Friday, September 7, 2018

See You Next Summer!

No, our ranger job does NOT involve wrangling Burmese pythons. But if it did, we'd be ready
We completed our tour of Canada's historic canals on Aug. 25, 2018.

Dragonfly, our 14-ton solar canal boat, is "up on the hard" for the winter. The SlowBoat blog will be on hiatus till summer 2019.

From Nov. 1 till the end of April 2019, the Captain and crew of Dragonfly will be living in a different tiny home made of metal. 

Our Airstream trailer will be our home base while we serve as volunteer ranger-naturalists in Everglades National Park.

We'll be at the Everglades City station on the Gulf Coast. Come visit!

To read about the Little Loop Cruise from the beginning, start here.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Solar Truck

Check out that snowy roof!
So we're back in our home port of Macedon.

We've scraped and sanded Dragonfly's rust-pocked roof and it's now a sparkling expanse of white.

We winterized the water tanks. Put away the perishables.

Good Night, Canal Boat

Today she got hauled out of the water, to spend the winter up on stilts, wrapped in plastic till we resume our boat adventures next summer. But that doesn't mean goodbye to solar technology.
Lift her gently there! Don't hurt my baby!

Nuh uh!  At the end of October we head to Florida for a six-month stint as volunteer park rangers at Everglades National Park.  So . . .

Hello, Camper!

Can your truck do THIS?
While we're there,we'll be living in our Airstream trailer. And Cap's been thinking, "How can we make sure we have plenty o' power when boondocking?" ("Boondocking" being trailer speak for, "camping in a place without electrical outlets.")

The answer? Solar truck.

Giving New Meaning to the Term "Ford EcoBoost"

Batteries in the truck bed, and still some room for cargo.
(Alas, we can't help you move your furniture)
OK, full disclosure, our truck does not actually run on solar power. But it IS equipped with a solar panel. 

Normal trucks have a cap or a tonneau cover over the bed. We have nicely sized power-generating solar panel covering OUR truck bed.

And a couple honkin' big storage batteries in a metal box inside the bed. With a solar controller.

All in all, this system is a lot like the one on Dragonfly. Cap's own original design

So now, when we're boondocking, we'll just park in the camper in the shade. Park the truck in the sun. Erect the panel. Run the power cord from the battery bank to the trailer. 

And voila! Laptops and phones charged, fridge nice and cold, and we can leave the light on for ya at night.

Because when we get home from a hard day of rangering (which will involve, among other things, leading canoe trips in the swamp) you know we'll want to open a well-chilled beer and say, "High five! We didn't sink any tourists today!"

Friday, August 31, 2018

Boat Gourmet Cooks Sustainably

You asked for more tips from Boat Gourmet. Sustainability is a theme of our travels, so this installment of Boat Gourmet covers hacks that help you

  • save water;
  • save fuel (i.e., propane for the stove); and
  • reduce waste and pollution

Tip # 1: Scrape before you wash

A rubber scraper is your best friend. Scrape residue into the trash before you do dishes. (Or, train the crew to lick their plates clean.) You'll need less wash water to get them clean.

Plus, you won't pollute the water in your anchorage. Did you know that the sink on a boat drains right into the water? Yup.

No one wants to see your leftover breakfast Cheerios floating away on the current.

Food waste in the water is more than unsightly. Those excess nutrients in an anchorage or marina can cause algal blooms.

Tip # 2 Use Only What You Need

Making coffee? Measure your coffee water into the kettle. (We make four cups of java every morning.)

Think about it. How many mornings have you dumped the stale water from the kettle before starting fresh? That's a waste!

Measuring your coffee water also means you don't use extra propane to boil more water than you need! Which leads me to . . .

Tip # 3  Conserve Fuel

We make sun tea--no boiling water
needed! Small flask fits in small fridge
Beyond the desire to use fossil fuel sparingly, getting your propane tank filled can be a hassle.

You can't always find a place close to the boat dock. And those tanks are heavy to carry!

So plan meals that don't take forever to cook. (The bonus to this strategy--you don't make your boat even hotter on a summer day.)

Beyond the obvious (sandwiches and salads) you have plenty of options.

Thai red curry! On rice, but rice noodles are also delish.

Angel hair pasta cooks in 5 minutes (compared to 11 minutes for heartier pasta substrates).

Even better are couscous and rice noodles. Just boil water, pour over, let sit.

A little protein, some veggies, some seasonings . . . so many possibilities!

Or use a heat source other than your stove. If you're lucky, you're docked in a place where there's a picnic area, with barbecue grills!

In the photo below, Cap shows how he used convenient engine room spare parts to grill in the rain. That's half of a length of some kind of ventilation pipe keeping our nice little steaks dry!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

What I'm Reading

You know that I like to read books that are set in the place where I'm traveling.
This summer, when we boated Lake Champlain, Cap bought me a book that's given both of us a lot of pleasure: Life on a Canal Boat, The Journals of Theodore D. Bartley, 1861-1889.

Captain Bartley was a diligent and engaging journaler. For 30 years, he ferried cargo on the Richlieu, Lake Champlain, and Champlain Canal (all locations where we traveled this summer).

He also traveled the Erie Canal and Hudson River (as we did on our Great Loop Trip).

And his canal boat, like ours, was a bit unusual. It used a sustainable technology. It was was a sailing canal boat!

A Canal Boat with Sails?

Voila! Sailing canal boat.
Yup! From about the 1840s to to the 1880s, some canal boats carrying cargo between Montreal and New York were built with a mast and centerboard. 

The idea was to sail under your own power on Lake Champlain, then be towed by mules or by a steamboat elsewhere on the route.

 Can We See One? Yes!

Wow! There she is! Hats off to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
 for making this rare bit of history come to life!
The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, which we visited this summer, built and operates a full-scale replica of an 1862 sailing canal boat. (Pictured under sail above left.) 

It was launched in 2004. Since then, the Lois McClure (read all about it, very cool) has been touring around, educating folks on canal boat life. 

Today it was in Palmyra, NY, just a few miles from Macedon. 

So of course we had to go obsess over it--I mean, admire it!

Solar Canal Boat, Sailing Canal Boat: A Comparison

Theodore Bartley's boat was almost identical to the Lois McClure. It's more than twice as long as Dragonfly (88 feet to our 41 feet), half again as wide (14 feet to our 10 feet), and capable of carrying 60 - 120 tons.

Click here to compare to pix of Dragonfly!
Bartley brought his wife and young son along on the boat. The Lois McClure recreates their living space, in the stern of the boat, beneath the steering platform. 

Stairs down, homespun curtains, patchwork quilt, tiny but complete galley, wood panelling . . . it all felt pretty familiar!

A unexpected special bonus treat for us: On the boat was Barbara Bartley, the person who transcribed Theodore Bartley's journals, so that they could be edited into the book. 

(She's his great-granddaughter-in-law.)

Cap chats with Mrs. Bartley belowdecks.
Bartley's canal boat carried lumber, potatoes, grain, coal . . . all the nonperishable staples of the day. His diary documents pleasant days with nice weather, and frightening events: storms, collisions with bridges and other boats, injuries, his son falling overboard. 

He was a multi-talented guy who knew how to sail, was a skilled gunsmith, and, as a carpenter, made the boat more comfortable than was typical of the day for his family.

A typical journal entry reads something like: "Shipped and mended the rudder, repaired some sails, lashed the ends of new lines, made mosquito screens for the cabin, walked to town for supplies, loaded 5000 bushels of grain . . . didn't do much else today." 

Makes us feel like slackers!

Time to Do as Bartley Did

And with that, I'm headed back to the boat. We're taking this week in port to grind off the rust and put on fresh paint.  

So if you come cruising with us next summer (we're thinking Lake Champlain!) Dragonfly will be looking her best.

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Boat at Rest

On Saturday, August 26, Dragonfly floated up through Erie Lock 30, glided past Old Lock 60 (long abandoned on the north shore) slid beneath the still crisp-as-new Canadaigua Road Bridge, and made the left-hand turn into Mid-Lakes Marina, our home port.  Now she's tied to the dock.

Girls hiked the towpath, guys
drove the boat (see it?)
Our friends Dave and Brenda Eissenstat joined us for this final leg of the journey, leaving from Newark, NY (which is looking noticeably more prosperous than when we boated through in June, with several new waterfront buildings). 

Dave and Brenda are our long-time adventure buddies, always fishable for a hike or a paddle, so it felt fitting to have them with us to put the capstone on this summer's grand adventure.

What's the Takeaway?

This trip was a history lesson, a hands-on engineering puzzle, a succession of beautiful days spent outdoors. It included a few moments of terror, a hands-on demonstration of how invasive species spread, frequent opportunities to ponder the economic status of waterfront towns, and, as with every boat trip, many, many delightful occasions to appreciate the instant friendships that form when you're part of the Brotherhood of Boaters.

I can't possibly sum it all up in one quick blog post.  I'll have a few more things to say over the next couple days. So check back.

(Not to mention some of you havev told me this blog didn't include nearly enough "Boat Gourmet" tips. No prob, I've got lots more.)

Toast With Us Now

On Saturday night, after Cap equalized the batteries and shut down all the systems that needed to be shut down, we hopped on our bikes and pedaled down the towpath to the Twisted Rail, the newest and nearest brewpub in Macedon.  

Because you know we can't end the day without our traditional toast. 

With just a little twist this time.

"High Five! We didn't sink the boat all summer!"