Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Winterizing done Wrong (I admit it).

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?"
~John Steinbeck

I have learned so much over the last couple of years with my boat. I have done research, visited places, talked to experienced boaters and researched some more before making decisions.

However, I did not research how to winterize a boat. And I haven't done it well yet. As I write this, I am still amazed that I left such an important part of boat maintenance to chance. Lesson learned.

Last winter I decided to keep the boat in the water and keep it warm. I had heaters running in the boat and the engine compartment. I used heat tape to protect any pipes or tubes that I thought might be at risk.  I did not shrink wrap her, either. This is what I found: heating the boat all winter is extremely expensive. It is also a source of anxiety!

Last winter was a very cold one in Ohio, and I was always worried that electricity would go out and my boat would be left with no heat. For this reason, I rigged a Dropcam pointed at a thermometer so that I could check the temp aboard the boat at any time. I also placed it so that I could see the front door of the boat. The video footage is saved in the cloud, and you can access it from any computer or smart phone.  So, if someone broke in and immediately unplugged the camera, I would still have the intruder's entry on video. This is a very easy and relatively inexpensive thing to do, and I highly recommend it!

This is the view from my Dropcam. You can see a resident spider crawling over the camera on the top right.
While the Dropcam was great, and nothing froze or broke, the biggest mistake I made was neglecting to have her shrink wrapped. It was a cold, snowy winter, and having the snow sit on top of the boat resulted in a couple of leaks and some minor cabinet damage in the galley.

This year, I had her pulled out of the water and dry-docked. I wanted to be sure her hull looked solid and the sacrificial metals were still good. I also had her shrink wrapped. I just went to visit her yesterday (luckily my friend Kevin was with there to help boost me up, because I didn't think to bring a ladder to climb aboard).

Here she is out of water.  My friend, Kevin helped me climb aboard.
Shrink Wrap can be very expensive.  I think it's worth it, though.
At least she has a view of the river.  ;)

I didn't realize that there would be so much moisture aboard a closed-up and shrink wrapped boat. There is a lot of moisture and some mildew that I will have to clean.

After the fact, I did some research on winterizing a boat. I found this checklist from Markel (which is my boat insurance company).

I plan to get some DampRid and hope that this helps to control the moisture a bit. Maybe I also need to leave a couple windows cracked? I'll let you know how the DampRid works.

There are lots of different DampRid products. I plan to try two of the Hi-Capacity. 

Another option is to install some solar vents.  According to this Boat.U.S. blog, I would need two exhaust vents and one intake vent.  I found this one and this one on Amazon...but I need to do some more research first.

Any suggestions on winterizing an aluminum houseboat are welcome and requested. Has anyone had great luck with this? If so, please share some tips!!

One thing I know: the return of summer will be especially sweet this year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Life on and off a boat...and more progress (maybe)...

“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don't have to like it... it's just easier if you do."
~Byron Katie

A lot has happened since I began this blog...a lot has happened since I last blogged!

I lived aboard Empress Bennu from April, 2013 to November 2013. I really loved this time on my boat, and looking through pics for this post really made me miss her!

November in a marina in Cincinnati is a very quiet, cold place to live:
Snow makes the walk down the dock seem a lot longer...

Snowing at the marina.

Iced cobwebs.

A cold and frozen marina.  

In an attempt to keep the boat warmer against a very cold winter wind, Gregg and I insulated the windows using this product (it worked great!):

I also added some additional space heaters and a super cute electric "fire place:"

These things helped keep the boat cozy, but I soon discovered that a marina in November is a deserted, quiet (and boring) place.  Gone were the nightly impromptu parties and visits from neighbors. This is not the kind of lifestyle I enjoy, so I moved downtown for the season.

When boating season was over, I decided not to move back onboard. I loved the time I spent living on my boat, and I am so glad I had that experience.

This winter, I had the boat pulled out of the water so that work on the engines could be completed, the sacrificial metals could be checked and the hull could be inspected. More on theses things as they progress...

Another update: the previous owner of the boat, Bruce, will be doing a little more work to the Empress.  This is not a result of any request (or preference) on my part, but of an out-of-court settlement. Lesson here: have your attorney carefully inspect and approve any contract before you sign it. Anyway, he has until January 31 to complete this list of items:

  • Fix the generator, have my mechanic inspect and approve it, then install it back in the boat,
  • Install the antenna and horns,
  • Install the fuel lines, fuel filters and fuel/water separators, and
  • Install the upper helm to working order.

Either way, it is beneficial to me.  If he completes these things on time, it will cost me less than it would to have them done by a mechanic.  If he does not complete these things on time, I will not be required to pay him the settlement amount.

So, I am deciding to like this new development.  After all, it is reality whether I like it or not, and it's just easier to decide I like it and to believe that this happened at exactly the right moment.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Starting her engines...hear them roar!

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined."
~Henry David Thoreau

People often ask me if I am finished with my boat.  I just can't imagine being finished!  I respond, "I believe that if you think you are finished with a boat, it means you have lost interest.  I hope to never be finished."

And so, the work continues.

Since the day I first looked at my boat, people around me have been worried about the engines.  She has been sitting for 6 years without being started.  I have received more advice about the engines than about any other part of her renovation (and I have asked for advice about the engines less than any other part).  :)

Advice I have received: "Just crank the engines to be sure they are not seized."  "Get the engines started before you do anything else."  "Ford 302s are easy engines to work on...anyone can help you."  "You should only have a marine engine mechanic work on your engines." "Those engines are old and they are shot--you just need to replace them altogether."  "Just try to start them so that you can hear them."  "Do not try to start them until you have removed the old oil and put in fresh oil."  ...and the list goes on...

Each time, I just smiled and nodded.  I knew that I would get to the engines...in good time.  They weren't going anywhere; they'd be there when I was ready.

Now I'm ready and work on the engines has begun.

I have the two original 1972 MerCruiser Ford 302s.

My brother, Bill, and good friends, Kevin and Gregg, are helping me with the engines.  We decided to start with some maintenance and clean up.  We drained the oil and refilled it.  Replaced the spark plugs, spark plug wires, points, thermostats, distributor caps, water pump gaskets, etc.

The starboard engine was the first to get attention.  We purchased automotive spark plugs (yes, you can buy marine spark plugs).  After reading several chat threads about this, I decided to go with automotive.  We also bought automotive spark plug wires.  But, after getting the wrong ones (twice), I went to Sea Ray of Cincinnati and bought the marine spark plugs made for my engine. We had a tough time finding automotive wires that were long enough to fit around the engine, and the marine wires that were made for my engine are perfect:
Here is the beautiful sound of my starboard engine running:

When we tried to start the engine, it started but would not continue running for long.

When we removed the fuel filter line, fuel gushed out--letting us know that it was pressurized.  Also, when we disconnected the fuel line near the carburetor, fuel came out.  Now we knew that the fuel was running through the line to the carburetor. My brother sprayed starting fluid in the carburetor and this kept it going.   All of this told us that the carburetors needed to be rebuilt--the fuel was getting to the carburetor, but it wasn't getting through it to keep the engine running.

We removed the carburetors and I took them to Ray's Carbs to have him rebuild them (he can be reached at 859.496.4847).  It will cost about $150 each to have them rebuilt.  After looking at both of them, Ray told me that one of them will not be a problem to rebuild, but the other has water in it and flaky deposits from the water.  He told me he could attempt the rebuild if I wanted him to, but he would not be able to guarantee it.  After consulting with my brother I've decided to give it a shot.  Once it is back on the engine, we will run some Sea Foam through it.

We also need to replace the water pump gaskets:
We weren't sure if we'd be able to find these at all.  I consulted Sea Ray of Cincinnati, and they told me the gaskets are no longer made.  However, they were able to find several places that had some in stock.  They even printed a list of companies who carry parts for my engines that are no longer made!  I called one of them, Sea Way Marine Inc. in Seattle (206.937.7373), and they had them in stock!  I ordered 4--one for each engine now and two to have as spares.  Here is the list of companies (if you want a copy that you can read better, just send me a message and I'll email them to you):

As the fine folks at Sea Ray were looking up part numbers for me, I asked them if they had any idea how I might go about getting a manual for my engines.  I figured it was long-shot, but was hopeful that they'd know where I could start my search.  The person helping me went back in the storage room, and when he came out, he had found a manual!  Now I am the proud owner of this two-volume engine manual--and I couldn't be more excited about that!

I am very excited by the idea of taking her out on the Ohio River and anchoring for the sunset--laying on her bridge bench and looking at the stars...I think she will feel very proud at that moment too!  This will be dream come true--and we are confidently heading in that direction!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Celebrate things worth celebrating!

"The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate."
~Oprah Winfrey

I was very excited to celebrate my boat reborn.  I had decided to keep it simple...but it took on a life of its own!

As prescribed by tradition, the new name was covered until just the right moment in the ceremony--after Poseidon was implored to add the new name to his ledger of the deep and guard over her:
I took advantage of the large covering to advertise her ceremony and invite my neighbors on the dock to join the celebration:
This is the front of the boat--the bridge
And this is the back of the boat.
Floating keychains were created to celebrate her rebirth (and were stored in my car until the big day):
I bought the keychains through ADVERTISE IT by Wendy.
Very fast delivery!
And what's a celebration without can koozies? (These were also stored in my car, so that nothing with her new name was aboard until after the renaming ceremony):
I ordered the Koozies through TotallyPromotional.com
They were very easy to work with--sent me artwork to approve,
and when I saw it I changed the layout.  Very happy with this company.
Lots of friends and relatives came to help me celebrate my boat's new name and new life!  
My friend, Mary, baked a cake for the Empress!
My friend, Melanie, brought lots of the world's best fried chicken
from the Hitching Post.  It did not last long at all!
My friend, Joe, made a batch of his very yummy
(and somewhat lethal) summer brew.
My friend, Bruce, provided some Bud Light to add to our Miller Light
and brought the tap and equipment.  He has a business called Bars on Wheels,
 if you ever need beverages for an event!
Preparing libations to offer to the ruler of the deep: Poseidon, his court and the gods of the winds.

In case you are wondering, I decided that I would not take any chances with the champagne.  We offered Poseidon some Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin (which was graciously provided in honor of this long-awaited event by my friend, Melanie):

Here we are preparing to toss the tag with the old name into the water
so that it is washed clean.
In this pic, the Commodore of Four Seasons Yacht Club,
Bob Pattison, is offering champagne to the mighty rulers of the
winds--each of the four directions: north, south, east and west. 
Lots of friends and family came out to help celebrate!

And the moment everyone was waiting for...John First of JF Designz--(who designed and applied her new graphics--very talented and at a great price) unveils her new name:

Empress: A woman who rules of her own right.  
Bennu: Egyptian deity bird linked with the sun, creation and rebirth.  It may have been the inspiration for the phoenix in Greek mythology.
And she IS the Empress Bennu:

You can find the ceremony we used here.

I've had lots of people tell me that this legend (or superstition) is a waste of time.  I can't imagine how honoring my boat and celebrating her rebirth could be a waste of time!  Gathering with friends and family to celebrate and have fun certainly is not a waste of time!  I believe in fun and I believe in celebrating!

(Thank you, Melanie, for all of the great photos!) 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Renaming Ceremony & Celebration--YOU ARE INVITED!

You know what the first rule of sailing is?  Love.  You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds.  Love keeps her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens.  Makes her a home.
~Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

It's a party in honor of the boat I love!  The date has been chosen, and if you are reading this, you are invited!

Friday, June 7, 2013
7:00 pm
4609 Kellogg Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45226

Last night, by kayak, I removed the old name from her transom:
Her old name: Nauta Priority, was, unfortunately, a fitting name for many years.
But she has been a priority this past year, so I had to take a pic of the name half-removed.  :)
The letters peeled off easily.  She was ready to be rid of them!
With the old name removed, she is ready for her new name!
New graphics will be applied tomorrow and covered until the Denaming and Renaming ceremonies have been conducted.  Following those ceremonies...a celebration.  She shall know that she is loved.  The gods shall know that I will take care of her.

According to legend, each and every vessel is recorded in the Ledger of the Deep, and is known by Poseidon or Neptune.  

The Denaming ceremony removes the name from this Ledger and the Renaming ceremony places the new name in the Ledger.  For more information on this process, check out this site.

The ceremony will be officiated by Commodore Bob Pattison (Commodore of Four Seasons Yacht Club).

Some of my friends are asking me why I am having this ceremony.  Lore has it that renaming a boat without taking the proper steps to inform and appease the gods is very bad luck.  Some say this is a myth, others say it is sailor's wisdom.  Which is true?  Who cares!  It is not worth the risk and it is the perfect time to celebrate more than a year of hard work to completely renovate a vessel in need of love and attention.  It is the perfect time to celebrate her--the vessel that I love...the vessel that is home.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Understanding all the systems and details

"It's the little details that are vital.  Little things make big things happen."
~John Wooden

On a boat, your systems are largely self-contained.  Your source of water is onboard, your "water treatment plant" is onboard, your electrical system is onboard, etc.  Since I am living on the boat, I decided it was important to understand all of these systems.

First on my list was the blackwater system (the head, holding tank, and all of the pipes and lines that connect them).  The goal was to identify the source and destination of every water line, hose, etc. in the system, as well as the direction of flow. Gregg and I opened all of the hatches and followed every hose to determine how the system worked from start to finish. We started at the head, and followed the system through each step in the process.  This idea came from a blog I follow:  The Boat Galley.

We labeled every hose with 3 pieces of information:
  • Direction the contents travel (with arrows),
  • From where the contents are coming,
  • Where the contents are going.

We also walked around the outside of the boat to be sure we understood the purpose of each through-hull.

We did the same exercise with the fresh water system--but on a different day.

It's nice to know that if something goes wrong (or even while everything is going right), I understand how things are supposed to work and what each component does.  Here is a simple diagram I found online that helped me picture the fresh water system in its entirety before I looked at each component:
Click here for the source of the diagram
See if you can name each component in the diagram!  Some of them are a little tricky.

I presented this information to some women in the Four Seasons Yacht Club in this year's "Women in Boating" event.  We also shared tips and tricks in boating.  Jo Baehr shared how they use PINALEN in their black water system to keep everything clean and smelling fresh:
I asked Bill and Jo Baehr to explain how they use PINALEN on their boat, Dancing Baehr:  Add 1/2 gallon of PINALEN diluted with 1/2 gallon of water directly into the holding tank after each pump out.  They also put about 1/2 ounce into the head each day.   Warning: if you are putting this directly into your head, be aware that full strength pine oil causes slight swelling of polymers such as rubber impellers.  Since flushing it through your toilets will dilute it with water from the flush, this should not be a problem.  It will clean your head and your pipes, as well as deodorizing your tank.  

Pinalen can also be added to any standing water in the bilge.  This will eliminate odors (and kill bacteria), and it should not cause problems with bilge pumps because they have plastic impellers.  It can be dumped down any drain (showers, sump pump, etc.) to kill bacteria and stop odor.

I haven't tried this yet, but I plan to.  I'll let you know what I think.

In our area, you can find PINALEN at the Family Dollar store.  If you can't find it in your area, it is also sold on Amazon.com.  On Amazon, a pack of 15 (28 oz) bottles is $59.83.

It is a good feeling to know your boat inside and out--all of the big things as well as the little details!  Next blog--we started an engine!  More on that soon!  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Living aboard a boat...

"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home."
~Matsuo Basho

I've been living aboard my boat for about a month and a half now.  I almost forgot to enjoy it!

I started this blog by explaining my hesitancy to own a home...also known as a slight fear of commitment.  While owning a home is comforting to some--providing a sense of security--it makes me feel vulnerable and limited in my options.  I'll admit that soon after moving aboard I started to feel the weight of my new responsibility.  It may be a boat, but it is a houseboat and I own it--and all of the responsibility that comes with it.

Then, I reminded myself why I wanted to live on a boat.  I reminded myself to take some time to enjoy it.  Aahhhh....I'm home,  And I love it:

Sitting on the back deck enjoying coffee and a book with the pups.
Moving from an apartment with a basement and a garage onto a boat is a challenge.  I discovered that getting rid of things, and keeping only those things that really bring me joy, is a liberating process!

More on living aboard a boat later.  Let's look at some before/after pictures:

And with a little help, the new bridge seat is in place where it belongs.  It fit absolutely perfectly:

For the first few weeks aboard, I made do without some of conveniences most of us consider necessities: running water, a working head and a stove/oven.  After many frustrating conversations (and unfulfilled promises) from the electrician , my friend Gregg Tepe determined to get these things working for me.  The next day, I received a video message from him with running water from my sink.  What an exciting moment!

Running water gets a thumbs up!

The boat is still a work in progress.  Next priorities: the floor, window treatments and tinting, interior doors (head, closet and pantry) mesh around the railings (to keep pups onboard), painting the decks, a shelf for my microwave, etc.  

Even so, I'm home.  It has been, and continues to be, a journey.  And I love it.