Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spring is here!

Well, it's Spring today anyway.   Yesterday was a bit cool and breezy, so I spent the day finishing getting the marina's wireless internet up and running.  I owned a computer business for 20 years.   Although I had no experience with wireless hotspots, I know a bit about networking and volunteered to take a look.  What a mess.  It was cabled wrong and configured wrong, but after many hours of reading the manual I had downloaded for the GIS Hotspot (there was no documentation anywhere) and redoing the cabling, and then reconfiguring it with invaluable help of Richard from GeoSat Solutions, it's up and running.

The view from the top of the office building that houses the internet gear is awesome.  I had to check the link lights on the antenna so I brought my camera along.   I'm glad I did.

 Life living on a boat in winter in Connecticut is slow.  We watch some TV, a lot of movies, and find other ways to amuse ourselves.  Last night, Pam decided to try jewelry making using some of the sea glass she's collected over the past couple of years.   Smudge the cat found something new to amuse herself with as well.

Today, Sunday morning, it's sunny and in the upper 40s and it's only 10 AM.  Time to boot these guys outside.

Pam has decided to clean up the helm station, which has become a catch all for stuff.  The dogs are on the foredeck, with Ruby sunbathing and Chevy standing guard.

Pam put on a floppy hat she found in the helm station.   Chevy caught sight of it and, not recognizing Pam behind the window, started barking his head off.

While I'm writing this blog, Pam seems mildly annoyed that she's working and I'm sitting on my duff.   I promised to take down the Christmas lights after watching Chris Christie on Face the Nation, and then I may tackle getting the electric motor off the hoist so I can get it rebuilt.

Update- Sunday was a great day to sit on the foredeck with a neighbor and enjoy the sunshine and a couple of brews.   I did remove the Christmas lights, but not the electric motor.

This Freedom 25 was returning from a sail.  It looked like a good breeze out there so it must have been a little chilly sailing upwind.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Internet access on a boat

It seems as though the internets is catching on, and is a popular way for cruisers to get weather data, keep in touch with friends and family, and obtain general cruising information.   To connect from a boat, many cruisers simply try to anchor close to unsecured wireless hotspots, or use internet cafes when ashore.

On Drift Away, which is in one place, tied to a dock, Pam and I decided to forego the usual cable TV-cable internet-cable phone thing.  We're close to New York City, so we use a marine TV antenna for over the air TV signals.  We get a couple of dozen channels.  Unfortunately for us, half are in Spanish and Chinese, so we have a dozen or so we can watch.   We get the four major networks, and a good selection of PBS stations so we're quite happy with that.

For internet, we were going to use the marina's wireless, but then found out when we got here last fall that it's been out of service for a long time.  Not being able to find an unsecured wireless connection to freeload off of, I hied myself to the local Verizon store and came home with a 3G wireless hotspot.

That's the hotspot, just above the red mouse.  Its plugged into a 110 volt powerstrip.   It can also connect to the laptop's USB port, or the laptop can connect to it wirelessly (is that a word?).  It allows us to connect to the internet with a cell signal.   I also have a PC with a wireless network card that connects through the hotspot as well.

I've found that it's not as fast as cable, but it is more than adequate for what we use it for- surfing the internet, email, and watching Netflix movies online.   Verizon has several plans available, from 1 GB up to 10 GB.  Because we watch movies online, I opted for the 10 GB at $80 a month.   I also paid for the hotspot up front (a couple of hundred dollars) so I 'm not locked into a plan.  At any time, I can downgrade to 5 GB for $50 or 3 GB for $35 a month.

Overall, I think its a good solution for cruisers.  All you need is a cell signal and you're online.

Meanwhile, I'm working on the marina's wireless system, trying to figure out what the guy before me did to mess it up so badly.  I should have it back up either tomorrow or within a week or two, once I figure out if the marina lost their POE (power over ethernet) adapter and if I need to order one.

On the what-its-like-to-live-on-a-boat-in-Connecticut-in-winter front, today it's raining, and there was hardly any need to towel off getting out of the shower.  Might as well wait until you get to the boat.

I also learned today that pit bulls HATE rain.   Just look at Chevy run!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why don't boats have storm windows and doors?

I guess boat manufacturers build boats to be used only in warm weather.   That's a valid assumption, I suppose, since only crazy people live on boats in the winter in Connecticut.

I've decided that cold temperatures aren't really the problem in living aboard.  Its the wind.  Our trawler has three sliding doors, two in the helm station and one in the main saloon.  They fit nicely, but the wind pushes drafts through just the same.   I put weather striping on the doors as best I could, and I covered all the boat's windows with that clear plastic stuff that shrinks when you hit it with a blow dryer.   For the most part, the diesel space heater I had installed along with strategically placed electric heaters make the boat fairly toasty, but it does get chilly when the temps are in the teens and the wind is blowing.

Like yesterday.  We awoke yesterday to five inches of new snow.  Yuck.

Yeah, those are Christmas lights in that photo.   I'll take them down.  Really.  Maybe this weekend.  And yes, I will be painting the underside of the roof, along with many other parts of the boat. 

One of our biggest challenges in living aboard in winter is navigating the dock when its covered with snow.   We had five inches of snow yesterday, and you can see the steep angle of the ramp in this photo below makes going up to the heads a bit daunting.

After climbing up the ramp for my morning shower and then sliding back down, I shoveled a path for Pam and the other crazy people living on "A" dock.  

Shortly thereafter, the dogs got up and I took them off the boat to go potty.  That's what we ask them when they're whining about something- "Do you want food?  Do you have to go potty?"  If they run to the door, its to go potty.   Anyway, even though I want to get away from winter and its snow, I had to admire the hushed beauty of it.

However, I also think palm trees and white sandy beaches are beautiful too.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hard Aground.

Well, maybe a better term  would be "soft aground".   Its been REALLY windy here yesterday and last night with 20 to 30 mph winds out of the west and northwest.   Some reports had gusts here in the Stamford area at 50 mph.  Combine the wind blowing the water out of Long Island Sound with a full moon and we had low tides a few feet lower than normal.   Everyone on "A" dock was hard aground this morning.  

I turned on the depth sounder.  It read 1.7 feet.   Its mounted a couple of feet below the waterline and we draw five feet, meaning that we were stuck about a foot into the mud.   Drift Away is the trawler on the outside of the gas dock.  The boat on the left was certainy hard aground with only two or three feet at his dock, and the sailboats across the dock from him that draw four feet also aground.

Still, no damage and a beautiful morning so life is good.  I took the dogs off the boat to do their business and to play a bit awhile ago.  Back on the boat, they were still revved up.

When you live on a boat, its never big enough, and play time often overflows from the floor to the couch onto us.

Sometimes the cats get in the way of dog play.   Chevy the dog won this stare off and Smudge the cat moved.

One has to have patience and understanding when living on a boat.   Add in a bunch of critters and one has to have a lot.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Whoooooo weeeee its windy!

This 46' trawler really rocks and rolls in a breeze.    When its gusting in the 20s, like it is right now, it REALLY rocks and rolls!

I usually spend Saturday mornings taking the two dogs to the off-leash dog park, but this morning I spent it working on the marina's wireless internet problems.  When I got back to the boat around 11, the dogs were really restless.  I think it was a combination of energy that needed to be expended and nervousness about the rocking and rolling, along with the associated creaking, groaning, and bumping noises.   So I decided to take them for a walk to Cummings Park Beach, which is across the harbor from the boat.  This was after I tied on every dock line I had on the boat.  

I've been a sailor for 40 years.   I used to tease a powerboater friend of mine with "if you can't tie good knots, tie lots of them!"   Now, on a powerboat of my own, I feel like if I can't tie on good dock lines, tie on lots of them!

With the dogs on leashes, we followed the shoreline through Cummings Park to the beach where I let them off leash to run and play.    No dogs play like these two pit bulls.   The run and run, chasing each other all around until one of them picks up a stick, and then it becomes a game of keep-away.  People in parked cars seemed to be enjoying the scene, and one young woman got out of her cozy car and walked down the beach to photograph them.   Finally, after about 45 minutes of steady play, they slowed down.    I put them back on the leash and we walked back to the boat.

Right now, its windier than ever, with possible gusts up to 60 mph forecast.   The dogs are dead to the world and could not care less.

My next concern is low tide, which is at 6:17 PM.  There's a possibility that low tide will be three to four feet lower than normal.   We draft five feet and sit in about six feet of water at low tide.   I hope the bottom is real soft mud!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

THIS is why we liveaboard

Its a 150 foot walk from the boat up to the showers every morning, and 150 feet back.  Rain or shine, no matter how cold out.  Is it worth it?   You tell me.

This is what greeted me yesterday morning on my return trip from the shower.  This is also why we decided not to shrinkwrap the boat.  We want the view.   So, we're a little chillier without the shrinkwrap.

We also enjoy the ever present waterfowl.   Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, Hooded Mergansers, Sea Gulls.... they are all our neighbors.    It was particularly cold the other morning, and several of the Canada Geese overslept and got frozen in, it seems.   It was so cold, the Sea Gulls were standing on one foot to warm the other.

There were a couple of Canada Geese that overslept.  It seems that this guy was sleeping one off or something.

His buddies also seemed concerned, and the whole flock paddled up to see what was the matter.

I'm not sure how it turned out since I had to go to work, but I'm guessing that the geese who were frozen in managed to free themselves, either by wiggling around enough to break the thin ice, or by waiting for the sun to help out.

Pam and I have been living aboard for ten months now.  We can't imagine living any other way.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Monk Parakeets and Panko Chicken

Today was a good day to live aboard, even in Connecticut.   First, it looks like the non-stop snow and cold is history, at least for the coming week.  This morning, it was 25 degrees and quickly warmed to above freezing!  A good day to take the two dogs to the dog park in Norwalk.   One of the first things Pam and I saw were Robins, the first sign of spring!  Lots of them.

Right above them were a few Monk Parrots (also called Monk Parakeets) eating the stinky fruit off the tree.  I think its a Ginkgo Biloba.  The story is that the Monk Parrots were originally from Argentina.   They were considered a pest and many were killed, or captured and sold in pet stores overseas to get rid of them.  Some escaped from JFK airport and now live all over the NYC metro area, including this part of Connecticut.  They are able to withstand  our winters with little ill effect, apparently.

Once we got home, I decided I needed to do a boat project to feel like I'd accomplished something.  I decided to remove a burned out 12 volt flourescent light fixture in the master stateroom head.  It left a 4" x 14" rectangular hole that needed to be covered up.  A trip to the nearby West Marine store yielded only another flourescent fixture big enough to cover the hole.  I think I might make an LED fixture myself, or maybe buy an Alpenglow to replace it.

So, onto the next project- dinner.  Since Pam made breakfast and lunch, she decided I needed to make dinner.  I've only been cooking a short time and I'm not very good at it, but Pam is a good sport and eats it anyway and pretends its good.  This is a photo of our galley, an incredibly small space by house standards, but quite useable by boat standards.

Our new convection oven sits on the shelf to the left, above the griddle.  Its an awesome piece of galley appliance and I recommend one highly.  Potatoes are cooking on the hotplate on the right, next to my potato masher and glass of merlot.  The cabinet door under the sink is open because the refrigerator and freezer cold plate compressors live under there.  There is a fan under the sink that exhausts the hot air generated by the compressors to the outside.   I pulled the louvers off on the outside and blocked it with cardboard to keep the cold air out, and so we leave the cabinet doors open 24/7 so the heat can escape.  In the spring, I will remove the cardboard and we can keep the cabinet doors closed.

The Martha Stewart cutting board/collander sits over the double sink.  The jug of water is counterbalancing the collander, which is soon to receive potatoes.

Dinner was a success, I guess.  Pam had seconds on the Panko Chicken.  Now, on to watching a DVD about cruising in the Caribbean, particularly the island of Saba.  I need to get motivated and moving on getting this boat ready for summer cruises!

- Dave

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Finally! A warm, sunny Super Sunday!

It's funny.  If it's July and the temp hits 43 degrees, you're freezing your butt off.  But if its February 6th and you've been pummeled by cold and snow for the past two months, its downright balmy.  Today was balmy!

The day started like any other Sunday... get up, shower, drink too much coffee, and take the dogs to the dog park in Norwalk.   When Pam and I returned to the boat, the sun was blazing, the sky was blue, and not even the dogs wanted to go inside.  So we decided to sit on the foredeck in the warm sunshine (for CT) and celebrate our beautiful day with a beer.  

Yep.  That would be a beer slushy.   Still tasted really good though.   The first beer led to a second.  I asked Pam what was for lunch, to which she replied "You're drinking it."    LOL!

The dogs were really enjoying the fresh air as well, and were watching "dog TV".   The wildlife channel was on.  The program was all about Canada Geese, Swans, Seagulls, Hooded Merganzers, and Cormorants.

Ruby, the dark brown dog, had seen this all before.   To Chevy, though, this was all new and he watched the waterfowl parade with great interest.

 All those bits of carpeting you see on the deck are part of living on a boat in Stamford, Connecticut in winter.  They get wet, you put them out in the sunshine to dry, and they get snowed on and spend two months out there.  Maybe they'll dry by tomorrow?  Maybe by June! 

It ended all too quickly, however.  Pam is a vet tech and had to go into work to check on a very, very sick puppy that probably has Parvo and won't make it through the weekend.  It came from a pet store, and so probably from a puppy mill.   A sad overtone to an otherwise great day living aboard.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Live aboard boat projects

One nice thing about living aboard is having time for boat projects, like fixing the cold draft coming out of the louvers of the exhaust vent in the head in the master stateroom.

One nice thing about this solution is that it serves as extra should one get caught short in there.

This was a good DIY project, and a great feeling of accomplishment.  Time for a beer!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Now it's an ice storm!

Cripe, its one thing after another here.  This is what I woke up to this morning, a half inch of ice coating everything.   The docks looked slippery, but the ramp looked formidable.

The big problem, besides not being able to get up the ramp to go to work, is how to get the dogs off the boat to do their business.  They normally use the area to the right of the gate at the head of the dock.  I sprinked some of the "pet safe" deicer on the steps while I pondered the problem.  When Pam got up, I decided to let her figure it out.  She's got much more dog experience than I do.   Pam decided to shovel the ice off the snow on our dock and have them go there, and we'd take them off one at a time so they wouldn't play and wrestle and fall in.     Later, Pam got off the boat with Ruby. 

Ruby started up the dock to the  ramp.  Pam told her to stop and use the dock where she shoveled off the ice.  

Ruby looked confused, as in "Is this a trick?  You told me NEVER to go potty on the dock."

Finally, she got the idea.   Pam put her back on the boat, and Chevy was next.

Chevy had no problem going on the dock.   Being a guy, the whole world is his bathroom.

As I sit here on the boat now at 10:45 AM, I'm watching small chunks of ice pass by, pushed by a slight breeze.  The boat is gently rocking from small waves coming into the marina area from Long Island Sound.  It's 34 degrees and I can hear little bits of ice melting and falling on the roof.  Ducks and honking geese are paddling by and are enjoyable to watch, especially the handsome male Hooded Merganzers.

The animals are all asleep except Chevy, who left with Pam.  She went out to check the roads and if they're OK to go to the post office to pick up a couple of Netflix movies along with a quick stop to the grocery store.  The vet's office she works in is closed.  I may go into work depending on road conditions.   If I wind up staying home too, it will be a movie day.

If this was back in upstate New York, I'd have no qualms about getting out to work, but here in the Stamford area, the road crews aren't as adept at getting them cleared.   When plowing, they often miss the curb by six feet and four lane streets become two, and two lane streets become one.   I-95 is moving well according to the web cams, but the entrance and exit ramps are usually plowed and sanded late.  Combine bad roads with bad drivers who aren't used to driving on snow and ice and you have accidents.  Everywhere.

Today is Groundhog Day and Phil did not see his shadow.  That's good news.   Very good news.