Sorta Chilling in Solomons

You may notice my blog looks a little different. That’s because WordPress’s Blogging 101 course is teaching me how to snazz up it up. Feel free to critique. I’d love to hear from you.

There are three things that most full-time cruisers say will make or break a cruising experience.

ANCHOR: No one wants to deal with a dragging anchor in the middle of the night.

DINGHY: It’s got to be big enough to be comfortable but not so big that it can’t be manhandled when needed and your engine must, must, must be reliable. No one wants to motor ashore and then have to row back to the boat with a dinghy full of supplies.

REFRIGERATION:  Who wants hot beer and sour milk?

Anchor?  Check.  Check.  Since the kind of anchor you have depends on the bottom in which you are anchoring, we have two.  Our Bruce anchor is good for anchoring in grassy and rocky bottoms and our primary anchor is a 33 lb. galvanized Rocna.  It’s more of a “general-purpose” anchor.  There’s about 400’ of rode between the two of them, and while we haven’t anchored out a lot, we’ve yet to drag.

Dinghy?  Almost check.  We have a 2003 Caribe C-9 dinghy with an 8 horsepower Yamaha engine.  There’s plenty of room for the two of us and since FNR has davits getting the dinghy in and out of the water is no big deal.  We don’t have a motor lift but use a halyard to lift the motor on and off the dinghy.  Right now, the only thing between us and a reliable dinghy engine is operator error.

We (and by “we” I mean Steve) have only had to row once, but that debacle taught us (and by “us” I mean Steve) that it’s a good idea to made sure there is plenty of gas in the tank before taking me for a dinghy ride particularly when I need to be back at the marina by 3:00 to get ready for my week at camp.

And did you know that no matter how many times we (and by “we” I mean Steve) pull the rope, that engine absolutely will not start if there is oil in the carburetor? So how do we (and by “we” I mean Steve) keep oil out of the carburetor? We (and by “we”…okay you get the picture) do not lay the engine on its side when transporting it from Point A to Point B.

Furthermore, we all know that oil and water don’t mix. Well, neither do gas and water. “We” figured that out when “we” didn’t close the vent on the gas tank and it rained. Dinghy engines do not run well when there is water in the fuel line.

Luckily, the operator is definitely learning and even though we’re troubleshooting another fuel line problem, we’re close, very close to having a reliable engine on our dinghy.

Refrigeration? Ours is dying. It’s probably not original but it uses R-12 refrigerant and since that was banned back in 1996 due to its ozone depletion potential, it can’t be recharged. We install a small fan inside the box hoping improved air circulation results in better cooling.

No, a tornado did not rip our boat apart. All we're doing is installing a fan in our refrigerator, I promise.
No, a tornado did not rip our boat apart.  We’re just installing a fan in our refrigerator.
No luck. We replumb the drain so the melting water can drain directly into the bilge and not freeze around the evaporator plate.

Replumbing the fridge drain
Replumbing the fridge drain…

Replumbing the fridge drain leads to cleaning the bilge. Go figure...
…leads to cleaning the bilge. Go figure.
No luck.  It needs to be replaced. Oh, goody!  I get to go refrigerator shopping!!  How fun is that?

Oh. My. God. Refrigerator shopping is not fun.  It is hard, unbelievably hard.

What kind of condenser do we get? Do we go with an air-cooled, water-cooled or an air/water-cooled system?

Do we want a flat evaporator that can be bent to fit around the sides of the box or a bin-type evaporator?

What about power?  12-volt?  120-volt?  Or one that that switches between DC and AC voltages automatically?

We get quotes from a couple of the boatyards in Solomons, and we (and this time by “we” I mean us) do not want to spend what they are charging to install a new system so guess what?  We’re going to install it ourselves because you know what Steve says. The only difference between us and the people who do refrigeration for a living is experience and we’re fixing to get that experience.  I hate it when he says that.

Currently, we have an air-cooled Norcold condenser with a flat evaporator that switches between voltages automatically.

See that frosty thing down there? That's a flat evaporator plate. It's too small for our box and it's dying.
See that frosty thing down there? That’s a flat evaporator plate. It’s too small for our box and it’s dying.
The only thing I really care about is the evaporator. I want a flat evaporator because even though it has to be bent, it takes up less room in the box.  Armed with that knowledge, Steve gets to work. He scours the internet, makes many a phone call, and polls our neighbors on the docks before sitting me down to give me the good news / bad news spiel.

Steve thinks we should get Adler Barbour’s SuperColdMachine CU-200 Condensing Unit. Good news? It’s an air-cooled condenser that can be converted to an air/water-cooled system. Water-cooled systems are more efficient in warmer climates and since we are heading to Florida, that’s a nice feature. Bad news? It’s not compatible with a flat evaporator. Of course. The only thing I care about.

M: So what are my choices?

S: I really think you’ll like the horizontal bin evaporator. The bin is a little freezer so if you want to keep something frozen you can.

M: How big is it? (Going online to look at it.) That’s huge!!

Huge…7-1/2″H x 15-1/2″W x 12″D
M:  Hey, what about this one?? It can go right where the old evaporator plate is. It won’t take up much room AND it has a built-in fan to help circulate the cold air.

Not huge…10-7/8″H x 8-5/8″W x 2-5/8″D
We poke around the internet looking for reviews. Apparently, this isn’t a very popular evaporator. Two reviews. One person loved it. One person hated it…said it froze up.

S: I really think you’ll like the horizontal bin evaporator. We can mount it above the inclined wall. That’s space we aren’t using anyway, and if we put it as close to the top of the box as possible, you’ll still be able to put stuff underneath it. How about I model one out of cardboard and install it so you can see what it will look like?

Hmmmm…this might very well work.
Steve starts measuring, drawing, cutting and taping and the next thing I know there’s a cardboard evaporator prototype in our box.

Evaporator, Cardboard
See that Cheerio box? That’s where the evaporator bin is going to be installed.

Say hello to my new freezer!!
I do like I!  Say hello to my new freezer!!
Our Adler Barbour SuperColdMachine CU-200 Condenser and ColdMachine VD-153 Large Horizontal Evaporator will be delivered Tuesday.  Installation experience to follow…

Welcome Aboard!

Our full enclosure will look similar to this one. I like to think of it as my sunroom.
Our full enclosure will look similar to this one. I like to think of it as my sunroom.

As requested by my son and cousin, today’s post includes virtual tours of FNR, both outside and in. Knowing that videography is not a strength for either one of us, Steve and I decided to split up the videoing with him doing the OUT and me doing the IN. We watched the videos together and were reminded once again how different our approaches are to this adventure and to this blog. Obviously, Steve knows boats and I do not. He’s a sailor and I am not. He’s going to make sure FNR is seaworthy and chart all of our travels. I am going to make sure Steve is seaworthy and that we are comfortable when traveling. He’s the Captain and I’m the First Mate.

As far as the blog goes, there will be posts talking about how Steve replaced our headliner, about cracked Electro Scans, about pink algae in water tanks, about replacing leaky ports, about the trials, tribulations, and thrills of living on a boat…things that other Cruisers and Liveaboards may be more interested in. For family and friends, there will be posts about the places we see, the people we meet, and about how much we miss you and wish you were here.

For now, we are staying at the marina until the end of June – that’s when our lease runs out – so you’re going to have to wait a bit for the places we see and the people we meet blogs. We still have boat projects to complete – new countertops, sinks and faucets, a full enclosure, mounting a TV, replacing salon cushions, learning how to take videos, etc. – so we’ll have plenty to blog about. When we do set sail, we plan to spend a few months in the upper Chesapeake and then head down to the Florida Keys for the winter. That’s all we have planned for now and even that is subject to change. After 75 plus combined years of employment, there will be no schedules, just routines subject to change. No deadlines, just ETA’s. No rat race, just zen on a boat.

Memorable Experiences

Memorable experiences. We all have them and, if asked, can quickly rattle off a few.  I imagine mine aren’t much different or more memorable than yours.  I’m sure you can relate.

  • My mother leaving my 3rd birthday party because she was in labor with my younger sister who ending up being born that same day. (Took me a long time to admit it, but best birthday present ever!)
  • My first kiss…8th grade on the school track after track practice.
  • Myrtle Beach after high school graduation.
  • Honeymooning at Myrtle Beach.
  • Buying my first home.
  • The birth of my son.
  • The birth of my daughter.
  • The birth of my second daughter.
  • My separation and divorce.
  • Meeting and marrying Steve.
  • The birth of my granddaughter.
  • Selling our home and nearly everything we own, retiring and moving onto a sailboat.

Okay, I know a lot of you may not be able to relate to the last one, but that’s what this blog is going to be about.

We’ve lived on FNR, a 1986 Cal 33 for 2 days now, downsizing from a 1900 square foot house to a walk-in closet. Steve and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about how we got here and where we hope to go. We think it will be a memorable experience.