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Let lilacs bloom on the poop deck, and enjoy suburban living on the water
Mary Jane Hodges
January 14, 1963
The dedicated—or should we say fanatical—owner of a cruising boat of 25 feet or under happily puts up with all manner of hardship and discomfort in the name of sport. Low hatchways, cramped galleys, brackish water and stifling atmosphere all make him feel like a latter-day Fletcher Christian. Yanked from the snug, automated security of her suburban split-level, however, his crew (i.e., wife) may feel differently about the matter.
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January 14, 1963

Let Lilacs Bloom On The Poop Deck, And Enjoy Suburban Living On The Water

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The dedicated—or should we say fanatical—owner of a cruising boat of 25 feet or under happily puts up with all manner of hardship and discomfort in the name of sport. Low hatchways, cramped galleys, brackish water and stifling atmosphere all make him feel like a latter-day Fletcher Christian. Yanked from the snug, automated security of her suburban split-level, however, his crew (i.e., wife) may feel differently about the matter.

She has two courses to follow. One: outright mutiny. The other: an appeal to the skipper's pride of ownership in bringing their seagoing home up-to-date by exposing him to a wealth of new products designed to add comfort to cruising. A very modest investment can transform an atmosphere of grim endurance into one of sybaritic enjoyment. Wall-to-wall carpeting is, of course, impractical in any boat much smaller than the Leonardo da Vinci, but some of the same effect, plus safety, can be had with antiskid vinyl flooring: either Armstrong Cork's Decorlon or the B.F. Goodrich Koroseal, which is vinyl asbestos and fire retardant. For high gloss handsomeness there are commercial slip-resistant waxes available. Shipboard plumbing can be a nightmare of complexity subject to constant breakdown, yet a boat without a head can be even more nightmarish. The Ball-Hed marine toilet is an easily installed unit which requires a minimum of cabin revision. It uses air pressure to flush with water in three seconds and needs only one through-hull opening. Compact, efficient, it costs $58.50.

To the housewife used to a well-planned suburban kitchen, the small-boat galley is just another variation of the torture chamber. Yet it, too, can be made inviting and livable with compact storage facilities and well-chosen double-duty utensils. A new device costing only $33.95 (the price of a new hat) can even take the tortured galley slave out of her prison entirely and make her a gracious hostess at a seagoing backyard cookout. The Aqua-Bar-B-Que is an adjustable charcoal broiler that fits neatly into the stern flagstaff socket. Cooking is done outboard for safety and cleanliness, and the grill swings inboard for serving. To empty the ashes, just rotate the grill, and they are safely extinguished in the sea. (Make sure, however, that your bow is headed upwind.)

Since Fletcher Christian's own time and before, a supply of fresh water has been the sailor's first concern. Built-in water tanks have built-in liabilities: when full they require baffles to prevent dangerous weight shifts; when empty—they are useless. Since there is an inexhaustible supply of water just outside the hull, the ideal method is to pump it in, purify it and store only a minimum amount. American Machine & Foundry now markets the first small-boat water distillation plant, a compact, 55-pound unit, called Aquafresh, which can distill nine gallons of water an hour. The model VJ 5 costs $795 and uses waste heat from the engine's water cooling system. Since it operates in a vacuum, it needs only 110�-115� to boil the water. The smallest model is only 15� inches in diameter and 22� inches high, but there are larger models which produce up to 75 gallons per hour.

Constant fresh water is not enough. The modern housewife must have it hot. One step up to civilized living is a tankless water heater that operates on gas or kerosene. This type heats the water passing through but cannot store it, and there are many varieties: Junkers and Ascot, which are wall-mountable, for about $90, and the Landam instant water heater, which is an electric $27.50 unit fitting right on the faucet. The ultimate luxury is, of course, a heater plus storage tank. The Galley Maid uses engine-circulating water to heat domestic water and then stores it in tanks. The copper-nickel tanks with U-tube coil come in five-and ten-gallon sizes ($121 to $146).

To avoid galley acrobatics the sensible ship's cook prepares many of her major meals ashore. Ragout, pot roast, fried chicken, fish stew are even improved by reheating aboard. The advantages of an adequate icebox, however, are not lessened by prefabricated meals. Butter, milk, the ubiquitous egg and the luxury of an iced drink can help put the pleasure back into boating. Cronstroms Manufacturing now makes 11 models of portable ice coolers ranging from SI 1.90 to $45.90, including the bench type with upholstered top which doubles as a seat. Ice should be stored in large chunks and food stored in plastic bags or containers with tight lids. A canvas ice bag with handles is a welcome accessory. And for those moments when the cooking and the cleaning are over, there are miniature TVs by SONY ($229.95) that would be an ornament in any conversation pit. Or, for the housewife whose taste runs to literature, there are new and handy reading lights. The novel two-way Cordless Table Lamp by Koehler Manufacturing can be used on its own dry battery or can be plugged into 110-volt dockside power, using the attachable cord. The lamp complete is $15.95, and replacement batteries are $2.75.

With his handy combination mate-cook-deck swab and bottle washer thus rendered content in front of Perry Mason or curled up with Louis Nizer, the small-boat skipper will find increased time to put his mind to skippering, and there are gadgets in the stores today that guarantee to give him a competence in navigation beyond Fletcher Christian's wildest dreams. The radio direction finder, for instance—a small radio receiving set which has a pivoting, directional loop antenna to give him an accurate bearing on shore stations. The more advanced models cost $600, but the suburban do-it-yourselfer can get a sensitive, high-performance instrument for only $109.95 in a kit from the Heath Company. You don't need a degree in electrical engineering to put it together, just a screwdriver and a soldering iron. And there is the added satisfaction in the fact that having done so, you feel like Marconi himself.

An echo sounder, or depth finder, measures the depth of the water by giving the time taken for a high frequency sound to reach bottom and bounce back. It will also show objects in between (such as schools of fish) by giving two blips, one for the bottom and one for the fish. The small-boat owner can make a modest unit for $69.95 from Heathkit kit No. M1-11. It shows to 200 feet on hard bottom, 100 feet on soft mud and can be powered by a 12-volt shipboard battery to save its nine internal flashlight batteries for emergency. More precise instruments are available at a price. Raytheon has put out a new sounder and recorder for $610 (ready-made), the DE-707A, which will make a permanent graph of the bottom on either a 300-foot or 100-fathom scale.

One thing the suburban housewife cannot escape at sea is the weather, and she would do well to prepare for it properly. In choosing foul-weather gear let comfort rather than vanity be your guide. Nothing is becoming on misery. Have sizes large enough to cover several inner layers. Be sure it is waterproof and not just water resistant. Fastenings at throat, wrists and ankles should be easy to handle, adjustable and firmly secured to the material. Elastic at the wrists and drawstrings at the ankles is more satisfactory than snaps. Pockets are desirable, provided they have a flap top. The Stormbeater ($28) is nylon coated with Horcolite, giving long-lasting protection against wind and water. The pullover jacket has a drawstring parka hood and rustproof zipper opening backed by a gusset and snap fastener at the neck. Wrists are elastic, bottom of the jacket, waist and ankles of the pants arc drawstring. Footwear should have antiskid soles and be of durable, fast-drying canvas.

Thrift is an admirable quality, but thrift tempered with common sense is even better. Halfway measures are quickly regretted when you are only halfway dry and warm. The few extra dollars spent ashore to equip your boat with the amenities of civilized living will be well returned in days of complete comfort at sea.

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