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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Readers Ask

M@ asked "Huh. It takes a lot of equipment to live on a boat."


Not really. In fact just the opposite. When you decide to live on a boat - unless it is a very large boat - everything must have a purpose. In fact, it is better if something has multiple uses. You simply do not have any room for crap you do not need.

A 40 foot monohull boat has less room than a small apartment. Maybe even less room than a small studio or efficiency. The V berth in the bow is small and cramped. If you are too tall, you may not even fit in it. And even if you do fit in it, you are NOT going to have anything in there. There is no space for even a little TV. You may have some hammocks hanging - and those become your cabinets and shelves and stuff. You do not even have a drawer for your underwear. It is all there - in plain sight for all to see.

The head - or toilet - is also very spartian. Tub?? Forget that shit! A tub on a boat is only for the rich. No, the typical sailboat like I would be able to afford will be quite small. Just a toilet, a sink, a drain in the floor, and a hand held shower head. Want to take a shower? Lower the lid on the toilet, have a seat, and go at it. For there may not be enough room to stand up comfortably.

And that is not all. Leaving the water running is wasteful. On a boat you waste nothing. So you will only use three or four gallons at the most to shower. The less water used, the better. Because your fresh water tank may only hold 40 gallons. And 40 gallons is considered quite a bit. You can get larger freshwater tanks - but they just add weight and take up space you could use for something else.

Your toilet will more than likely use salt water. If it uses fresh water then it will only use a pint or so per flush. Even if it uses salt water it will not waste a lot of water per flush. And you know why? Because you need a holding tank! Thats right. The USCG and the EPA and other agencies say you can not dump your untreated shit overboard. So you need to dump it to a holding tank and then have that pumped out. Or go at least three miles offshore (unless you are in a lake or river where you can not discharge anything at any time) where you can dump your shit overboard legally.

Since you need a holding tank, that means one more thing that takes up room. But at a pint of water per flush, a 10 gallon holding tank will hold about 64 - 80 flushes. Depending on a number of facotrs. If you had a gallon per flush that 10 gallon holding tank would need to be pumped out every other day or so.

Conversely, I could get a Type I marine toilet. A type I toilet treats the sewage with electricity. They only work with salt water. The waste is pumped into a blender of sorts where it is turned into a horrible mess. Then electricty is applied. The electricty splits the water into hydrogen and oxygen - and in the process relases free chlorine ions into the water (from the salt). The chlorine then kills most of the nasty bacteria.

Truthfully at this point I would then just discharge the mess overboard. It is not like I would be in a lake where people get their drinking water from.

From there is the main salon. This is your living area AND kitchen. Now assuming I am in a 40 foot boat here - I may have a 12 foot beam. Surely no more than that. So below decks my main living area would be all of 10 or so feet wide. So my kitchen, dining room, and living room would be maybe 10x15 feet or so. Maybe a little more. And in this space will be a table to eat off of, a small galley with an aocohol stove to cook food (propane is an option but then you need to find a place for the gas cylinders which rust and shit), two bench seats that can convert to sleeping areas, a plotting table, the stairs leading to the upper decks, and the engine. The bench seats have storage under them, and there are also commonly shelves over the seats for whatever.

In the stern is another berth - larger than the V berth but still not huge.

So no. You do not have "a lot" of equipment. You have the bare minimum needed to get by. If you do not use something every single day - it is a waste of space.

The upper decks on a sailboat are reserved for the rigging and crap - so there is not much room there for stuff. You do have a cockpit where the wheel is. You may also have some dingy davits to hang a small tender from.

Another problem with stuff is that it requires power. Power which you may not have. Unless you are at a dock with shore power - your only source of electricity is a bank of 12v batteries, a few solar panels, and maybe a wind generator. The solar cells and wind generator serve to recharge batteries and supply power for things. But it is not like you can just take anything and plug it into the wall and expect it to work. Take a simple microwave oven. Lets say you have a 900 watt oven - which is small. Well a decent size wind generator is only 800 watts - at full speed. So if the winds are light and the generator is only producing 500 watts, you need to put another load of around 33 amps on your batteries. That is a lot.

Forget about running AC on batteries. Not unless you have a hell of a lot of batteries. AC needs either shore power or you have to run a generator.

Same goes for hot water. If you want a hot shower you need to run an engine (with a heat exchanger setup to heat water using the engine), a generator to run an electric heater (could draw a lot of juice there, 20 - 25 amps of 120v easy), shore power, or propane.

Sounds cramped huh? Well it is. And a 40 foot sailboat is strting to get pretty big.

So what I would actually look for is a slightly smaller catamaran. If I could find one I could afford. Cats tend to cost more, as they tend to be newer. The biggest advantage to a catamaran is that your salon is MUCH larger. You have a lot more beam. So even if I took a hit on length I would get a massive upgrade on beam (width). And since the cats have twin hulls - the berths are not in the same area as the salon. The berths are in the twin hulls. The salon is all open. And at the stern you have a patio of sorts.

The question is - can you live off the grid? Can you live off a couple of solar panels and a wind generator? Well - can you?

Also can you afford to buy the boat, replace anything that needs to be fixed, add the solar panels / wind generator if they are not already there, and then maintain it all???


Blogger M@ said...

I think I was being facetious but... damn. That's very well organized. Where are you supposed to put all of the bikini-clad women on a 40-foot sailboat?

Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

In the v berth, the bench seats converted to beds, and of course the stern berth.

And the galley. Because I can be sexist too.

The helm area and upper decks are the overflow area. If necessary I can rename the cockpit to the "box office".

Blogger The Doozie said...

It sounds kind of cool even though I think you're on crack. What about storms and what not?

Blogger TLP said...

LOL to your answer to M@.

But then Doozie wrote a good one too, "you're on crack." Not as often as you'd like I bet.


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