Fill ‘er up

Posted in: Living aboard on Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Every now and then I get asked what we do for water on board. For most people water comes unlimited out of the tap and I guess it’s easy to assume because we live on a boat that we don’t have the basic luxury of running water. And to be fair to that assumption not all boaties do have running water but for us though it was a must. When we were looking at boats a good sized water tank was an important requirement because we didn’t want to be filling it all the time and the bigger the tank the greater cruising range we’ll have.  On a side note, the dream, the if-we-had-lots-of-money-and-more-space dream would be to have a water maker installed on board so that we can turn the unlimited amount of sea water below us into safe drinking water. Sadly not with our current budget and not with our current boat.

Tygress has a 200 litre tank in her keel with a pump to loudly pump water to our two taps, one in the head and one in the galley, and so far for us 200ltrs has been a  good amount. We get about two weeks out of one tank refill and since we’re currently living in a marina with shower and toilet facilities this 200ltr amount does not include water for showers.  As it is Tygress’s on board shower was disconnected before we bought her and we won’t be reconnecting it since discovering that the plumbing for it runs behind the switch board. Is anyone else thinking disaster waiting to happen? So it’ll be solar showers for us in the cockpit.

Filling the tank while living dockside is a relatively easy job and one i’m proud to say I can do on my own now. At first we’d only fill it when Ben was home. He would be inside to monitor the tank while I manned the tap outside. It was a good system and one with very little room for error on my part. Then one fateful day Ben asked if I would like to have a go at monitoring the tank while he manned the tap. My initial response “Hell no! I’ll flood the boat! I won’t know when it’s full! I can’t do it! I WON”T do it!”  But then I calmed down and remembered why I was on this journey, to grow, to try new things, to challenge myself.  So I manned up and took position inside.

For whatever reason there is no level indicator on our tank so telling how empty she is a case of listening to the changing sounds of the pump and telling how full it is is a case of peering into the tank with a torch trying to see the water level and how far from the top it is. It’s something that takes a bit of practice.  My first time I was constantly turning the hose off to peer inside “Ben I think it’s full, is it full?” I’d shriek “It won’t be full yet, it’s a big tank” Ben would calmly respond from outside. Not even a minute later “Ben Ben Ben!! It’s full, I can see water OMG i’m going to flood the boat!” followed by “Calm down Sez, it takes at least five minutes for it to fill.”

This continued until the water was close to the top at which point I completely I forgot which way to turn the hose nozzle to shut off the water. The shrieking became incoherent. We laugh about it now, but it was stressful for me at the time. But it was all worth it when Ben said he was proud of me for having a go and the sense of achievement I got when it was done was fantastic.

It probably doesn’t sound that much or that hard to you dear reader but sometimes it’s the smallest victories that feel the most empowering.  Now  that I can fill up the tank on my own, It’s one more thing I can contribute, one more thing Ben doesn’t have to be responsible for.

First we need to remove the carpet to reveal the water tank flooring panel.


Then remove the panel, please excuse our dirty bilge.


Then you open the tank using the age old lefty loosy - righty tighty method.


Then put the hose in, turn it on and wait. It's easier to stand using my foot to hold the hose in place.


Books on board

Posted in: Living aboard on Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

He says I have too many.  I say I don’t have enough.

He says we don’t have the space. I say there’s always space for more.

He says where are we going to put them all? I say i’ll find room.

He says I have a problem. I say it’s the best kind of problem to have.

He says surely you don’t need so many? I say can you ever really have enough?

Thrillers, mysteries, travelogues, classic science fiction, sea faring tales both old and new, dissertations on the human condition and the future of humanity itself,  books about the oceans, nature and animals, rollicking tales of action packed adventure, books on how to sail and where to sail. Hardcover, softcover, large and small, thick and thin.

Theroux, Meiville, Vance, Clark, Toghill, Cussler, O’brien, Defoe, Swift, Bach, Banfield.

Recent additions to the stash

More than my shoes, more than my clothes and more than beautiful homewares, I hated parting with my books.  Consigning them to boxes stored in a shed felt like a betrayal. As I packed each box I felt I was condemning characters and friends that I loved to isolation and abandoning whole worlds to darkness.

Watching full shelves become empty caused an almost physical pain in my chest and brought on a depression that had me questioning whether a life without them was any kind of life at all.  Did I want a life of beautiful vistas and adventure on the seas or would I be happier with a home full of books.  A home that was a portal to hundreds of different places and thousands of different lives. A portal to magic, excitement, mystery and space: the great beyond…

It was always going to be a hard choice, a hard decision to make.  The only way I could bear to do it was by bringing as many of my books with me as I could. Not to be deterred by a lack of storage space I crammed as many books aboard as I could.  And I can’t help buying more…

The small bookshelf above our berth

and more

My stash at the end of the couch


Our collection of sailing related books.

 What books can’t you live without?

What books do you have aboard?

What books SHOULD we have aboard? 


Oswald wreaking havoc

Posted in: Living aboard on Sunday, January 27th, 2013

As I type this Ex tropical cyclone Oswald is bearing down on Brisbane causing flooding, strong winds and general havoc.

I’m sitting on a lean to starboard, the saloon table is vibrating from the forces being applied to the mast and I can barely hear myself think due to the constant groaning of the fenders protecting Tygress as she’s being blown against the dock.

The latest observations from the Bureau of Meteorology are indicating wind speeds of 31kts (57km/hr) with gusts of up to 46kts (85km/hr). Tygress is taking a hammering.

Brisbane radar image as at 6.15pm

And to top it off we’ve just lost power.

This is the worst weather we’ve had since moving aboard and I’m not too proud to say that i’m frightened.  The last time Brisbane experienced weather like this I was safely ensconced behind four strong, solid walls watching the worst of it on the television.  Now I feel like i’m at the mercy of it. It’s not a good feeling.

As for Tygress herself, we fortunately managed to seal her leaking windows yesterday morning with gaffa tape so we’re not having to contend with water in the boat.  The tarps though have had to be tied and retied numerous times today thanks to the cheap rope we’ve been using. We’re slowly learning that only the best will do for our boat, trying to save money by buying cheap rope will only cause problems down the track. With this wind the tarps are acting more like sails and the sound they make when they fly lose is like a cracking whip against the cabin roof.  Our poor little fenders are looking deflated after having Tygress squishing against them for the last few days, one of them even popping out onto the dock, squeezed out under pressure, forcing us to push our bull of a steel hull against the wind to get it back down between the opposing forces of hull and dock again.

The video below is of the harbour entrance at about 3pm today, the poor boats are really getting thrown around, i’m glad we’re further into the marina and relatively protected from the waves.



These things I miss

Posted in: Living aboard on Sunday, January 13th, 2013

1. Ice

Probably not something you expect to find at the top of the list but believe me it’s one little luxury that is hard to live without especially if you like a couple of chunks in your afternoon scotch.  Without it my scotch is luke warm within minutes, a pale, syrupy imitation of how the Gods intended such a nectar to be enjoyed.   However there is hope of having this frosty delight in my beverages again.  As soon as our Eutectic fridge comes online our Waeco will be turned from a fridge into a freezer and the first things in will be my ice cube trays.

2. Air Conditioning

Need I say more? It’s safe to say that this is the first summer that I’ve actually experienced fully in all it’s humid, sticky, sweaty oven baked horror.  Without air conditioning there is nowhere to hide from it, even sitting directly in front of a fan provides no escape.  I have heard tales of other lucky boaties that have air conditioners on board but I don’t think that’ll ever be us, at least not with our current boat.

3. Our Queen Size Bed

The main berth just isn’t cutting it in terms of space and comfort not like our old slice of heaven back at home.  When we were sleeping in the V-berth dreaming of the time we could sleep in the main berth it seemed much bigger, it was going to be the solution to all of our sleeping problems.  But since we’ve switched over it feels more cramped than the V-berth and I’ve definitely drawn the short straw when it comes to the better side of the bed. Especially since it seems I have to share with the ships cat most nights.  If i’m not whacking my leg against the cockpit recess or fire extinguisher as I sleep i’m knocking my head on the too-close-wall when I roll over.  But the really sad part is that I misjudged the berth size when I bought all this beautiful expensive linen, and as apparently it’s closer to a single than a double nothing fits except the pillow cases.

4. Standard Land-based Plumbing 

Sure there are toilets at the marina and we do have a marine head aboard Tygress but I miss the proximity and reassurance of my own flushing toilet.  To most people a toilet is a toilet but to those few of us that harbour certain neurotic, irrational fears about unfamiliar toilets then a marine head is a construct of pure terror on par with porta-potties and aeroplane toilets.

5. A Full Size Kitchen

It’s almost enough to make me weep when I think of all that bench space I took for granted, or how I considered packing and unpacking the dishwasher a chore and how I managed to fill all those wonderful cupboards with so much crap that I never used. Today I have barely a fifth of that bench space and I certainly don’t have a dishwasher and I can barely fit the things I need into the few cupboards that I have.  Add on top of that the nagging worry that I’ll block the seacock in the galley with detritus from the washing up water and sink the boat. I miss my kitchen.

I’m sure I could make a much longer list but these a the big items I find myself missing the most on a regular basis. What are some of the things that you’d miss?



Gardening on a Boat

Posted in: Living aboard on Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

We weren’t that interested in gardening in our land life. Our yard maintenance efforts were sporadic at best, usually done when weeds were knee high and the house hard to see.  There was this one time that we grew a real jack-and-the-beanstalk weed that reached over one story high and had to chopped down with an axe. We were proud in an odd kind of way of how high that one grew. I joked that if it lasted until Christmas I’d hang some fairy lights on it.

When we started planning our life aboard Tygress we knew that we wanted some herbs and plants aboard, ones that wouldn’t need mowing, trimming or chopping down with an axe.

While we’re cruising we may not always have access to fresh veggies and herbs so we wanted to have some self sufficiency, a little green luxury in our diet. Like fresh chives with our scrambled eggs. Lettuce and sliced tomato with our canned ham sandwiches or maybe in a salad. Fresh basil with pasta sauces or some fresh parsley and dill for our fish. You get the picture.

Since moving aboard we’ve been experimenting with different herbs, pots and containers and places to keep them.

Fluffy amongst the herbs

At the moment we have basil, flat leaf parsley, curly parsley, tomatoes, chives, olive herb and aloe vera and today I planted some lettuce and rosemary.

The first of our ripe tomatoes, they were delicious!

Space is an issue on a boat along with salt spray and budgetary constraints so one has to get creative and seek out of the box solutions for growing a garden.  And I’m pretty proud of mine! For the price of a two litre bottle of milk you can make your own hanging containers for growing herbs that hang perfectly on the life lines, plus you get the luxury of fresh milk!. In the photos below I’ll show you how you can make your own.

Materials: One two litre milk bottle, stanley knife, a pair of scissors, a marker

Step 1: Assemble materials (not shown: scissors and marker pen)


Step 2: Use marker to outline section to cut, use stanley knife to make an incision in plastic, insert scissors and cut out as marked


Step 3: Repeat process for other side


Step 4: Mark out and cut a smaller sized opening on the third side


Step 5: Mark out and cut opening on the last side.


Step 6: Mark out a circle at the base of handle, cut, then slice through the handle half way up, turning the handle into a hook.

Some things to note:

  • I’ve probably cut the openings of this milk bottle too low. For yours you’ll want to leave enough depth for a good amount of dirt and space for root growth. For this bottle I’ll plant a shallow rooted herb such as thyme.
  • Don’t forget to poke some drainage holes in the bottom at the lowest points in the plastic where the water will collect the most.
  • Don’t cut too close to the sides, you’ll want thick support struts so the bottles don’t buckle.  If they do buckle while hanging just set it down somewhere for a few days and it should right itself.
And here’s how they look after a few months growth.

Here are some I prepared earlier.

We’ve gotten quite a few comments from fellow liveaboards and passers by about our little herb garden, in particular my bottles.  Opinion seems to be split 50/50 between “Wow, what a great idea, they’re coming along nicely” and “Won’t work, they’ll die, salt in the air will kill ’em, give up”. The latter just make us more determined to see our little garden thrive. True our plants haven’t been sailing yet, so maybe they’ll struggle, but we plan on hanging them on the towel racks in the head and keeping the others under the spray dodger while under way.  We think their odds of survival are good. So check back and watch our garden grow.




A Spot of Sunday Pressure Cleaning

Posted in: Living aboard on Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Sundays for many are days of rest, reflection and recuperation. Ha! Who needs that?

Sunday for me was a day for cleaning floors, granted they’re not very large floors, but i’ve discovered just as labour intensive. And what girl doesn’t like to have cleaning fun with a pressure sprayer?

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts our flooring consists of an odd shaped cut of carpet in a fetching shade of grey, above creaky wooden floor boards.  And although I vacuum it almost daily (some days I’m slack) I’m consistently shocked at the amount of crap filling up the little hand held vacuum cleaner I have.  Shocked and slightly disgusted, and maybe even a little secretly ashamed.

This is our lovely carpet in the shape of our floor space.

So while having a lovely hot shower this morning (where I do some of my best thinking) I thought why not give it a good going over with the pressure cleaner. And so our story begins.

By the time I got the pressure cleaner out of the car and back to the boat, both of the closest taps were being used.  Not to be deterred I negotiated extension lead and hose length to try and reach the third tap at the very end of our finger, only to fall a metre short, so close!.  I did a little jig of frustration with slightly more maturity than a two year old.  Just then the lovely gentleman from the cat next to the tap rescued me with the offer of his hose extension piece and hey presto I was ready to go. (of course not 5 minutes later one of the closer taps freed up, Murphy’s Law in action again!)

If I thought I was shocked and the vacuum cleaner payload of grit and dust,  then I was horrified at the colour of water that I was blasting off the carpet.  It was brown and it just kept coming! The two worst spots were where I stand at the sink and where we feed Fluffy.  I’m a little obsessive compulsive and would probably still be cleaning it now trying to make sure I got every last speck of dirt out if I hadn’t forced myself to stop, drop and walk away.  Pressure cleaners are loud and I was concerned I was disturbing peaceful Sunday afternoons all across the harbour.

While the carpet was outside drying I took the opportunity to scrub the floor boards inside which yielded another bucket of brown water. I don’t know where all this dirt and dust is coming from, surely we can’t be trekking it all inside. In all honesty this is the first exhaustive clean the flooring has had since we purchased the boat and moved in full time, so I guess it was bound to be dirty…so dirty.


Laundry Day

Posted in: Featured, Living aboard, Marina Life on Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

In my land life I hated laundry and didn’t do it as often as I should have. Consequently there was usually a giant pile of it lurking around somewhere.  Which didn’t bother me too much as I had a large selection of clothes to choose from.

When we moved aboard Tygress we had to downsize our wardrobes considerably, a lot of our clothes were just not practical for boating life not to mention we don’t have a lot of space aboard to store clothes.  All of this means I have to actually do my washing regularly,it also means we have redefined our concept of dirty clothes.  Once one or two wears would count as dirty, now though, dirty is defined as ‘obvious stains and/or emitting unpleasant odours’.

My cute, fully automatic washing machine

Even with our extended wear periods I still have to do laundry more than I like.  Thankfully though it’s not too hard to do the washing while berthed at a marina.  Especially since my MIL bought us a cute little 2.5kg fully automatic washing machine.  It won’t be much use to us cruising (I have a a small hand cranked washing machine for that, also thanks to the MIL) but for our current life at the marina it’s perfect.  It’s light and easy to manoeuvre, there’s plenty of space to use it in the cockpit and thanks to Skipper’s handy work it fits snuggly under the companionway stairs when not in use.

All I have to do is plug it into a water supply (garden hose) and power point (our power board connected to shore power) and away she goes.  I use an environmentally friendly detergent that can be safely drained overboard and has the added benefit of keeping my conscience light and guilt free.

You might ask why I don’t use the marina’s laundry facilities.  And I would answer that I would if they weren’t so expensive, $4 a load of washing and $4 to dry your clothes.  So I hang my washing out to dry on the lifelines, thankfully the sparrows have seen fit not to crap on it. You’d be surprised how quickly the washing dries on a sunny day, and even quicker when there is a breeze blowing.  So far I haven’t lost anything overboard, barring one blue peg which hopefully Neptune can find a use for.

Our clothes out to dry on the starboard lifelines.