Head Trauma

There really isn’t something quite so disturbing as using the bathroom, then going back a little while later to see the water has risen in the toilet two-fold, and again a few more inches on another trip. Extra water in a boat anywhere seems to me to be a bad thing, but especially in a toilet. So it was, as we set out last week.

Maybe I should start closer to the beginning. We had been in Ft. Myers for a little over a month doing some work and hiring out additional work that we couldn’t or didn’t want to do. One of the things we hired someone to fix was our forward head and holding tank. Well, really, the whole shebang of a waste system. Adjustments were made in the aft head so the waste flushed more effectively (it has the whole length of the boat to travel into the holding tank). My biggest concern was a lingering smell. We weren’t sure if it was a crack or leak in the holding tank, a leaky toilet/hose/clamp, or an issue with the ventilation system. Whatever it was, it held a noxious scent to it. Rick, of course, didn’t smell anything. I don’t know if that’s a guy thing or if it’s his perpetual allergies. What I do know is there was a definite smell. It was an embarrassment for a delicate flower, such as myself, to be living in the middle of what I could only surmise to be a cesspool.

Kevin, the hired hand, was a diligent worker. I could tell he didn’t relish the work, but did what needed to be done. He determined the actual forward head needed to be replaced. So, we checked out toilets on-line. I was appalled to learn that a duplicate of our current toilet (which was new with the build of the boat in 1982 so had certainly lasted), would set us back about $1,200. For a toilet. A TOILET. It didn’t sing. It didn’t wipe my ass. It was just a regular old marine toilet. Anything disgusting you want out of your body is dropped into this thing and it was going to cost more than my entire wedding had been. I did a little more research and found a smaller toilet that was only $350. Still excessive if you ask me, but comparatively much easier to wrap my head around.

I showed it to Rick who pointed out it was shorter than the other one by two inches. I argued that I’d read it’s better for your bowels if you squat and that us westerners are doing ourselves a disservice by having toilets that don’t allow for this. Rick inwardly rolled his eyes, I’m sure, said he could always build a stand for it if we needed it, and ordered the toilet. The fictitious stand, by the way, would probably start out costing ten bucks but we’d end up spending the balance of the cost of the other toilet.

Once it arrived via Amazon Prime and Kevin installed it, we realized it was more than two inches shorter. Plus, the bowl and seat are smaller. Basically, we now have a special grandchildren’s toilet. Sigh. (They’d better visit us at least once. That’s all I’m saying.)

Note the height of this toilet as compared to the height of Rick's knees.
Note the height of this toilet as compared to the height of Rick’s knees.

But it didn’t leak and it didn’t smell. So, I think it’s fine, since we also have the big boy toilet aft. Kevin added a special charcoal filter at the holding tank and sealed a leak on the holding tank that he found while rooting around down there. And can I say, not having to do these things ourselves (and by “ourselves” I as usual mean Rick) was worth every. Single. Penny.

So back to the original topic, I was quite alarmed when I noticed the water level consistently rising in our new baby toilet. After all, it didn’t have far to go to get to flooding stage. I also noticed a smell. At first, I merely flushed. I was hoping it was an anomaly and it wouldn’t repeat itself. When I went down the second time, the smell seemed worse and the toilet water was higher. It was also brown. So, was the toilet backing up? The toilet pulls in lake/ocean/river water to flush, so it could be the water was just dirty lake water as we crossed Lake Okeechobee. That lake water was pretty dingy looking.

I clued Rick in on these developments and became obsessed with checking the water level. I also opened all the windows to air things out. About every 20 minutes I went down and flushed. This meant I was filling up the holding tank faster than normal. I flooded (poor choice of words) Rick with questions and scenarios.

  • Do I need to start bailing that water instead and throwing it overboard?
  • What if it continues overnight? We will wake to flooding! Won’t we sink?
  • If we’re sinking, can we really fit through the escape hatch above the bed?
  • I was totally freaked out (basically a normal occurrence for me).

He suggested I find the shut off valve and we’d just use the other toilet (which did not have a rising tide in its bowl). Now, I’m not mechanically inclined, I don’t like to exercise because I hate to sweat, and I don’t do stinky things. But I went down there and crawled around the toilet to find the shut off valve. There was none. Apparently for $350, you get the toilet only. I reported in. Rick suggested removing the hatch to see if it’s under the floor closer to the waste tank.

At this point you might be asking yourself why I didn’t have him do this stinky work. Look, I never thought I would stick my head where the sun don’t shine, but I’m still terrified at the prospect of driving the beast. Down I went. I checked all the tubing. I shined the flashlight into crevices. I felt sticky substances all along the way. But I did not find a shut off valve. Since I failed in my mission, I did not earn my plumber’s crack. I did, however, wash my hands repeatedly.

Rick suggested if I left it alone, it would only rise so high and then stop. I tested that theory and, of course, he was right. About an inch below the rim, it stopped. This gave me little piece of mind, however, simply because I’m a worrier. I continued to check it until we pulled into the marina at Stuart and headed straight to the pump out station.

That night we noticed the water was at normal levels. By morning our theory was based on our speed. If we went our normal lumbering speed, the water didn’t rise. The more we sped up, the higher the water rose. By the time we reached Vero Beach we had lost the smell (we were out of the lake and into the clearer waterway). Staying for the weekend we made a Home Depot run and installed a valve. If we notice the water level rising we can always close the valve and use the other head. So, I’m feeling confident enough to get a good night sleep in anticipation of tomorrow’s travels.

Speaking of which, here is our itinerary for the week:

  • Monday, April 24: Leave Vero Beach to anchor out by Cocoa Village
  • Tuesday, April 25: Head to an anchorage at New Smyrna Beach
  • Wednesday, April 26: Another anchorage off St. Augustine
  • Thursday, April 27: Land in a marina in the Jacksonville area and stay through the weekend.


Incidentally, if you visit, we will secretly take side bets on whether you will be able to get up from the baby toilet.

Heading Out of Ft. Myers

When we left Ft. Myers this morning, the sun was blinding and our hearts were heavy. Coming into a marina, you hope you will get along with your “neighbors” while you are there. The folks at Paradise Marina were very welcoming. Even an introvert like me couldn’t help but be won over. And here we were, leaving. I love being on the water and love visiting a different place regularly, but it is awfully difficult to leave so often.

As the engines were warming and my intestines were doing their usual disco dance prior to traveling in the beast, I started thinking about the lock we would be going through. It was a new type for us. Of course it was off-putting for me.

I had calmed myself by the time we made our approach. We waited while the lock gates slowly opened and the water rushed out. We were finally given the go ahead to enter. Lines of rope were draped down the lock walls and I knew I had to use the pole to snag a line. My abilities with grabbing lines with the pole are notorious poor and yet, I had no issues today. It was not a particularly long line. We were to hold our lines as the boat rose with the water. Rick stepped out and snagged a line at the back. The wind was pushing us a bit and my line was slipping out of my hand. I shouted to Rick, who couldn’t help since he had hold of his line. He told me to let go, but I knew that would lead to a host of different issues. The line was barely long enough for me to wrap it once around the cleat at my feet. Rick followed suit and we were able to hold the boat fairly easily although I ended up channeling Quasimodo staying bent the entire time.

The next lock was interested in that we ended up behind an older couple who were less experienced than me (if there is such an animal). The woman was on the front of the boat with a line and the man at the back with a line. She was not keeping the front toward the wall which forced the back end into the wall. She was SCREAMING at the poor guy that he was letting the back end hit the wall; confusing him. Then, she lets go of her line and screeched to the guy to drop his rope and DRIVE. He glanced, bewilderingly, up at a couple watching from above, who explained to the man that she wanted him to drop his line and start driving the boat. Now, the gates are not open so we aren’t sure where they were going to drive and we were getting nervous they might turn completely around and head into us. The guy gets the boat in gear and starts driving SIDEWAYS to the other wall, hitting the wall head on. The woman is at the very tip of the bow of the boat still screaming her head off. She had no PFD and, I’ll be honest, I was half hoping she’d fall in. They bounce off that wall and turn towards the gates just as they were opening. We were still holding steady waiting for the all clear. They snaked their way through the gates just as the all clear comes. They puttered and puttered as we followed them out.

We ended up going farther than we expected, making our way to Moore Haven. By then the wind had picked up and we slammed into the dock rather than sidling up to it. Luckily another boat owner was there and grabbed our lines tying us off quickly.

Any way, here is our the plan for the week:

Thursday: Leave Moore Haven and head across Lake Okeechobee, to Indiantown, FL

Friday: Leave Indiantown and travel to Stuart, FL where we will stay through the weekend.

Updates to come.



Dining Area Re-do

When we started shopping for our new home, we knew we couldn’t afford exactly what we wanted. We also had a lower comfort level for spending than what we technically could afford. So we needed a “fixer-upper.” We were looking for an older boat partially because of cost but also because we just liked the look of older boats over the flashy new type. We liked the wood inside versus an all white interior. We knew we needed good engines. We knew we needed, basically, a “like new” below decks area. We could handle basic household electric, plumbing, construction, and design. By we, I of course mean Rick. He handled all that stuff. The exception being design–we both contribute on that front. I also “hold,” “let go,” and “fetch tools” when asked and have been doing a lot of grunt work like waxing the exterior and stripping/varnishing the handrails. So I certainly do my share of work, just not the “sexy” stuff.

Which leads me to the topic of this post: our dining area. Each time we saw a boat, I immediately made mental notes on what needed to be changed so we could truly know the overall cost of that boat. I should have written them down because I “lost” quite a few of those mental notes. Actually, I didn’t lose them, I just put them somewhere “safe.” I have no idea where that might be. Anyway, virtually every boat we saw had nasty carpet. Why would you have carpet on a boat? Those sailors I’ve talked flooring with agree that carpet is stupid but almost always done. The carpet is always covering the hatches and stapled with a billion and five staples, which makes no sense either. Apparently boat carpet layers, if that’s what you call them, get paid by the staple. I’m guessing the one that did our boat was able to retire at the ripe old age of 25. His six-year-old retired at the same time.

The other things I noticed in most boats were mirrors everywhere and a dining area much like a camper. A permanently fixed Formica table with a built in bench covered in a hideous patterned material. Durable? Yes. Functional? Perhaps. Stylish? Nope. Not even a little bit. Take a look.

The dinette.
The dinette.

In the PB days (pre-boat), I was full of ideas. But I knew Rick could only do so much at one time and we couldn’t afford to hire anyone. So I had to choose wisely. The carpet stank, so that had to go immediately. Besides, I didn’t relish dying in my bed because I had to escape through the carpeted-over hatches above me. The salon and aft deck carpet were replaced with a beautiful wood floor that took an exceptional amount of time. (Framing a dozen hatches takes time.) They turned out gorgeous. All that time, we lived with the dining area. Even though I’d never seen any, I was convinced the seats were infested with bugs. I never saw any, but I think it was a fair assessment simply based on its ugliness. So in my mind, the seats, in particular, had to go ASAP. In those early days, Rick would sit at the table on the bench during dinner and I would pull up a fold-able camping chair. I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting on that bench.

A closer look at the awful seat cushions.
A closer look at the awful seat cushions.

I decided a breakfast bar would be a good choice to replace the dinette. You get storage underneath and with a couple bar stools, you get a place to eat. Having taken off the mirror, Rick wanted to build shelves to give us more storage. I was also determined to use a live-edge chunk of wood for the bar top.

Because the floor had to go under the dinette, the benches came out quickly. We kept the table for awhile. It was, after all, utilitarian, but I was not saddened when it, too, was removed. The massive mirror on the wall above the dining area went at that time as well. (It was glued down. Breaking it was inevitable. Perhaps this is where our bad luck started. But, truly, I’m not superstitious any more than I believe bugs were going to crawl up my ass if I sat on those dinette seats. Really.) We bought unfinished cabinets, placed with a fairly easy install. Keep in mind, though, that nothing is level or square, so “fairly easy” is relative. Next, we found affordable bar stools after an extensive search. Why are bar stools so crazy expensive? Most were priced for boat carpet layers’ wallets, not retired teachers.

In progress.
In progress.

Because we had a limited budget, I scoured the internet for weeks to find the perfect live-edge hunk of wood. They were pricey. If the wood was reasonable, the shipping wasn’t. Eventually, I settled on an eight foot chuck of black walnut. Shipping from Florida to Oklahoma was free. I maxed my budget, but it was worth it.

I was WAY too excited anticipating the arrival of that wood. When the truck holding it pulled up, it was like Christmas morning! Unfortunately, it took months before we were able to actually complete the build. While in Ft. Meyers to get some below decks work done by a pro, we targeted the breakfast bar for completion. Rick sanded the slab and coated it in polyurethane. We had many discussions on whether to paint or stain the shelving unit and cabinets. Once we determined paint, we struggled with black, brown, or cream. We eventually settled on cream so the slab would pop more. It was the star of the piece and I didn’t want it lost in the overall picture. We added pull handles to tie things together. Even though there are a few additional things to complete, I  had to share. I am completely over the moon with the results!

The full front on view.
The full front on view.

Here are a few close ups as well.

You can see how purdy the grain is with this picture.
You can see how purdy the grain is with this picture.
This shows off the live edge and some of the hardware we installed.
This shows off the live edge and some of the hardware we installed.
The lovely shelves. I wanted floating shelves, but there was no way to secure them properly. I'm glad we went with this instead.
The lovely shelves. I wanted floating shelves, but there was no way to secure them properly. I’m glad we went with this instead.
We added a spice cabinet on the end. It is handily within reach of the kitchen.
We added a spice cabinet on the end. It is handily within reach of the kitchen.