounts of water while docked. Our batteries, and charging system is all set. The engine is up and running after a few little flukes with sticky oil pressure regulators after the long cold winter. Fuel filters are changed and we are excited to move. This week I have to dive under the boat (in the cold Boston Harbor!) and clean up the prop. I could tell on our first run of the season that it is a bit gummed up with crust and gunk, so that shouldn't be too big of a deal to clean.

and then we're off.... out of this Big City. That calls for two appropriate songs.

Big City, by Merle Haggard

and Money Stinks, by DRI

Two fantastic songs about leaving the city and leaving steady jobs.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Long Island (of Boston)

Madrigal had her first sail of 2010 today, and all went very well!

We decided to just sail out to Boston's Long Island, where we used the rocna for the first time. What a scary feeling to throw such an expensive, heavy chunk of metal over the side of the boat!

We made up a lunch of fish cakes and corn bread and played a game of cards. While we took the dinghy along, we decided to just keep it a short trip so we never did use it.

The sail itself went really well too - we got up over 7 knots a few times and averaged 5 knots or so. Not bad, considering the condition of our bottom!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Escanaba Michigan

So, we may be in Boston right now, but Jenny and I are truly not Bostonians at heart, and likely never will be. We both hate the Red Sox, and don't really even like baseball in general. We hate the bad traffic, and the lousy almost snowy but generally just soggy winters. It isn't us.

That isn't to say it isn't a cool city. We've had a lot of fun here and we're both very glad we came here for a few years. It's been a ton of fun, and I have trouble picturing myself in most big cities, not just Boston. So, when springtime began to roll around we started debating on what to do about registration, which was about to expire. Madrigal was registered as a Boston boat, but if we are ever going to cruise her away she needs to be documented with the US Coast Guard. It wasn't a hard decision to realize that we'd fit with our boat much better if it was a Michigan boat. I came from mid-Michigan, lots of little lakes, but nowhere a sailboat like this would ever be found. Jenny, on the other hand, grew up just outside of Escanaba Michigan.

We may or may not ever get to sail all the way up there. We'd love to. It'd be a great trip up the St. Lawrence, and the waters of the great lakes are so clear and fantastic, well, at least up north in that area they are. But the facts that it's on the waterfront, it's Jenny's hometown, and we both really like the whole area up there were enough reasons for us. And so it was that an old race boat from Marblehead MA was overhauled in Boston for a couple of years and is now a registered cruiser as S/V Madrigal hailing from Escanaba MI. Neat.

I repainted the transom and put our new sticker on yesterday. I think it looks nice. I'm happy with it, and I think Madrigal is happy with it too.


Jenny here...
I just wanted to add a bit to this post...just a couple of links, really.

Here's a link to the Escanaba Municipal Marina which we someday hope to visit by boat...

The lovely Escanaba, MI

And for the few of you out there that may be saying to yourselves "Escanaba...where have I heard that before?" It may be from this goofy Jeff Daniels movie, Escanaba in Da' Moonlight, which they were filming while I was in high school. Funny stuff.

That's all!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


It has been an incredibly busy spring. Jenny has been working all her waking hours split between indexing and the library. Only 6 more days at the library though :) I've been indexing as well as doing massive amounts of boatwork. In the meantime, we haven't really had the chance to upload many of our own pictures. Well today I finally cleaned out the camera and decided to just upload a bunch of pictures. They are roughly in order of oldest (about 6 weeks ago) to newest (yesterday). So I'll just give them some quick captions and hope you enjoy.

Jenny snapped this shot of me applying the second
coat of easypoxy to our deck.

and one more.

This photo is facing starboard and slightly forward in the cockpit.
The big white panel at left is the forward bulkhead which I removed
the old wind gauges from and fiberglassed over.

Willie, admiring himself.

My left hand looks funny up there.

Apparently I was about to scratch my head.

Sometimes, we're odd.

Somehow, Gollum is still alive.

Springtime in a Boston marina is a fantastic time.
Everyone comes out of their little plastic shells and starts to be
social again. It's really very nice.

Ladies, pictured at right is Keith. Keith is a single white male,
roughly 30 years old. Keith enjoys boating and wearing cardboard
shark heads. If you share these interests call him at 1-800-my-shark.

Willie and Rusty love to play. Rusty is 14 years old and so arthritic he can barely
walk, but he still manages to give that young pup a run
for his money.

This is one of our assistant dockmasters, Howie, helping move Madrigal
to it's temporary summer slip. We'll be docked on the outside
of the marina until we leave for Thayer's Landing on May 1st.

Willie has a new superhero costume.

Don't tell him you know who he really is.

He prefers if you call him Wondermutt. It helps him
stay incognito.

Our new Rocna finally arrived yesterday :)

Now we can sleep at anchor with much greater confidance.

It will be a very fun summer.

And just a couple quick shots of the boat in its current state,
new deck paint and all.

and Willie too, of course.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Xantrex inverter power!

Victory! In some small way at least.

The tale of our trials and errors with batteries leans heavily toward the error column. But we have come a long ways.

On our first boat, the Fitzcarraldo, we had a short that caused a severe and quick drain on the 2 small batteries that were installed. We had moved aboard knowing nothing about marine electronics. I had to look up which was AC and which was DC. Finding the electric short was a challenge nothing short of gargantuan.... we never did find it. So, the entire time we had that boat, we had to spend our time at sea and at anchor with no lights. Headlamps and lanterns only. It was kinda fun, more like camping.

Then we sold that boat (the new owner has since patched up the electrical issues and has the Fitz working nicely). We bought Madrigal which had a nice new electrical system, but again, two small batteries. We would run low on power quickly, and I eventually figured out that the alternator had been slowly dying all along too. In the course of installing various components I've learned a lot. A ton really, about marine electronics. I've practically memorized the first few chapters of Nigel Calder's Mechanical and Electrical Manual.

That brings us to last spring when a neighbor boater was updating his battery bank. He sold us a set of 4 trojan 6v golfcart batteries totaling 450 12v amhours. Fantastic! I built a new battery box under the steps and setup a new installation for a house bank. Those worked great for the summer, but we could tell they were weakened with age. They wouldn't hold a charge nearly as long as they should. Towards the end of summer www.defender.com had a good deal on a Xantrex Freedom 1800 inverter. We knew that we were going to want invertibility sooner than later so we went ahead and purchased it. We never hooked it up though, for a few reasons. 1. It was the end of summer, we were going to be hooked to shore power for the next 6 months. 2. We were broke and couldn't afford the $$$$ wiring components for such an install. 3. We new the batteries were not so hot and that an inverter would just drain the daylights outta them in no time.

So there it sat. This beautiful new inverter/charger, hanging still and lifeless on the bulkhead I'd mounted it upon. Oh well. We got to stare at this new decoration all winter long, wondering what it would be like to have a boat in which stuff actually worked.

Well, with spring coming along we've been frantically trying to get the boat prepared and re-commissioned for the new year. This is happening in conjunction with the realization that Jenny is going to be quitting her library job in order to index full time. eek! That is so great, and so intimidating all at once. It's great because it gives us freedom and time, two things we value greatly. But we will have to stay tied to the dock so that we can keep laptops, phones, pda's, printers, and computers up and running.... unless... we get the inverter installed.

So, I made a trip out to Atlantic Battery in Watertown MA last week. I'd talked to a few local marine mechanics who all told me to go there for the best deal. It was truly a nifty little shop. It's been there for over 75 years. They had antique batteries laying around and a real "decades past" kinda feel to the shop in general. I did get a good deal on 4 brand new 6 volt golf carters. This time totaling 420 amphours. I exchanged the old ones to avoid a core fee and went home to layout the inverter install. All the wires and breakers and other junk arrived on Friday and I spent yesterday with my brain in a jumble trying to pretend that I'm a master marine electrician. I had a bit of help and advice from Fitzcarraldo Dave. It took me until 10pm before I was finally ready to head outside and throw the main breaker on the pedestal.

It worked like a charm.

It charges at 40 amps and allows the shore power to flow through the unit while docked. When I unplug the boat, it kicks over to inversion mode and our AC panels works as if we were still plugged in. I can turn off individual breakers for various systems so as to avoid drainage-- I can turn them all off if I wish, and I likely will quite often. But the main goal was achieved. All of our AC outlets work as if we were docked. Computers, printers, phones and all can be charged, used and abused.

We have a small crappy 2-stroke generator that we got as a hand-me-down. It is made by all-power and can be purchased from Northern Tool.

It is loud, smelly, and annoying, but it will have to do. Someday maybe we'll strike it rich and we can get a nice, new, quiet, suitcase-style Honda generator and a system of solar and wind power to back everything up.... in the meantime, oh well, 2-strokes are fun :)

So there we have it. We've went from headlamps only with a dead battery system on our first boat to a full inversion 1800 watt self contained system of good clean power on Madrigal.

I, for one, consider this a victory.


Friday, April 16, 2010


Thanks to the anonymous poster on our blog back in February who pointed out that the rocna's were selling far cheaper than they were a year or two back.

In preparation for my new endeavor as a full time freelance indexer, we're setting the boat up to 1) be easier for me to work on, 2) be easier for me to work on anywhere at all, and 3) be a little more self sufficient so that we're spending a chunk of change now, but in the long run we'll save money. Fancy that.

We're doing a few really cool things...one of which (if you haven't guessed) is the purchase of a rocna!

A stock photo. We'll take pictures of ours soon.

This puppy will let me index with ease from any nook and cranny in the ocean, without worrying so much if our anchor is holding. We also have a couple of danforth anchors for backup.

Many more projects are in the works - we'll keep you updated.

Monday, April 12, 2010

living on a boat during the flood season

It's terrible that we haven't updated our blog since April 5th. I am utterly embarrassed by this! We had gone for such a long stretch of updating so regularly and then spring rolls around and we act as though we're out enjoying the sunshine, finding better things to do than blog. Well shame on us. We promise we'll stay inside more often so that the blog does not go neglected.

The reality is, we're swamped. Indexing, getting ready to leave the library, preparing our boat for a new marina, and yes, enjoying the sunshine.

The weather in Boston has been more or less perfect, aside from two terrible instances of flooding. A lot of towns around us are recovering. We're still just bobbing along happily, while people deal with damaged basements, flooded yards, flooded streets, etc. This all started about a month ago and people are still recovering. The Boston Globe has some photos posted here.

Everyone continues to compliment Justin on the deck work. We'll need to take the time to post about that one. I've taken photos throughout the process so hopefully it will be a helpful post for those of you who are considering doing this. I'm sure there will be more time soon.

It feels wonderful to have the shrink wrap off. Willie loves it, and is doing a (more or less) great job of staying on board, even when his favorite people or puppies walk by. He sure does enjoy the sunshine, and it's hard to keep him inside on a nice sunny day. He just wants to lay out there and watch people stroll by while he rests in the sunniest spot on deck.

Anyhow, we will post more as soon as we're able. Sadly, I can't make any promises as to when that will be. I am devoting my time to indexing this incredibly interesting book on circumpolar regions. Very cool. Oh yeah, and I still have two weeks left at the library. Justin has been taking advantage of overtime at the museum, so we're lucky to see each other during the day lately. Tonight I'll be going to bed long before he gets home. Speaking of which, it's past my bedtime now. Goodnight.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Friends, Flutes, Decks and Indexing

A lot happens at the marina in spring. People come and people go. The shrink wrap inevitably gets large holes shredded out of it before it comes off for good. The air sings with sounds of saws, hammers and other various tools as people work on this project and that. Friends gather and celebrate the coming of spring.

And because of all of this, we haven't gotten the chance to update the blog as often as we have wanted. I wanted to post a few pictures now, and soon we will update with more details of what we've been up to.

Susan invited us aboard "Me Too" for a going away party.

Mind you, this is a 28' boat with 11 people on board.

Justin tries his hand at playing the flute.

What has taken all of my time is indexing. I'm a living, breathing organizing machine. I've been staying up very very late and getting up early just to finish up the next book. I'm beginning to really look forward to my new found freedom of having only indexing to worry about. I still have the rest of April at the library, so being a full time indexer is still a few weeks off.

And what has taken all of Justin's time is the deck work. He's been sanding, fiberglassing, sanding more, cleaning, power washing, and painting the decks. I'm not posting much on this one yet because we'll be making a larger post on this one as soon as we possibly can, but here's one picture in the meantime of him beginning the paint job!

Oh and in other fun news - the shrink wrap is off!! Hello spring!