Our First Winter Aboard and New Stuff!

Well, it's been a month since we've blogged, and winter is in full force in Hampton. Extreme High and Low tides, rapid temperature and weather changes, slippery docks, and my all-time favorite, "East Coast Gray." 39 degrees and raining is the absolute worst. Tenalach is doing great, though!
East Coast Gray on the Ponds, Dec 2014
In better news, we ordered and installed our Nature's Head Composting Toilet! Our original head setup was with two manual pump marine toilets plumbed to a direct-overboard discharge. This is illegal within three miles of any US coastline, and so not a viable option for us to keep, in that setup. We could have opted to plumb them for a holding tank, but after our dock neighbors on Veritas had a leaky holding tank, we weren't interested. On top of that, having a large tank of poop soup sloshing around under the V-berth didn't sound very appealing to us. So we removed both of those when we were in the yard at Dandy Haven, and traded them with the owners of an Endeavor for their cushions, which they were replacing anyway. We'd been using a port-a-potty from a friend for emergencies, but mostly using the marina bathrooms to do our business. With winter fast approaching, we knew this would not be a viable situation for us, so we did the research and took the plunge into the composting world. So far, we just love it. We've had one single issue with the installation (and it was my fault), which was not securing the agitator handle correctly. We've got that situated and we're golden. No odor, no chemicals, no poop soup. 

Of course, it wasn't that straightforward. We removed all the original pedestal material as it had molded and was stinky. We rebuilt the pedestal with marine polymer material (which was crazy expensive), to give the head enough clearance off the hull that it would not take up the entire compartment. We had to consider seat height and clearance from the sides as well. The resulting compromise was to angle it slightly so that it fit snugly against the hull, and gave more standing room in front of the sink and mirror. 

Sparing you all the details, you fill this thing with peat moss and do your business into a trap door, spin the agitator handle and the material breaks down into dirt. This is rated for 2 people to use full time for 30 days before it needs emptied. Since we use the marina bathroom and Michelle works outside the boat, we won't need to empty it that much. 

Liquid waste is diverted into the 2.2 gallon tank in the front of the unit. This is easy to remove and empty into any toilet. The only resources the Nature's Head uses is a very low draw of 12v power to run a computer fan that keeps the fumes generated by the composting process vented overboard. I re-purposed one of the light fixtures to provide access to the 12v line.  In the picture above left, you can see the vent hose coming from the right side of the unit. We used a hole saw to make a hole in the side of the cabin, put a nice stainless steel louvered vent cover on top of it after sealing it all with LifeCaulk. It turned out pretty nice and we've had no leakage or odor whatsoever. We insulated the hull (not yet covered) before putting in the new pedestal. 

While we were just finishing up the project, I emerged from the head compartment and noticed our lights where very dim in the cabin. I went to the engine room to check on the battery charger and found that it was no longer functioning. No lights. Nothing. Looked for fuses, tried everything. It was dead. There wasn't enough juice left to start the engine to charge the batteries, so we powered down everything that ran on the batteries to a single light bulb in whatever cabin we were in, and I went to get a new charger first thing in the morning. 

While in the engine room rewiring the batteries to the new charger, I decided I would take the opportunity to remove the factory charger that was long-defunct. This thing was HEAVY, but only on one side. As I was hauling it up on top of a rolling suitcase to dispose of it, it fell off and landed on the back of my leg. It was only a minor cut as I had two layers on, but the impact HURT. Three days later I woke up to a swollen and black and blue ankle! It lasted two weeks. Unfortunately we were traveling a bunch and didn't get any photos. Sorry!
We've also gotten a dehumidifier to help with the "indoor rain" that accompanies winter on sailboats. We found a nice, out of the way spot for it and it can drain right into the sink, so no need to empty the tank! 

It hasn't all been cold and dreary! We did get one quick sail in on a very warm day in December. It was very light wind and calm seas, perfect for taking photos!

Talk of tenalach

It't not all so serious! Sometimes the stooges just talk to each other. This time was Enzo trying to convince Zia it was his turn on the bed, which was on the floor.

Just a little laugh for you today! Happy 12/13/14!

Boat Project #2465

We have begun the head project! While the boat was in the yard before we moved aboard, we removed both conventional toilets. The toilets were set up to pump out without a holding tank, so even if we kept the heads they would have been illegal to use while in the slip. We have been fortunate for the last 6 weeks to use a small port - a-potty from my co-worker. This has been a LIFE SAVER for first thing in the morning and the middle of the nights.

We ordered a new composting head from Nature's head, but first had to do some remodeling. There was a shelf in the forward head that the old toilet sat on. We removed this (which was harder than expected, and took longer than expected) and cleaned the hull. There were a lot of "hidden screws" to find, and some were stripped. Just additional challenges that we are working through. Fortunately Chuck is a great handy man to have around. I get to be the small hands and small body for the small boat spaces! We did takes turns on this removing trim, screws, and pieces of the stool. 

The dogs were helpful as always, checking on and making sure the settee cushion didn't float away.  They are getting used to the noise we are making when working on projects, and seem to annoy them since we are interrupting their nap. 

We are continuing to learn that as we start new projects, we do them one at a time. The entire boat is destroyed when working on one project. If we try to start a second project at the same we tend to get annoyed. I was able to do other "small" projects as I was waiting for my turn. A few Christmas decorations, clean sheets, and airing out underneath our hypervent so keep things dry!

We only get three stockings because the dogs ate the fourth! So now they share :)

Puppy kisses from me to you!

We got cocky with our docking!

While we are still very much in the learning phase of owning and sailing tenalach, I have been more than proud of both Chuck and I. He is learning a ton about being a captain and paying special attention to how tenalach handles herself in certain situations. With this knowledge, he has been learning about the prop walk, not rushing the docking, and therefore we have had success. I am proud of myself as a crew member with my strength to move the boat (or grab a line and pull us over), and my ability to jump from starboard to port side to assist in docking WITHOUT tripping, hitting myself, or causing a bruise. We have even successfully docked her with just the two of us!

With that said, we had a challenge on Sunday!

It was gorgeous weather for the first weekend in December, sitting around 60-70 degrees, and finally had some wind. The last couple of days we were able to sail, there was NO wind. So we got a crew together, including Chuck, myself, Kathy and Dave (they live aboard as well), and Chuck's high school friend David. We sailed with only the mizzen and the jib out about 1/3. tenalach was performing great, and this was the first time we had sailed without the main up. With her being a ketch rig, it is nice to have the options of different sails to put up and take down.

Everything went smooth until we came to the docking. We had a great set up, but the wind was blowing us forward into the main dock and we were unable to put her in reverse to back into the slip. We were getting concerned that we would run aground since we had not been that close to the main dock before. Before we knew it, the wind had blown us parallel against the pylons on our starboard side. At this point, we had attracted the attention of another captain and he was there to help. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do yet. So we starting walking the boat back with ropes and using different pylons. We were able to pivot off of a pylon to slightly back into a slip (not ours). Once we did this, we put her back in forward to head out to the channel to try again.

We are in the middle of turning around, still fighting the wind at this point, and the engine dies! No sputtering, no warning, nothing. Just dead!So here we are, all 43 feet of delightful boat floating in the middle of the channel and floating towards another dock and other boats. Our first thought was to anchor (as we didn't have a lot of options at this point), and so we started this process. Then the captain who was watching us shouted to us that we were floating towards an open slip if we could just help guide ourselves in there!

By this time, there was 5-6 other individuals on the docks helping us with boat hooks, throwing anchor lines, offering eyes, and lending eyes to watch all the boats around us! SO VERY THANKFUL FOR THE BOATING COMMUNITY, ESPECIALLY OUR FRIENDS AT SOUTHALL LANDINGS MARINA! 

To make a long story short, we got all tied in, made some new friends, and definitely earned an adult beverage. There was no damage done to any boats, and we all learned a lot of lessons.

Mike is also a diesel mechanic, so he went to check on the engine and said our fuel filter was clogged. Monday evening Chuck replaced both the primary and secondary fuel filter, yet the engine was still not running. It turns out we had sucked up a piece of algae from the fuel tank and that was stuck in the line. Once we cleared the line, we had the engine purring like a kitty! All is well!

Dog Pictures Just Because!!!

Enzo high fiving dad!

Our First Cruise

We were lucky enough to be part of a group of boats (flotilla) heading to Norfolk for the annual Grand Illumination Parade! We reserved a slip for the night at Waterside Marina, in the heart of Downtown Norfolk, and set to making plans.

Crewmate Susan, of Veritas
The admiral couldn't make the trip down, as she had to work, so our dock neighbors Capt Dave and his wife Susan were gracious enough to lend me a hand to get tenalach from Southall Landings in Hampton down to waterside. It was about a 20 mile trip, and took us almost exactly 3.5 hours. The wind was out of the south, which gave us some sailing time between the outer marker to our home channel and the turn toward the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, but we had to motor sail the rest of the way, as the wind was nearly right on our nose. We didn't have time to beat the wind to death on our way to Norfolk. We dropped the mizzen and furled the jenny, content to continue making headway and be in our slip before sunset.

The trip down was uneventful, which we love. We passed a large container ship from Hong Kong anchored inside the HRBT, which upon raising its anchor, found that it fouled in its own anchor chain. They dropped it again when we were about 200 yards off, and it sounded like a jet engine! What a roar!

As we were passing NOB Norfolk, where all the large navy ships are berthed, Susan broke out some delectable cheese and crackers, and I had a wrap that I'd gotten earlier at farm fresh. We had great conversation, and tenalach's  Perkins diesel purred right along. The air temp was about 50 degrees when we left, and steadily declined as we sailed toward the setting sun.

Capt Jonathan of Tempo, who organized the trip, coincidentally met up with us as he was departing Willoughby Bay. He hailed us and we laughed about the timing, and he let me know about 3 other boats that were close by and heading to Waterside to enjoy the festivities. Soon after, we got word over the radio that the S/V Blue Ghost was hard aground near the Norfolk International Terminals. Blue Ghost was sailing again before we got to her, and we passed her in the channel in the Elizabeth River. We ended up being berthed right next to her at Waterside, and her crew were good people!

Ah, the most fun part of the trip. It was my first time docking at a new marina AND in a floating slip that was two boats wide. Since we have to dock stern-to, this required turning tenalach around in very tight quarters and back her into a starboard tie up. Suffice it to say that I have not mastered prop walk. We ended up directly diagonal in the slip, tossing lines to the dock hand to pull our bow in. He assured us it happens all the time, and despite judgmental looks from our powerboat neighbor, we got into the slip and tied up without hitting anything. The admiral met us shortly, we took the stooges for a potty break and began the festivities! Several friends made their way to tenalach, and we made even more new ones! Lots of sailors came by to meet the stooges and see our home, and a good time was had by all.
Capt Dave of Veritas and our good friend Ginny!

A group of 7 of us went to Hells Kitchen on Granby St in Norfolk, then retired to tenalach  for the rest of the evening.

The admiral and I got an early start the next morning, so she could get to her pottery class by 1. At 0830 the engine was running and we were making the undocking plan to depart Waterside and head back to Southall Landings. There was NO wind, so despite being prepared and hopeful to get some sailing in, it was again a motor trip. The temperature was about the same as the trip down and rising, but Sunday was cloudy. It was a shorter trip without the wind on our nose and we arrived back at our home slip at 1130. After a couple false starts, I had tenalach lined up and moving into the slip without so much as kissing a rub rail! It was a nice change from the embarrassment the previous day. We tied up, cleaned up, and got the admiral off to class, while the stooges and I took a well-needed nap! All in all, a great first cruise with great friends, and we look forward to doing it again!

Admiral's favorite picture from the day!

Antibes to Tenalach

The Transformation

Many of you wanted to see some before and after pics of the work we've done on our home, so I'll detail some of them here. First, the biggest investment we made: fiberglass work on the keel and a bottom job. We had several blisters to take care of, which was not that big of a deal, but the area needing attention on the keel was more than we wanted to attempt ourselves. Craig from Coastal Fiberglass did the work for us.

 For the paint, we used Trinidad SR over a coat of Interlux Primocon. Since we didn't know what was on the bottom when we got the boat, we thought it was better safe than sorry. The bottom job was dirty, took forever, and cost us a month's salary, but the Trinidad paint is rated for 3+ years. We'll see!

The Headliner

You may have seen what the "ceiling" looked like when we purchased tenalach. It was, to put it nicely, a "hot mess." Imagine the original marine plywood, fastened to the underside of the cabin top, then a vinyl liner much like what you'd find in older cars, then a layer of household fiberglass insulation held up by thin plywood. Add to that years of a leaky mast, and what resulted was a moldy, smelly mess. We took it all down in the main cabin and replaced it with PVC wainscot tongue-and-groove paneling. It might sound like it was easy, but it took us the better part of a month to get everything out, dry, and hung. After some trim, it looks pretty good!
Rotten plywood from a leaky mast/deck joint
After removing what was needed, down to the fiberglass

The Deck

Since the stooges aren't exactly the most graceful things on the boat, and the admiral and I have our moments, too, we added lifeline netting around the deck. This was a bit of a pain, but not terribly expensive, and gives us all peace of mind. We also put some grip tape on the aft cabin trunk to help the stooges get up and down off the aft deck. 

The Forward Cabin

The forward cabin has dual functions as the guest quarters and the Stooge Cabin. They're quite comfortable in there, and we've fashioned a restraining door that has worked beautifully. Big thanks to my dad, "the Colonel," for his hard work designing and constructing the door. We keep the guest cushions in the aft cabin with us, so if you come visit, they'll be clean for you!

 The Floor

We knew when we bought tenalach that new carpet would have to happen. The existing carpet was in pieces, full of mold, smelly, and simply just ugly. We replaced with a remnant from Abbey Carpet in Newport News, and were lucky enough to get enough square footage, with enough padding for under $120. We're very happy with it, and since we plan to replace it every year, this is a price point we can be comfortable with. And now we have a pattern, so it will go much more smoothly next time!
The finished main salon

 There's more to tell....
We have not yet finished converting the head to a composting toilet, but we'll update you as soon as we do! We've also got our eye on a diesel cabin heater....

For now, we and the stooges are quite comfortable! Stay Tuned!

2 Weeks in and DOG OVERBOARD!

Well, we've just about made it to the two week mark! We're still working on making tenalach a bit more home-y, but we're already feeling quite at home. All 4 of us are sleeping better each night, and Zia is making herself quite comfortable!

Enzo, on the other hand, is still figuring it out.

Shell's mom came to visit this past weekend, and got to experience some great and not so great things! Just a couple hour after she arrived, Zia got a little ambitious with the boarding ramp and went overboard. I heard Shell say "OH ^%$@ Zia's in!" and we all sprang to action. It was dark, and I didn't realize that Deb still had a hold of Zia's leash, which was attached to her safety harness. I was going for the boat hook and to drop the swim ladder, but before I could, Deb and Michelle had Zia back on deck. She was a little cold and pumped full of adrenaline, but otherwise uninjured.

We took tenalach out on her first sail. We bit off a bit more than we could chew with having an overnight guest and two other friends, Erika and AJ, on the boat with us for the first time, AND the dogs going on their first sail. The wind was blowing about 18 knots, which the boat LOVED, but the dogs didn't like the heeling so much.

The trip started with us leaving a spring line attached when leaving the slip, which is always embarrassing. We got that cleared and out into the fairway and channel with no other issues. Once out far enough into the bay, we put up the main and relaxed for a bit. We then rolled out our large genoa, and tenalach sprang to life! We briefly topped 8 kts through the water, and we didn't even put up the mizzen. We were VERY pleased with how she sailed. We learned a LOT as we went out and rounded the Thimble Shoal light, which you can see both from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. On our way to the light, Enzo decided he wanted to be in the cockpit, which is a safer place for him anyway. He was comfy there until we tacked and he slid right off onto the cockpit floor, taking some of our skin with his claws as he went. We had originally put the dogs on the aft cabin trunk, thinking they'd just stay out of the way. They didn't, opting to stand RIGHT next to the helm and directly over the traveler. This is obviously not safe, and as we got around the lighthouse we pulled the sails in and motored back. We will have to find a different place for them next time. Here are some images; it was a beautiful day! Thanks to Erika for taking these photos.

Securing the Stooges!

The Admiral!

Thimble Shoal Light. Ocean View Beach in Norfolk is in the background.

And so, our adventure continues! Stay tuned for more of our story, and subscribe to get new posts delivered straight to your email!

Our new home!

To say that this last month has been a whirlwind is an understatement. Chuck and I are both mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. The best news is that we are back in the water, back at our slip, and officially living aboard!

First off, thank you to ALL that helped in this process. Without family, friends, and each other we would not have been able to be here. BIG PROPS TO MR.DAN!!! He has earned as much Bud Light on the boat as he wants. I'll even cook him dinner on the boat :)

So the update... I will do my best to get it all on here. There is a lot though so I added lots of photos if you just want to skim :)

    Before the actual work was complete,
     but an idea of what happened and the size!
  • The keel is patched and repaired. There were some additional challenges, completely unexpected, but she is patched up and painted over. Thank you to Coastal Fiberglass for their work. (www.coastalfiberglassllc.com)  The boat was primed and now has two coats of blue/ teal paint. We used the hard ablative Trinidad Sr. Purchased as West Marine.

  • Interior work is 80% complete. You can see below and after pictures of some of the work on the starboard side panel and also the ceiling. The ceiling was done with these PVC tongue and groove panels. I primed and painted them, and they are water resistant. The idea behind these versus the regular headliner was that if and when we have a leak, we can easily get to it without tearing down the whole headliner. I just need to finish a couple trim pieces, and then paint over the screws. The difference is AMAZING. I can't wait to finish the other panels in the v-berth and aft cabin. (After we sleep A LOT).

Before. Taped off for painting
After. Just need a couple trim pieces. 
This is before the trim for the mast and
the trim to cover where the PVC pieces connected.

Dan working on hanging some of the PVC in the galley! Thanks Dan!
  • We have a bed and a bedroom! This mattress was custom from Original Mattress Factory. Antonio was fantastic to work with, and this was done in a couple of days. (www.originalmattressfactory.com). We also have hypervent underneath the mattress to increase circulation. I found king size microfiber sheets at www.macys.com for $23 a set. SCORE!!!! The fitted sheet is being custom done by our new friends at Signature Canvas Makers (www.signaturecanvasmakers.com). They are knowledgeable, fantastic customer service, and have a great dog in the shop :) They are locals to the area and we will mostly be getting our cockpit cushions from them (when that time comes).

  • Officially "Tenalach". Thank you to Suzette, a friend and local artist, for painting for us. She is not complete, but rain is getting in the way of that currently. 

  • Windlass Deckplate. This was where some of the leak was coming from (along with the swim locker on the stern). Both have been repaired thanks to long hours from Chuck and Dan. 

  • Dog door built. Chuck's father came out to the house and took some of the things we are keeping to store at their house. He also helped to build a dog door so the stooges new "house" can be the v-berth while we are away from the boat. He helped install the solar vent in the aft cabin, worked on some of the side paneling, helped remove a window to re-caulk and install, AND brought us a bunch of tools to use. 

Father and son!

Stooges watching and supervising from below :)

He made his own bench while he was here!

  • Dog security. We finished the life line netting around the boat. The dogs now have their own doggie life vests. These were purchased for Kyjen, and they "make unique products to keep dogs active and engaged". We shall see! www.kyjen.com

I think we all need a nap!
We think Enzo will do just fine on the boat. Sitting on the forward deck :)
  • Fixing the wind instrument. Chuck and Dan sent me up the mast to repair the wind instrument, They thought it was just bent, but instead of unbending it I completely snapped the thing off!!! Whoops! Apparently I just wanted to go up the mast again, which I will most likely be doing later today. Thanks from West Marine for helping up find the parts, and we were able to order from www.defender.com. 

Good thing I am not afraid of heights!
  • Back in the water! After a month out of the water at Dandy Haven (we thought it would be 10 days) they put us back in. Scary watching your new house swing like that. Thank you to Dandy Haven for being amazing. We know we made some mistakes and some first timer inconsiderate moves at the boat yard, but we won't go anywhere else to haul out. www.dandyhavenmarina.com.  

  • First night on the boat! We still have more stuff than expected and will be getting rid of more. We are getting settled as best we can, but last night was interesting. Just like any new place, there are new sounds and it rained. The dogs were on high alert and concerned someone was breaking in. Hopefully today we will get all the boxes at least unpacked and settled.
More boxes on the port side,
this was cleared enough for the dogs to have a place to sleep.

Tired puppies!

Looking to see where dad is. This is also a great view of how long he is!
As I said earlier, I think I got it all but it has been a lot. Soon to come will be before and after pictures and a frequency asked questions post. If you have questions, comment below so we can make sure to answer them for you. Again, thanks for all your support :)

~ Admiral

Turned the Corner!

We finally feel like we've turned the corner from tearing things up/out of the boat and into putting what we want IN the boat. The headliner and side paneling started going up today, and will make an ENORMOUS difference in the look and feel of the main cabin.

It's been a messy job! The admiral has done all the priming and painting.

We've engaged Craig from Coastal Fiberglass to repair our keel. He assures us that he can get it done in enough time to allow us to paint the bottom and get tenalach back in the water no later than the 10th. He'll start Thursday. We'll be cutting it very close, but we'll have enough time to finish the interior and start to move things aboard while he works. We will most definitely be ready for a relaxing sail and a rum cocktail when this phase of work is all done! Our good friend Dan has been awesome, and claimed the end of the bowsprit as "his spot" today while working on the windlass.

The boat is still a mess, but we're really getting close!

Catching a Break

OK! We're getting there. This weekend will see several projects finished (we hope). A large solar fan/vent will be installed in the aft cabin hatch to keep the air moving day and night. It's reversible and has an on/off switch, so we'll have lots of options for moving air. Blisters ground out,

My dad is coming this weekend to help with some installations and upgrades. We'll be engineering a restraining grate for the dogs in the doorway of the v-berth, installing an AC unit in a nearly-perfect sized void below the water heater, Rebedding another fixed window and portlight and replacing water damaged side panel on the port side of the cabin.

Howdy Bailey finished and got our stainless steel quadrant support bracket, and quadrant can be reinstalled on the rudder post and the aft cabin put back together today. Howdy was very accommodating and would recommend him to anyone. Our mattresses are ready and as soon as we find the source of our deck leak, we'll put them in and have a real bedroom!

Oh the deck leak. SO we figured out that our bilge water problem was NOT from the water tank, because it's empty. It rained a TON yesterday, and the bilge was again full of water. I pumped it, and it was all clean water. No oil. This is good news and bad news: the good news is the water is coming from the deck somewhere. The bad news is there's a ton of places that could be. The other part of the bad news is that it re-soaked the keel, delaying any repair again. We've got a grinder and heat gun now, and we'll be getting after the blisters in the hull this weekend as well. The keel problem, though, will require more than that. The keel repair and subsequent paint job is all that's keeping us out of the water now. I'm guessing it's going to require relatively major surgery that is beyond my skill set. HOWEVER:

We did catch a break from the universe. Our current landlord's next tenant doesn't arrive until the 11th, so we can stay until the 10th in the house. That gives us a LOT more time to deal with the keel problem, and took a lot of pressure off of us. Our surveyor came out and looked over the boat, made some recommendations to us, but said aside from the bilge/keel problem and replacing our halyards, the boat is solid. This was great news. This sunset photo was from Tuesday, shot by the Admiral on my Lumia Icon. On to a busy weekend!