We’ve been staying on a mooring ball for a couple weeks. That gives us little news to share, I’m afraid. But it has given me a chance to get to know what the boat’s systems are like at rest – away from docks and without a daily injection of engine power. It’s also made me keenly aware of how things that can normally be taken for granted quickly become obsessions.
Power Power Power
In your average home, electricity consumption is not top of mind. With today’s LED bulbs, you’re probably not spending a lot of your brain power on power. But onboard, power management is something we constantly have one eye on. I thought this was maybe just me, being drawn to data like a moth to a porch light, but no, it’s Kath too. Neither of us will ever go in or out of our cabin without turning on our power monitor.
When last I wrote about power, we were having some trouble getting our demand to stay within our solar production. We were considering replacing some panels, maybe splitting the panels into separate controllers, getting a new fridge, etc. Since then, two new things have changed the outlook of our power picture. First, with the aid of some WD40, we were able to get our fridge thermostat unstuck, and turning it down has made a significant difference. But we’ve come up with another savings strategy that seems equally simple and effective: we’ve turned our inverter off.
Before leaving for Washington, we turned the inverter off and left the fridge on. There was about 75% power when we left. We expected the fridge would eat away at our battery and we’d be coming back to about 55%. We were a bit anxious about it. But instead, we came back to find the battery full. It seems that, somehow, our inverter and/or the devices plugged into it are using more power than we really appreciated. Given how much time I’ve spent obsessing over each power draw, I’m quite surprised to find that turning off the inverter made such an unexpected difference in power demand. But, it very much is the case, and I’m glad we discovered it.
Today is the first overcast day since we arrived in the Chesapeake. Our power production is about 25% of what it is on a sunny day. Yet, with the inverter off, we are currently net positive, gaining a few percent more power than when the day began. So, it seems that we will need to work out a schedule for turning on the inverter and doing our charging during a short window each evening, perhaps. Instead of thinking less about power, we will need to think about it even more.
Where, oh Where has the Interweb Gone?
At home, most of us don’t need to think too much about the web. We all have some sort of high speed, unlimited solution for data. And when travelling, most of us are doing so on roads and in neighbourhoods well serviced by mobile carriers. But the carriers tune their antennas quite precisely. And it seems, they don’t aim them out into the bays that surround towns. Right now, although we are near the centre of a town, we have almost zero data throughput from our mobile carrier. Fortunately, someone nearby has left their guest wifi account open. We are hoping that they did so in the spirit of generosity. (And if you know the Reyes of Spa Creek, let us know so we can leave them a bottle of wine.)
While it may be slightly inconvenient to hit a dead zone while travelling, it’s quite inconvenient to be living in one. Every email, every trip plan, every shopping excursion seems to require the internet. Even a video I had downloaded from netflix or Prime once wouldn’t actually open without an internet connection. I am becoming increasingly familiar with the wifi hotspots of Annapolis, but I generally use the internet more in the evening hours, so it’s not helping much. Today, I tried raising my phone to the top of the mast, hoping it would get better reception. Alas, it had no effect.
Water, Water Everywhere…
At home, you just turn on the tap and out it comes, ready for drinking, and at any temperature you like. Here onboard, although we are surrounded by it, fresh water is a scarce commodity. In the Bahamas, it will be much, much more scarce, so we are treating the next few weeks as a bit of a practice run.
Being on a mooring ball means we don’t have access to any city water. Perhaps there’s a place that lets you fill up when you gas up? Not sure, but right now, we are being careful about every dish that we clean, every handwashing, etc, to ensure that we can avoid needing to pay for a dock just for the water it can provide. We figure that by Oct 15 or so, we will be somewhere new and may seek out a dock to refresh our water supplies. Until then, we are trying to stretch our “house” water.
Our drinking water is a different issue. We have six 5l bottles that we fill as needed. We also have a water filter that fits on a garden hose. So, we are not sure where yet, but we expect that sometime soon, we will be casing the neighbourhoods around us, searching for a dock or a garden hose we can hook up to.
As far as water temperature goes, we generally just stick with cold water. When we have a bunch of dishes to do, we will fire up the in-line water heater and draw a sink full of hot water. But that’s a luxury we only pull out once a week or so. For most washing needs, we stick with “cold” water. The water here isn’t coming out of the ground, so it’s a lot warmer than the water that comes out of a cold tap at home.
Where to poop
We recently spent a few days in an AirBnB in Washington. There was a cute sign on the wall of the bathroom that said “Home is where you poop”. When you have a place on land, and you need to poop, home is the most comfortable place you can name. No strange noises, no industrial toilet paper rolls and no ear-splitting hand dryers.
But on a boat, the criteria is reversed. Although we are delighted and amazed by our composting head, the best spot for pooping when we are not at sea is basically anywhere but here. As a result, I now know the most direct and discrete route into and out the main-floor washroom of every hotel in Annapolis. I know which doors allow me to avoid eye contact with the front desk. I know roughly how many steps it is from each town dinghy dock to the nearest washroom – whoops, they are called “restrooms” on this side of the border.
We Love it Anyways
Despite all these inconveniences, we are very happy with our current living situation. I love being outside pretty much all the time. I love the feel of the boat floating and turning on its mooring. I love rowing to shore. I love cooking on board. When we were in Washington, in a room with running water, working internet and unlimited power, I missed being aboard. The feel of teak floors, the fish jumping, the world’s most indignant duck (yes, that’s a fun feature of our current ‘hood), the beautiful, classic sailboats weaving their way through the anchorage on a near windless evening. The quiet. The darkness. The stillness. It’s all worth it.
I wouldn’t want to stay in one spot like this for very long, but I could easily move from mooring to mooring without much complaint – provided the weather stays nice. From here, the potential to go sailing is just two cleat knots and one twist of the start key away. And, for now, I think just knowing that is comfort enough.