Tech geniuses

I know: looking at this fine website, you’re tempted to believe we are tech geniuses. Let me just disabuse you of that notion right now; Michu is an RN, and I used to be a chef before I started staying home with the kids. It’s frankly a miracle that I’m able to broadcast these words at all.

Tech support. Don't worry, the 9-year-old's on it.

Tech support. Don’t worry, the 9-year-old’s on it.

Hopefully some of you have tried to sign up for our reminder newsletter via email (it makes us feel loved!). Hopefully not all of you have received a glaring red “error” message. If you have: we’re working on it! And sorry for the delay. We know you’re all on pins and needles, waiting to hear about our new house battery bank.

ETA:

AAAAAAAND….Fixed. On the backs of the geniuses at Midphase, not through my own devices. Sign up, y’all.

Electronics overload

Kindle Paperwhite (times 3)
Garmin GPS
Laptop
iPad
VHF with AIS and DSC
iPod
Chromebook
Bluetooth speaker
DSLR camera
EPIRB
NMEA WiFi

Seriously.

In real life, we are not complete Luddites, but all you have to do to know where we’re at is to take a look at our phone. It is not smart. It’s barely intelligible. We have a tracphone, to which you can anonymously add minutes like a criminal, and we share one phone for the whole family.

As we plan for the next two years, however, we are suddenly feeling a need to have 500 different ways to connect with each other, other sailors, the world we’re leaving in our wake and the rest of the anonymous interwebs. Our boat is being loaded down with more computing power than was installed on the Apollo spacecraft; the autohelm alone has more processing oomph than any computer we owned in the 1990’s, and the new camera is smarter than our desktop Mini over there.

How much is enough? At what point can we find balance between the mostly-unplugged life we’re anticipating afloat, and the ability to access weather info when we need it? How often do we really need to check in with our land-life family and friends? Do we need to pay the big bucks for the Iridium GO package, or can we hang with just a WiFi extender antenna?

Yeah, we don’t know. We want to have options, but we need to protect our budget. We need emergency contact ability, but I’m not sure we need eight different avenues to call the Coast Guard. We want to keep friends up to date, but wow, do we dislike Facebook. Mostly, we feel a pressing need to figure everything out right now, because we won’t be ordering an extra iPad in Cuba, or trying to pick up another digital camera in the San Blas islands. We are in the throes of Cyber Monday, and the pressure to purchase is intense.

But really, whatever we have when we leave will be sufficient. Humans adapt. If we don’t have all the toys (and we certainly won’t have ALL the toys), we’ll just use what we have. The best boat to cruise is the one that you own, and I figure that goes for the extra bits as well.

Living room, or sail loft?

Why not both?

Why not both?

Fresh water systems

Stainless, yes! Storage, no.

Stainless, yes! Storage, no.

In the manner of people who know nothing, I spent much time before purchasing a boat worrying about embarrassingly small things. Chief among them: what are the water tanks made of? Are we going to have to compromise on the perfect boat, with our drinking water stored in some kind of weird, leach-y plastic–or worse: aluminum, coated with BPA? (Never mind that the entire boat is essentially made from BPA.) Fortunately, our tanks are made of stainless steel. There endeth the good news.

Gross.

Gross.

The water in the little corner of northern Texas where our boat used to live has a distinct sulphur odor/taste that had permeated all aspect of the water systems. The hoses themselves were filled with a rainbow of algae and microflora (possibly microfauna as well. We didn’t test). Inadequate winterizing had burst hoses and wrecked pumps. The tank monitoring systems were corroded and not giving us accurate readings. The two tanks couldn’t be isolated; if one tank was contaminated with salt or diesel or some unknowable water catastrophe, they both were. The tanks weren’t located in our shallow bilge–they filled out most of the storage under our port and starboard settees.

Who thought this was still useful?

Who thought this was still useful?

Finally–the whole system was pressurized, making water come out of the tap just like at home. Sounds good? Actually, it takes electricity to run–in short supply–and wastes water, especially if you have in your tribe Children Unaccustomed to Extreme Water Conservation.

Filter, pump and hoses going in under the galley sink

Filter, pump and hoses going in under the galley sink

The tanks remain under the settees, but most of the other problems have been addressed: new hoses, new tank monitors, new pumps, and death to the pressurized water. We now have two foot pumps in the galley–one bringing water from our tanks, and one bringing water from the outside, so dishes can be washed in salt water (or, for a few more luxurious months, the fresh water of the Great Lakes). We even have an in-line filter for our drinking water.

New hoses everywhere.

New hoses everywhere.

And no, we don’t expect to be getting a watermaker. For those not in the know, a watermaker turns sea water to fresh. It’s magic and sorcery, and if you told Vasco da Gama about such a thing he would slap you in the face. Much as we would love such fancy tech, we will not indulge:
1. So. Much. Money. $2-3000 for the cheapies.
2. Power use. It takes a lot of energy to perform that kind of alchemy.
3. Space considerations. It would be a tight install, to say the least.
4. Cruising grounds. We have no plans to cross oceans. While it would be very useful to have a watermaker when we cruise the Sea of Cortez, we’ll be close enough to civilization to find drinking water.
5. Maintenance. And this is the big one. While there are some great (expensive) watermakers that rarely (expensively) break, they do break, and they are a huge hassle to fix.

New tank monitors

New tank monitors

New access hatches

New access hatches and shut-off valves.

Last night, the temps in southern Wisconsin dipped into the single digits. Fortunately, Michu has already winterized the water systems–with vodka, now conveniently on tap.IMG_2842

Stopgap duct tape

Good enough for Mark Watney=good enough for us.

Good enough for Mark Watney=good enough for us.