It’s usually not the easiest thing to do, even when it becomes obvious; there are time constraints, the necessary need for money, and societal standards to “live up to,” but when it comes down to it, you just have to take the plunge. It’s amazing how, when you follow your dreams, things seem to magically fall into place as they should. Life becomes more exciting and also more fulfilling. Suddenly you have more to contribute to the world around you; you meet the right people, or stumble upon the right opportunities at the right time. You may be poor (or not if you are lucky!), but for the most part happier and healthier. For the past few months I’ve been doing just that (what I love), but I’ve been working out of a room in our rented house. Although I have been meeting so many new wonderful people in Savannah, I’ve also been somewhat isolated. And not only that, but I’ve only been working on the half of it. I love screen-printing, but I am very much looking forward to partaking in an artistic community and working on my painting again. I feel the need to be in close proximity to other people who are doing what they love, whatever that may be.
So you can imagine how excited I was to finally see the Wooden Sheep Wood Shop in Savannah today. This space is amazing! You may have heard me mention Wooden Sheep on Facebook, because they also have a beautifully curated shop that promotes local artists and sustainable practices (and happen to be carrying my shirts). The “shop”, opened by two SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) grads with degrees in sustainable architecture, is a two-part operation. Eric makes beautifully crafted furniture out of recycled wood in a warehouse and Ben runs and curates the boutique/gallery on Liberty Street, which features Eric’s furniture along with a whole slew of other amazing artist-made objects — anything from jewelry to art to ceramics and of course clothing. Brian says that I am their target market, because if I had the money I would seriously buy one of everything in there. Anyway I mention them here because I find what these guys are doing quite inspirational (and at a time when I could use some extra inspiration!). Not only are they doing what they love, but they are also giving back to their community. They have developed a sustainable business that takes waste and creates beautiful useful items; they are supporting local artists and small businesses; and they are participating in community fundraisers such as a project to build doghouses out of recycled materials for animal shelters and rescued pups. Can we give them a high five?
Brian and I have been wanting to visit their wood shop since we first got to Savannah, but we’ve just been too darn busy! So today, as we are preparing to move to Charleston, we decided it was the perfect time to run by before it was too late. The space is huge and, as one might expect, filled nearly floor-to-ceiling with random scrapes of mismatched wood. However in addition to all that lovely wood, they found space for all sorts of cool tools and toys. For starters I saw a pool table; couch; part of a skate ramp; I got to experiment with a wood burner; and oh yeah, they share the space with a couple of commercial screen-printers. Of course. Eric tells us how there are some film-makers in the next building over, another wood shop, and a space that they are trying to turn into a garden. Plus they are also working on building more artist studios. Serendipitous? I think so.
This weekend I’ll be moving into a new art studio in Charleston — one with many similarities to what I just described above. Tivoli Studios and Gardens is located on Upper King Street and offers affordable studio space to a large number of emerging and working artists. They, too, have converted a large warehouse space into a functioning artist community centered around a communal space and a garden. Did I mention that they built a geodesic dome inside (I kid you not!)? It sounds like artist heaven to me, especially as I am trying to get out of my shell a little bit more these days — being shy doesn’t get you very far in the world of art and craft! So I am very excited about the prospect of surrounding myself with other artists that are working hard at what they love. I have much to learn about “making it” in this trade, but I know beyond a doubt that I am an artist — I have that need to create — and it is so inspirational to see other people who are doing it too. If there are other artists that can succeed in following their dreams, then so too can I.
So without further ado, I present you with some images of the Wooden Sheep Shop, but you should really check it out for yourself.
Sunset over an uninhabited island, surrounded by clear blue water and coconut palms; relaxing music plays in the cockpit, while I crack into a green coconut. I pour the water from the coconut into a small blender with rum, add in some pineapple juice, sweetened condensed milk, a squeeze of lime, and a few precious cubes of ice: the perfect cocktail for a sun-downer.
Living on the boat for Lara and I is about participating in the natural world in a more consistent way. Before we moved onto the boat, rain was something that just happened, wind mysteriously appeared and disappeared, water came from the tap, and electricity was a bill you paid. When we lived on the dock, power and water was readily available, but when we cast off the dock lines, we had to be much more aware of every drop of water that left our tanks and every amp that came out of the batteries. Developing a balanced system took time and an understanding of our needs based on the level of comfort we wanted.
We started with just a wind generator and a non-mounted 80 watt solar panel that we laid out on deck while at anchor. In general, we found that the Kiss wind generator began putting out 2 amps of power at 10 knots of wind, and at 15 knots, it generated about 6-7 amps (in the Bahamas, we averaged about 3-4 amps per hour for a 24 hour period). However, we still didn’t have enough battery capacity to keep up with the draw of the fridge, so we left it off. Surprisingly, we didn’t miss much, but we did find that sometimes a cold beer would have taken the day up a notch. While planning projects on the boat, one of the better pieces of advice I received was to decide which small bits of “luxury” made us feel most comfortable and then figure out how to incorporate it on the boat to make the trip that much better.
Lifestyle: it cannot be stressed enough. Cranking up a loud generator and constantly worrying about power doesn’t fit my image of life on a boat. I looked all over the internet and found that increasing our solar capacity was a no-brainer. Compared to running the engine (sub-optimal for diesels to run without a load) or listening to the hum of our Honda generator, solar panels were clean, quiet, and cost effective. So after 6 months of cruising without a fridge, we decided to get rid of our “sometimes” solar panel and add on two semi-permanently mounted panels to supplement the wind generator and to make us truly energy independent (and keep the beers cold).
We decided to wait until we reached Miami so that we could go to Sun Electronics and pick them out from their stock at the warehouse — no shipping and if the panel didn’t fit how we wanted it to, we could just return it. We picked out a 95 watt panel and a 75 watt panel for a total of 160 watts of solar. Not much, but the the most our transom could comfortably support. Since mounting solar panels on a boat is a notoriously tricky business, we kept it simple. We built an aluminum frame on the bottom of the smaller panel and mounted it to the stern rail with Magma Grill Mounts so it would be easily removable. For the larger panel, I used a simple bracket that I attached to the pole with hose clamps, making it easy to remove, rotate, and angle towards the sun (the arm is adjustable through 90 degrees).
All in all, the mounting and wiring process took about a day, and two panels generating 10 amps between them at full sun cost us a total of less than $600; the cold beers, silence, and ice! in the Bahamas were priceless. Now we have a more balanced system. On most days, between wind and solar, the energy flowing into our batteries matches our out-flow — and we can even afford to use a blender.
Written by: Brian Young
I’ve been quite productive lately, traveling between the boat (MD), my parents’ house (VA), and my grandparents’ house (NC), with a whirlwind trip to NYC somewhere in the midst of it all. The logistics of it would make your head spin, so I will spare you the details. I spent necessary time at my parents’ house working on scholarships, t-shirt designs, and promotional materials before I headed down to my grandparents’ house last week to print up approx. 50 t-shirts in two days – the most I’ve ever printed in one go! I burned my designs onto six screens (one screen for each color), mixed my colors, ran a few test prints, and then proceeded to print 3 two-color designs. I had hoped to do re-prints of my Osprey and Sea Turtles designs, but unfortunately time did not permit, so I focused on printing designs for Patriot Tours in Yorktown, a locally owned Segway tour company that asked me to design some Yorktown-inspired tees for their new shop.
For my first time using a six-arm press and a commercial drier, I thought things went pretty smoothly. Still, there was plenty of troubleshooting (I actually scorched a shirt with the flash drier!!), and I made many new discoveries. One particularly useful discovery was that I prefer printing with water-based ink; it’s eco-friendly, healthier, makes a softer print, and it’s easier to clean up. This is something that I suspected from the beginning, but after actually using the plastisol ink, the primary ink used by commercial printers, I am convinced that water-based ink is the only way to go. Plastisol makes me a little nervous because it contains PVC, which can out-gas harmful chemicals. Not only does it let off fumes, but it also requires special chemicals to clean up. The plastisol ink that I tried out was the consistency of melted bubble gum in the container (think thick and sticky), and boy was it messy! Because it is oil-based, the ink only dries after it is cured at a high temperature. This is a great characteristic for printing large runs because you don’t have to worry about the ink drying in the screen (and clogging your image), but it also means that it will stay wet for weeks. If you get the ink on your hand and touch something, you can be sure that you will find it later…someplace you don’t want it.
Luckily, I had a little help around the shop, because I discovered that to really utilize the equipment efficiently, you need two people. While one person pulls the print, the other is monitoring the drying: pulling printed shirts off the press, putting them on the conveyor, and placing a fresh shirt onto the press to be printed. In this manner, it is possible to print many t-shirts in one go without so much as a pause. I’ve found that the trickiest part of the whole process is the set-up. Because this was my first time, I made plenty of mistakes, but it was such a great learning opportunity. I hope to be more prepared and efficient next time around (I am still planning to print shirts for my Etsy shop), but for now, I am headed up to Annapolis to work the Annapolis Boat Show. Hopefully, I won’t be too busy to blog!
Here are some photos of the printing in progress.
Our two combined water tanks (approx. 65 gallons) provide Illusion with anywhere from four-six weeks of water depending on how often we cook and need to wash dishes. The faucet on our sink (as on most boats) only runs as long as you twist the knob, which can make washing dishes more difficult, but greatly cuts down on water usage. Also, the water pump comes on only after the water subsides to a tiny trickle. Thus when we fill a pot to boil water, we are more likely to use less water than wait on the water to fill. In addition, Illusion has three 6-gallon jerricans that we keep up on deck. We keep them filled but generally only use them for showering, which is kept to a minimum – truth be told, we have showered in the rain before!
Originally, Illusion had a hot-water heater and a small shower head over the toilet, but neither Brian or I ever used it. Brian removed the hot-water heater to create extra space in one of the outdoor lockers, and after the new floor was installed, showering in the bathroom became more-or-less impossible (because we don’t want water to get trapped underneath the vinyl flooring). Instead, we opted to buy a solar-heated camp shower, which holds up to four gallons of water – enough for four showers. We hoist the big plastic bladder, black on one side and clear on the other, a short ways up the mast with the halyard, so that it hangs above our heads. I usually only fill it halfway before I lay it in the sun, clear side up, for several hours to let it heat up first. True, I have to shower with my bathing suit on, but it can be quite a refreshing experience to shower outdoors.
When we are docked, we use public or marina showers depending on the access, so I would say that I am most wasteful on the boat when I wash dishes. In any case, there is an obvious correlation between the amount of cooking we do in a given month and the duration of our water supply. Our situation differs when we are on the move, of course, as opposed to stationary, and if we are docked, we usually have direct access to fresh water. The rule is: always top up the water supply before leaving the dock. If we are underway and far from land, we will scoop up seawater or drag a netted bucket behind the boat to clean our dirty dishes, soaping and rinsing with freshwater afterward to save our supply for drinking. Water is by far the most precious commodity on board Illusion, and although we haven’t ever been far from land for long, it is of great importance. I find it all too fitting that our main water tank looks exactly like an old metal treasure chest – surely it must have hidden gold doubloons at some point in time!
We don’t wash our laundry on the boat (although there are machines you can buy specifically for boats), and the toilet uses seawater for flushing; call it conservation or conscious water consumption or just plain necessity, but that’s it in a nutshell. Sure, there are plenty of ways to cut down our water usage even more. We can always shower less (although it is healthy from a personal-hygiene standpoint and I do love a good long shower), use less water to cook, stop boiling noodles, and make other subtle changes, etc. Not to mention, there are systems you can rig to catch rainwater and replenish the supply. But being stationary at the moment, I am pretty content with my current freshwater usage. I estimate that, on Illusion, I currently use an average of 1.5 gallons per day (drinking, dish-washing, and cooking water), +1.5 gallons if I shower on the boat with the camp shower. Of course, my personal water-usage amount is higher if I use public showers, or the laundromat, or even if I eat out at a restaurant, but that does not affect Illusion‘s water supply and cannot be quantified at this time. Even without an exact estimation, it still puts me far under the average in America according to this site, Water.org.
No doubt, I am certainly using less water than I ever did on land. Think about it; how much do you use in a day?
“Oh, how neat,” some people exclaim when I tell them I live on a sailboat, “how romantic; how adventurous.” They assume that boat life is all about snorkeling, fair winds, and white-sand beaches. Well, it is, but it isn’t always that way. In fact, I haven’t so much as touched a snorkel since I moved onto the boat, but that’s what I tell people I signed up for. After all, it was Brian’s main point of debate, when we began talking about it several years ago.
More often, people look at me in bewilderment, “You live on that?” Yep. I live in a 10′ x 37′ floating space. It is a hard concept for some to grasp. Sure, it’s tight sometimes, especially when Brian is working on a project with every last one of our belongings pulled out of their places and strewn about in complete disarray. But when we are on the water and our field of vision opens up so that we can see for miles and miles, it’s a complete luxury.
It’s a simpler existence, one that makes me conscious of my water consumption, aware of every piece of trash that exits the boat, how much power I use in a day, and infinitely more aware of the natural world around me. When I initially moved aboard, I had to carefully choose which material possessions to bring along, as we had a finite amount of space. Since then, I have carefully weighed every material purchase decision against what I already had, and my material possessions have shrank considerably. Do I really need that new dress? Probably not. All this is to say, that I’ve been thinking about the ways in which I have begun to live responsibly on the boat and consider things I can do to decrease our impact even further.
Since we became mobile, Brian and I have been trying to reach a target point of self-sustainability and eco-friendly living. I consider this a worthy effort, because the environment is important to me (as you may have deduced from my art), and regardless of any politics surrounding the matter, I want to enjoy and admire it in it’s natural state for a long long time. It’s only right to respect the environment, appreciate what it has to offer, and live consciously. With this in mind, I’ve decided to add a new category to this blog of a sustainable slant. This means that from now on, I will be including posts about the ways in which we are conserving, reducing our impact on the environment, or using renewable resources for energy. Or as my mother recently said, ways in which we are “going native.”