July 31, 2016

Refrigerators and Freezers on a boat...?

We are sometimes asked by our landlubber friends [especially those planning a visit...] how we keep 'fresh' foods on our boat [they are thinking ice cream... and beer...] And by fellow boaters how much and what type of refrigeration we have onboard... [They are often thinking how do we preserve our fresh catch of the day... and beer...]

Well, our boat came with 2 refrigerators and one freezer. We also have 3 coolers [2 of which are a very efficient- meaning overpriced... brand.] The 3rd cooler is mounted on the aft deck and suits a double purpose as a seat- and is full of spare and dock lines for some reason...
For perspective, this reference is for 2 full time live aboard adults- one (your's truly) with a hearty appetite. We typically have a chance to shop in a store every 2-6 weeks- not including anything we harvest [fish, colds, etc...] 
By now you may have surmised we are definitely not vegetarians.... Only well heeled in Alaska can afford to be dedicated herbivores... Up here, when you are asked to bring a salad to the pot luck, you need to explore why you are on the fecal roster... 
Besides, salad is what food eats... 
But I digress...
The main fridge is a top loader built into the boat originally, and is roughly 9 cubic feet in size. 

It is a refrigerator only [no freezer...] and is cooled by a modern 12VDC air or water cooled [user selectable] refrigeration system and is pretty efficient. [More in related forum discussion at end of this post for those interested...] 

The top loader easily handles our refrigeration requirements  for several weeks at a time. [Two omnivorous adults with carnivorous predilections...]
We also keep a few heads of cabbage against the hull, and grow sprouts [we use our 25+ year old Biosta sprouter...] for crunchy green stuff after the fresh stuff runs out- or converts back to humus in the refrigerator... 
Delicate greens don't seem to do well being tossed around- even under refrigeration- on a routine basis... Not to mention they are typically near the end of their appeal by the time they reach Alaska, let alone by the time we acquire them...  
Either that, or they won't ripen for weeks after acquisition... [This might help explain why the Admiral- who was born and raised in Alaska- thinks green bananas are ripe... and throws away those rotten, yellow bananas... Therefore I cannot in good conscience recommend her banana bread despite her otherwise excellent baking skills... Don't worry; I won't get in trouble for this... she knows... deep down...]
Does anyone remember the eating scene from Soylent Green? [It could have been filmed in our pilothouse a few weeks after the last provisioning run...]
But I digress... [Again...]
Being a top loader, it invokes angst in anyone desiring something stowed below the top layer- which is always where what you desire is located... [We use stacking baskets, but still envy front/side loaders... For those at home, it is akin to your chest freezer... What you want is always at the bottom, isn't it?]
Here is a good article about organizing a top loader by Carolyn at the Boat Galley.
The 2nd refrigerator is an old [ç1980s] Norcold front loader [AC/DC; 4 cubic feet?] under counter fridge. It has the token small freezer compartment on top which usually keeps our fish bait preserved well enough to reduce associated odors and subsequently the number of sideward glances at the galley slave for the day... 

You can see the top loading refrigerator hatches in the counter top left of the stove, and the white door of the Norcold [lower left corner...] And yup, that is a microwave in the upper middle of the photo...

The old Norcold is inefficient [energy-wise] by today's standards and is therefore slated for replacement someday... [...sometime when the main mast is removed due to its size and location...]

We typically only use it when we have guests aboard, and in warmer weather sometimes to pre-cool drinks, etc. when we have extra electricity [e.g., when motoring or when the generator is running...] Even when using the extra capacity with guests, we typically shut it down overnight due to its excessive power consumption... 

The 3rd is a Engel chest type AC/DC [and by that I mean electrical preference...] chest cooler secured under a lower settee bench and used exclusively as our freezer. [84 quarts] We use this full time to store proteins for our consumption [and the occasional bit of ice cream or blue berries...] Engels are very efficient energy wise, and it quickly freezes our catch of the day maintaining the fresh quality of the protein...

We vacuum bag everything stored in the freezer [i.e, no styrofoam trays from market packaged meats- and the market will often do that for you if asked in advance...] and stack it vertically [with hand written labels on the bag tops- like file folders...] so it is quick and easy to pull what you need. [Slip items to be frozen between two frozen items and it quick freezes quite nicely...] 

We also keep a couple 'blue ice' type of cold blocks in the freezer for picnics  and for putting in main fridge to offset heat when bulk loading during provisioning, self defense, etc.

Perhaps worth mentioning is another refrigerator inherent with boating in cooler waters: stowing items against the hull [Yes, landlubbers, on the inside of the boat...] We routinely store a variety of items this way with great success. e.g. Beer, wine, vacuum wrapped hard, aged [4 yr+] cheeses, a few heads of cabbage, potatoes, onions [and no, the produce is not as well aged as the cheese nor wine, but sometimes ends up looking the part...]

As you can see, in this lifestyle we suffer greatly... and so will you when you visit...

Of course, many cruisers get by famously without any refrigeration, as did human kind until fairly recently... [Historically speaking... ] 

Meanwhile, others cannot get by without an ice maker. [Nature is our ice maker; on a prior boat, I relied solely on glacial ice for over a decade...] However, should we ever venture to warmer climes again, an ice maker might just gain priority on our list as well...
  To each their own...

What are your choices, and why?

Related forum discussion: 

Link to original forum post [19-Apr-2016]

Re: Water Cooled Refrigeration

Originally Posted by Martin S 
What's your experience of using water cooled condensers. I am considering the ISOTHERM range. Currently I have an air cooled condenser it seems very inefficient and has the additional problem warms up the already warm cabin.
Replacing looks reasonably straight forward. I'd love to hear from others who have tackled this. Thanks...
Hi Martin,

The previous owner of our boat spent 15 years in the Bahamas and S America.

They replaced the main refrigerator compressor set-up to one with both fan and optional water cooling.

They installed the water recirculation pump with an on/off switch and separate hour meter, and plumbed it to one of the 2 potable water tanks to eliminate raw water cooling concerns. [The boat has 2- 110 gallon water tanks and a water maker.]

Since that compressor can be air or water cooled, and each have a separate hour meter, it was easy to quantify the efficiency gains comparing run times of water vs. air cooled [30+% based upon 2 years of data in the same region where Cooling Degree Days in the warm seasons average mid 3 figures. i.e., the higher the number, the more cooling needed to reach your desired cabin temperature. Likewise re: heating for Heating Degree Days...]

Note that the boat is also air conditioned, but that was only as needed unlike the 24/7 refrigeration demand...

Since we are in cooler climates with that boat now, I have experimented with turning on the water cooling that same system. It does reduce the run-time somewhat [4-10% on average depending; more on sunny summer days, and also in winter when we are heating the boat full time...] but perhaps not significantly enough to justify it if I was starting from scratch and planning to stay in cooler climates. That would of course change if/when we take the boat to warmer regions.

Otherwise, given how happy we are with the efficiency of our Engel freezer, I also wouldn't hesitate to install an retrofit Engel compressor in our ice box...

One last thought, depending upon the compressor you currently have, it might also be worth evaluating adding one of these newer [and intriguing] compressor optimizing devices.

Best wishes with your project.



July 21, 2016

Small Hobbies (Space-wise)

Somewhere along the way, I decided I had an artistic side. I can't paint, or draw, I take decent photos, but I really like to do graphic design. If I had another life, my dream job would be museum curator, where I would design exhibits. As a young person, I had no idea this profession even existed, so I agreed with my parents suggestion, and went to work for an airline. That, of course had other benefits, free flights for them and my family, but that is another story.

Museum of the North, University of Alaska Fairbanks, I enjoyed one summer as a docent.

One of the blogs I follow, the Cynical Sailor & His Salty Sidekick, mentioned one day, she was looking for a hobby that wouldn't take up much space on her boat, which gave me an idea. On Wrangell Island, we have 2 grocery stores, and a drugstore, but the greeting card selection is extremely limited. I don't want to send any of them to anyone. I thought I could satisfy two desires, be artistic, make my own, and have a card that I would want to send. Plus, I thought it would be less expensive, silly me.

I started by buying some blank cards, with envelopes, some thin line markers, and a bunch of stickers. Everything fit in this waterproof fish tackle box.

Box 1, do you know where this is going?
Then it was back to the craft store for more stickers, (they were on sale!), a bag of shells, (I wanted to be nautical), some different colored card stock, glue, rhinestones, watercolors, colored pencils, and glitter.

Box 1 and Box 2
Now I started collecting bits, and bobs from around the house. String, cardboard, fun designed packaging, rocks, twigs, leaves, ribbon, and of course another trip to get more sale stickers.

Boxes 1, 2, and 3.
Then a generous friend said she had a bunch of rubber stamps that belonged to her mother, and neither her, nor their girls, were into that sort of thing, would I want them, and there were probably a few nautical ones I would want to keep. Absolutely! I would want to check them out, and keep a few.

I think we have here, what is known as "the snowball effect".
Yes, there were a few nautical ones, but I couldn't bear to part with any of them, so another storage box was acquired, and I managed to fit all of them in, plus a few ink pads in different colors. After all, what good are stamps without inks?

On the back of each card I made, I had been putting a sticker of our boat logo, that I had purchased last year, kind of like branding it. Another blogging friend, Little Cunning Plan, said she had her boat logo made into a rubber stamp. Wow, what a neat idea, so I went to Rubber Stamps, and had our logo made into a stamp, along with one in an image of our boat.

Done now right?
Just yesterday, my generous friend hands me another large rubbermaid tub, look what she found! It's filled with all kinds of different rubber stamps. I might be getting out of control now....

Bill says that he is looking into what kind of barge we can tow, to hold my supplies.
I'm not sure yet, how I'm going to organize all of this. I had planned on a storage space next to my side of the bed in our master cabin, but now I'm not sure it will all fit. Downsizing might be in order here.

On the positive side, I am having so much fun making cards. Some of you out there might have been a recipient of one already, and if not, never fear, I know I have a stamp that was made just for you!

Our good boating friends, Bob and Polly got married. The chart is Prince William Sound, and Jade Cove. That was the first trip they took me onboard. Also that's their boat in the upper left corner of the inside of the card. 

Gus and Elsie's Father's Day card to Bill.

Be a Little Shellfish.

Happy Birthday!
My private "Card Ideas" Pinterest board is filling up with all of my inspirations, and brainstorms. Easy storage there, it's online.

What hobbies are your passion, and do they take up too much space?

July 10, 2016

Thoughts about liferafts...

This post is to announce this new addition to our sidebar:

Stuff we have and use [and do...]

Please go to that page to see the most recent information (especially references) as this post is basically an announcement that will become out-of-date over time...

When we purchased Denali Rose, we had the Winslow 6 person offshore liferaft that came with the boat re-packed/re-certified.

We learned a lot taking it to a resource that mostly packs commercial equipment [airliners, commercial boats, etc.] 
They opened and inflated ours and spent 2 hours walking us through everything [down to the smallest detail] in our own raft. 

Don't miss that opportunity- we learned a lot including:
  • The liferaft painter includes a small metal shackle that is designed to break-away based upon liferaft buoyancy if the vessel sinks. [Instead of pulling the raft underwater...]
    • i.e., Attach the metal shackle to the boat instead of cleating/tying the painter directly...
    Enlarge photo to see the break-away shackle [on the end of red painter] that should be used to attach to mother ship...
  • The insulated floor needs to be inflated manually [using a hand pump in our case...] 
    • We practiced this while sitting in the raft.
  • How to use the lifelines around the perimeter to rotate the raft in the water, following the arrows, to the entrance ladder.
  • How to 'climb' the webbing ladder on the bottom of the raft to right it if upside down:
  • How to enter the raft from the water using the ladder and then pulling yourself in using the tight webbing ladder installed on the inside. 
  • How to get one person into the raft so they can assist others.
  • How the raft inflates with half the canopy open so we can jump in [board] from the main boat with the raft alongside.
  • Where the [specialized] knife is located in its built-in pocket.
  • How the repair kits work.
  • Light placement and how they automatically illuminate.
  • Inspected the emergency supplies, and learned the sunscreen had leaked over everything, ruining some items, and rendering everything else very slippery and slimy.
    • Lesson learned? Vacuum bag everything...
    • We also added a few items of our own including:
      • A vacuum bagged PLB [much smaller than the EPIRB it replaced] 
      • Spare prescription eyeglasses
      • etc.
  • ...and so much more...Here is a brief video of a raft like ours showing people practicing entering from the water, and righting an inverted raft...
I asked our re-packer what shortens a raft's lifespan. He indicated heat was #1. Hence he recommends valise rafts where feasible so they can be stored away from heat. He also mentioned vacuum packed rafts fare better and live longer...

When we were finished, I asked the owner what raft/brand we should buy for offshore work once the Winslow ages out. Without hesitation he recommended the Viking RescYou Pro. [And that was not a brand they sell...]

Armed with that information, I stopped by the Viking [and other liferafts] booth at the Seattle Boat Show in Jan-2015. They appeared to be very high quality at an excellent price. If there was one downside, the tubes are black rubber, and smell like it. I suspect it would be unpleasant at first to be confined to an inner tube that smelled like one... [But that would be the least of my worries...]

Another comment re: using a commercial re-packer: I asked if they had any expired pyrotechnics we could relieve them of. He asked me what and how many. I asked if 6 SOLAS parachute flairs would be greedy of me. We walked out with 2 large boxes containing commercial pyrotechnic signaling devices [smoke canisters, hand held flairs, dye packs, streamers, parachutes, etc.] what would have cost me $thousands, and most were only out of date by one year or less... [It never hurts to ask... Of course, we keep fresh dated signaling devices onboard to meet the letter of the law...]

How long do liferafts last? Our Winslow is 15 years old and- per our last re-packer- may re-certify once or twice again. [Giving it an estimated lifespan of 20-23 years... But only time will tell...]

On the other hand... In the past I owned a well known brand-name valise raft that I had for 12 years. It was stored in the climate controlled garage when not on the boat during the 4 month sailing season. That raft failed its 4th recertification [at the age of 12] The thing looked shredded like someone took a razor to it. I had it repacked every 3 years, so something happened those last 3 years, and this was in Alaska so it never saw any real heat (nor freeze-thaw cycles as during that time I was summer sailing only...) I figured it cost me over $800/sailing season [$200/sailing month] for that raft... This experience demonstrates why we have them re-certified...

Unless something changes, we will buy a Viking Pro for about half what the others cost once our Winslow bites the dust...

Additional Resources: