Friday, September 27, 2013

Making our Columbia 43 comfortable

A big step away from the onboard camping lifestyle: our new refrigerator.
"Would you like a cold beverage from the refrigerator?" I asked for about the tenth time in two hours. For the tenth time I got a smile and giggle from Virginia. Yes, Oceanus has a refrigerator. Finally.

It's one of the things we did this weekend to make our Columbia 43 a more comfortable home. We stay on the boat one or two nights a week now. So far it's been a little like camping, but gradually the livability is improving. In addition to getting and installing an Isotherm 4.6 cubic foot refrigerator we made improvements to our double bunk that made it irresistibly comfortable. I think I slept better last night than I have in months.

First the refrigerator: When we bought Oceanus a little over a year ago she didn't have any kind of an icebox and the galley was just roughed in. That gave us the freedom to design it to our liking. Too much freedom is a dangerous thing.

I originally planned on building a super well-insulated icebox with a stainless steel interior and add a refrigeration unit. Virginia wanted to put the sink where I wanted to put the icebox so it made us rethink my idea. Then I talked to a friend at the marina who had built several boats, including a 47-foot Perry-designed sailboat. In that boat he spent about $10,000 -- according to him -- on a large refrigerator with a large freezer, with an engine-driven compressor in addition to a separate compressor that ran off the battery bank.

"If I had to do it all over again I would just get one of these," he said, opening his small Isotherm refrigerator in his current boat. "It uses less energy than that 20-watt light and it was about a tenth of what I spent on my other boat."

I was already overwhelmed with the number of projects on Oceanus. This looked like a good way to save time and money, since it would cost less than the refrigeration unit alone, not counting making the box for it. We finally ordered the Isotherm last week.

The day I took it to the boat was the only day this week that was sunny and dry. I should have been working on our list of high-priority projects on deck. Instead I installed the refrigerator under the counter top in the galley. It was worth it just to hear Virginia giggle later when I handed her a cold beverage.

Virginia makes up our super-comfy bunk.

Our bunk a year ago.
The other big leap forward in livability was the improvements to our bunk. Originally we planned to cut down our queen-sized foam mattress we sleep on at home. It's super comfortable, but heavy and about 10-inches thick. It would have been a bear to wrestle into place and once it was in the bunk it would have severely restricted our ability to access the large lockers under our bunk. If it ever got soaked -- something that occasionally happens on cruising sailboats -- it would be tough to get dry again.

At first we started with 5-inch medium-density foam, hoping it would suffice. It did not. We both woke up sore. It was in two pieces and it's pretty light making it easy to move, but we needed more comfort. This week we added a single piece of 3-inch thick memory foam on top and an Ikea waterproof mattress pad. For sheets we used our microfiber fleece sheets that feel warm even when they are not and wick moisture away from your body. The results were as close to perfect as you get in this life. And all the parts and pieces can be hauled up on deck to dry out should they get wet.

I was hoping the waterproof mattress pad would prevent the condensation that occurs when the warm, moist air from our bodies hits the cool plywood of our bunk. When I checked under the foam in the morning I could feel some moisture. I don't know if there is a better solution than airing out the mattress each morning, but I'll keep looking. I'm hoping when we are in a warmer climate condensation won't be the problem it is here in the cold, wet Northwest.

This livability advance from an unlikely source. For years Virginia knitted the dish cloths we used at home. They worked great, but had a fatal flaw: after a day or two they really stunk. This wasn't too much of a problem with a washing machine just a few steps from the kitchen, but the boat is a different matter. A fellow blogger touted the benefits of Scrubr, a non-absorbent dish scrubber. We tried a pair. They didn't stink and did a great job scrubbing dishes, but they weren't good for much else. Don't even try to wipe the counter top with them. Spill something? Forgetaboutit!

Our Dollar Store find. Two for a buck is hard to beat.
While in the Dollar Store we saw some Microfiber Stripe Scrubbers that looked interesting. It had microfiber on one side and a nylon mesh on the other. A two pack cost a buck, so we bought one. After using one for a week it didn't stink and we were delighted with how well it worked, not only on washing the dishes, but wiping up the counter top as well. We went back and bought several more. We found them at two different Dollar Stores, so they might be fairly widely available. They look like they will hold up well and, as if it can't get any better, they come in a color that matches the colors on the boat.