Category Archives: Terms and Phrases Explained

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!


What is a Bilge Even?! Terms Explained Part 1

pumping bilge water

From the outside, this is what it looks like to “Pump the Bilge”.

Living aboard, there are many phrases and words used that either are unfamiliar to people outside the marine world, OR, are used in a way not commonly understood.


I have to vacuum out my bilge with a wet/dry vac every couple of months. I use a Bucket Head vac.  I love it. I have a traditional (think big) Shop Vac, but I love the Bucket Head. It works, is small, easy to figure out. Yay me! (If you click the link, you’ll see that it has a low rating BUT if you actually read the reviews, you’ll see it’s not because of the vac!)

(And, if I’m being super honest, my older son actually does the vacuuming most of the time these days. Live aboard equivalent to mowing the lawn maybe?)

I have a bilge pump, but, because it’s not set in a “well”, there’s always this layer of water that doesn’t get pumped out. So, on Facebook, periodically on my list of to-dos, I’ll mention “Vacuum Bilge” and folks asked what in the world I meant!

So – the bilge is basically the bottom of the boat between the outer hull and your floor. Depending on your boat, water gets in there from slow (or fast! Yikes!) leaks in the hull, rain leaking through the deck, overflow from the water tank or?? I’m pretty sure my water comes from a slow leak in my water heater and through the bulwark that rotted away prior to my taking on the boat.  The diagram below gives a good visual.

bilge diagram

To determine whether or not it was fresh or salt water, a buddy of mine stuck his finger in there and then tasted it. No joke. It’s fresh. Not salt. That’s a good thing. It means I’m not leaking from the bottom. And, since it doesn’t build up too quickly, I’m not overly worried about it. I maybe should be, but at this point, I can’t do much about it except keep an eye on it and suck the water out.

A bilge pump is exactly what it sounds like – a pump that sucks up water and sends it overboard. It often sits in a “well” – a recessed area that is the lowest point so all the water flows to it. My boat is a flat-bottomed, barge-style hull so the well idea is a little trickier. I’m sure it could be done and it probably should have been, but, alas, I was not the builder, merely the happy buyer. Think of how you tip your glass to get that last bit of chocolate milk sucked up with a straw. That is kind of what a well would do.  Now, imagine running your straw across the flat bottom of your glass. That is basically what my wet/dry vac does.

Do you have a question about a term I’ve used? Ask in the comments and maybe it will become part of a post!