Category Archives: Staying Warm

Canvas, Covers and the Elements

A while back, I mentioned I was getting some canvas work done on the boat. Several folks were confused because they knew I didn’t have a sailboat and hadn’t really heard of using canvas for other applications.

The aft deck on my little vessel is enclosed with a custom-made aluminum frame and canvas. It has large “windows” in it that do great job of letting in light whilst keeping weather out.

But, it didn’t used to.

It used to have large windows that were cracking and holey, that did a great job of letting weather IN.

Over time, the vinyl of the windows gets brittle. With three active kids and one brain-full mama, well, sometimes brittle vinyl gets injured.

I did some jerry-rigging with Gorilla Tape and had moderate success. It’s REALLY hard to get the vinyl totally dry on both sides when there aren’t several days in a row of great weather. There’s so much moisture that condensation on the inside is nearly impossible to get rid of without many dry days. You can understand why little beads of moisture on the vinyl might not allow for super Gorillla Tape success, no?

I didn’t have the luxury of dry days.

I had a handy-dandy, reasonably absorbant towel.  And also, a sprinkling sky.

So, moderate success with the Gorilla Tape. It was also pretty ugly.

I’m going to step aside and indulge in some personal tale-telling.

If you know me from Facebook or in person, you know I’m not super big into appearances. I wear my worn out Xtratuf boots daily from October through March and change to flip flops sometime in April. I don’t wear makeup very often, or do my hair, or tweeze my eyebrows. I have yet to wash my car that I bought last September. Most of that stuff just doesn’t matter to me.

But. That ugly Gorilla Tape? It bothered me. A lot.

Even though I’m not super concerned about my own personal appearance, or appearances in general, that black tape criss-crossing my entrance really bugged and disheartened me! I’m super visual so I’m sure the trashy look was exacerbated, at least in my mind, by that.

Additionally, I know people judge so much based on appearance and I really didn’t want to be thouhjt of as the “jerry-rig”, “white trash”, “harbor rat” kind of girl, you know? I had worked really, really hard to get to here (still working hard!) and when something looks crummy, it devalues the effort and time you put into it.

So, the jerry-rigged fixes kind of made me feel bad. It was the best I could do with the means I had, but ugh. It looked crummy. And I had to do some self-talk not to get discouraged. And gentle reader, let me tell you, I just do NOT have the energy to spare on self-talk for something as silly as GORILLA TAPE! (Can I get an “Amen!”?)

My little fixes did help and we got through the season as we waited for summer to arrive.

Summer did not really arrive.

My plan had been to get the roof finished and hopefully add a loft and enclose that aft deck with something NOT canvas and a lot more practical for our needs. But, you need good, dry weather to do that, or, a covered space. (And a contractor, but that’s a different story.)

As the months wore on and fall approached, I knew I couldn’t let another fall/winter/spring season come and go with the vinyl falling apart. I needed that area to be free of too much precipitation excitement.

This is where the canvas repair comes in.

I found a guy who did canvas repair. AND HE CALLED BACK! RIGHT AWAY!! (If you’ve done home improvement work, you know getting folks to call back can be hard.)

I’m going to say up front that I love my canvas guy. He came and gave me an estimate and then took that sucker apart and repaired it and brought it back! Within a week or something crazy! He put in new zippers and new beautiful vinyl. It was a lot of money. About $1500.

Totally worth it.



You can see the opening where my friend is standing. I have one just like it on the other side. It zips in and has a clear, vinyl window just like the ones you see on the back. It actually zips around pretty snugly. I love that. Snug is good.

You see, in addition to the windows being not so awesome after more than a decade, the zippers on my door panels had quit working. Well, one side of that I got some help and managed to get them put together with clamps. But, the side we used to get on and off the boat could not be clamped shut.

And ooooohhhhh my reader – the wind howls sometimes and it scares me so! It lifts the flaps and makes them fight to stay attached. More than once I pulled a Scarlett O’Hara and hid under my covers just praying that whole canvas structure wouldn’t fly away.

Having those zippers fixed so the structure was more secure helps a lot. I am still crazily frightened of the wind. I’ve seen it do some tough stuff to others’ boat coverings and I just fear. (No lectures about not being afraid, ok?)

And my canvas guy? It turned out he’d been the one to custom build and install that sucker in the first place!

So, now you know that canvas is for more than sails and if you’re ever looking at a boat to purchase and it says it has custom canvas or covers, you know how expensive it can be if a couple zipper and window replacements cost $1500!


Cheesy Veggie Bacon Soup

Cooking has bcheesy veggie bacon soupeen a major, major challenge since our move to the houseboat. There are sundry reasons, most of which are purely logistical, and I’ll write a post detailing some of those at some point.

However, one thing that does work when everything is aligned, is the crock pot. Unless it’s dirty. And my tiny galley is a mess making clean up unbearable and I just take us to the local shop for donuts… (and yes. I do that. Gut-achingly shameful and delicious. That’s me.)

(Check out this slow cooker. It has a damask pattern! When you’re living small, it’s awesome for appliances to be useful AND decorative!)

ANYWAY… I threw this together in hopes it will be done by dinner. It should be super yum and filling. I call it:


You’ll note that I’m not big on measurements because I am sort of not awesome at following rules… Use what you have. This could be done vegan, vegetarian, and semi-paleo too.


celery (I used about 5 full-size stalks cut into large chunks)

carrots (I threw in 3, 4, 8?? handfuls of baby carrots)

broccoli (I used about a 1/2 bag of florets from Costco)

onion (I used a medium one, chopped into chunks. A nice pile of dehydrated onion would work just fine too.)

bacon (I used those bacon bits from Costco. I seriously love those. I bet I used a 1/4 cup or so? A smallish handful? I just dumped it out of the bag right on top. I’d think 3-4 strips of bacon, crumbled would work too if you’re more cook-y than I am.) (Ok, I know I said above this could be done vegan/vegetarian. The obvious thing is to just leave this out. The other obvious thing is to use one of those faux meat products. I’ve not used one, so I don’t know. But, it’s an option.)

Better than Bouillon (chicken flavor) (This stuff is awesome sauce. The wad I dumped in was more than a tablespoon and less than a quarter cup.) (For vegan/vegetarian opt for a vegetable broth – or just season with herbs/spices that you like)

half & half (3/4 of a quart or so?) (sub out coconut or almond milk for another option. I’ve used both VERY successfully for creamy soups. I just had all this half & half that was going to expire, so I used it. Heavy whipping cream would be awesome too.)

butter (6 tablespoons and I only know that because it was marked on the stick!) (To vegan- or vegetarian-ize, use coconut or avocado oil)

shredded or chunked cheese (whatever was left in the bag. I’d shoot for at least two cups since I want the fat and protein for satiety.) a  


Throw all of the above in a crock pot. Add a couple cups of water. You may want more. I probably will but I wanted it to see how thick it would be. I like a thick soup on these damp days.

(And it’s damp. I’m typing away on my little mini-laptop and it’s raining steadily and softly outside – perfect type of day for a movie or good book – or… in my case, a blog post!)

Anyway, I’ll thin it up if needed.

Cook on your preferred setting. I did high for 4 hours. I’m not a Queen of the Crock Pot like my friend Theresa. So, I don’t know if this will cook more quickly or more slowly. I’ll check it in a couple of hours.

Taste it for seasoning and add salt, pepper, oregano, lemon grass.. whatever your sweet little palette desires. When it tastes yum, you can serve it chunky or you can do what I’m going to do: puree the life into it.

I have this awesome Kitchenaid immersion blender. It’s red like the one in the link. I love it. I pureed sweet potatoes yesterday and today with it. It is definitely a crazy-awesome tool for any small space dweller! Anyway, that soup will be so smooth and delish!!




In which I discuss heating our tiny floating home

The boat is about 200 square feet inside.

We currently heat with an infrared electric heater from Costco. The boat came with a small oil burning heater called a Monitor (similar to the link to give you an idea) and with a diesel Dickinson stove. I took the Monitor out to make room for another bunk. Neither the Monitor nor the Dickinson was hooked up when I purchased the boat. Either would make for a much better heating experience than the electric, but both require a significant amount of work to get going. The Dickinson needs a fuel tank installed and connected to as well as a stack/chimney. Because the roof is not finished on the boat I cannot install the stove pipe. No ventilation means no burning. Dickinsonsdickinson are very popular on commercial fishing vessels and basically set the standard for marine heat. While they are amazing stoves, I’d love to replace it with a propane stove that would be more easily controlled for cooking instead of being primarily for heat.

UPDATE: Our infrared heater had a little, ahem, issue recently. A little popping sound, a little burning smell… Yeah. So, we were two days without heat in early October. (Note, my youngest son had used a pair of dog nail clippers on the cord of the heater just days after we purchased it. The “fix” didn’t last, causing things to overheat. So, I don’t think it was a problem with the heater, but with a damaged cord.) I had a backup heater, one of those oil-filled radiant type, but the switch was broken. That darn thing was in our way all winter and summer and to find out it was broken was aggravating! Space is such a premium! A friend and former co-worker came to the rescue with a nice Bionaire heater. I had looked at it at Costco and considered it hard.  I don’t know how it will do when things get in the teens and single digits, but it’s doing ok in the 30s and 40s! How awesome that I”m saved some cash by a friend’s goodwill!