Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hurricane Tomas and whirlwind Tony create an unexpected dilema.

Let's set the scene... we're adamant about being as environmentally friendly as possible to see if you can live very cheaply, very comfortably and very healthily while using less than 10% of the energy and resources that we did in our previous normal lives in a house, all of the conveniences, a couple of cars and three kids.

So, we're in the early years of our adventure, wide eyed and bushy tailed when everything is new and cool... even showering with a hose off the back of the boat on a crowded dock is fun and not an inconvenience. But, there is temptation... yes, lots of temptation, and this time it comes from two unexpected sources... a great friend and a hurricane.

Hurricane Tomas is the first player in this chain of events... it's south of us and we're watching it closely for the "Crazy Ivan" turn which it's predicted to make. If it makes the turn on the next couple of days we will be in trouble, either way the result of a close storm is heat and rain. We're stuck on the dock at Saint Maarten Shipyard while we finish our mast and get it back on Odessa. This means that we don't have any awnings up with nothing to support them and it's crazy hot in the boat, 80f/27c at night and 90f/32 during the day with the hatches open, but with rain we have to close the hatches and suffer the consequences and an additional 10 degrees.

Enter Tony, who along with his family Joanie, and Jesse have become very close friends and we enjoy their company immensely,  especially Tony's boundless energy and help. "I have a couple of portable marine air conditioning units, use one to cool the boat." He innocently said, not knowing the dilemma his generosity would create.

It felt weird, even wrong to be thinking about using such a power hungry item with only one self indulgent result, "personal comfort". Are we turning away from our goal, will we become slaves to the very grid based conveniences that we're getting away from?.. "It's bloody hot, so let's plug it and and see where it goes".

In the words of Yoda... "Not so easy this convenient installation is". Odessa only has one normal deck hatch in the middle of the boat and it's too small for the AC unit which must be placed over a deck hatch. The only option is the very large sail hatch in the forepeak (front cabin) which is way too big. Get some plywood, cut holes, line everything up, try to level the AC unit, a curved deck means sealing all the way around and finally strapping the whole lot down so that it is secure. a few hours later and it looks right.

We finally had everything in place and with the hatches closed the temperature rapidly began to creep towards the 100f/38c mark. Plug her in and away she goes, quietly the cool air began wafting from the vent in a seductive flow full of promise. The bow cabin cooled down nicely, it's a shame that it's full of sails, ropes and awnings and we can't use it until the mast is up. The warm air vent into the AC unit is right next to the cold air out, so we stuck a powerful little Venturi fan in front of the cold air out and it sucks the cold air blowing it nicely down the middle of the boat. Unfortunately Odessa's foredeck raises towards the bow, so we can't quite get the AC unit level and this causes the condeznsated water to drip inside the hatch... "bring out the buckets". It's actually quite a good little water maker producing about a liter of water an hour.

The AC unit holds the temperature at 90f/32c during the day with the hatches closed... so that's an improvement. But at night it's a seductive force keeping the whole boat at 72f/22c of lovely dry air. We woke up this morning at 4:30am... very early during heavy rain to check on the position of hurricane Tomas. We made coffee in dark uncomfortable silence, both Doreen and I were unsure of the situation we found ourselves in and were thinking the same thing... "it feels really good, but is this right?'

Fortunately, even though air conditioning is very nice, we could only use it when Odessa is at a dock with shore power, so we don't have to commit to the evils of singular, power hungry "comfort" devices. We can be happy knowing that once Odessa is back together and anchored offshore, the lovely Caribbean breeze will waft freely through the cabin night and day, and the awnings will mean we can leave the hatches open when it rains. But for now, while we're working everyday in the yard with the heat and humidity, we'll take all of the cold air we can get... thanks Tony, and of course Tomas.


  1. I miss you guys! Thank you for all you have done for our family Doreen! (kevin is doing great) I hope all is well, where are you? Paris is what I heard? Please let me know how you are. My mom says "hello". Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. O yes I forgot to tell you about the twins...Charlie and Verinica are 7 months old now! miss and love you!