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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Green thoughts

Tuesday was a quiet, “turnover day” for Equinox. Our friends have departed,  so after a fun-filled vacation-mode week, it was back to routine housekeeping and maintenance chores aboard. I vacuumed from stem to stern, scrubbed showers, cleaned the galley, laundered linens, cleaned out the main A/C sea water pump intake filter - removing a bit of a seagrass snarl from within - and cleaned the shower sump screens as well as the dryer vent screen. (Unfortunately, the dryer vent is not so conveniently placed, being under the far reaches of the helm station on the port side. It’s a bit of a Twister-like crawl to get in there, to be honest...but, as it needs to be done, I do it!) Meanwhile, Ron re-stowed lines, secured fenders, and handled the top-side cleaning chores to make sure Equinox was ship-shape, along with the extra tasks needed to clean Tingum. While I did my chores, I got to thinking about how cleaning aboard differs from routine house cleaning on land. 

One very major difference from a simple house on land is that our boat is a self-contained little city of sorts: we must watch things like fresh water availability to holding tank levels (sewage) to energy management. We don’t get a bill from the electric company, we don’t have any garbage collection, nor are we hooked up to city water mains. Instead, we tote ashore any garbage ourselves, pump-out our holding tank at marinas whenever we can, make water for our daily needs through reverse osmosis and buy fuel (diesel) for our energy needs. Electricity is not a given! We have to know how much power we are using, (amps) versus how much power we have on hand from our generators or battery banks (watts). Sounds simple, but it’s not! You need to be mathematically inclined: you need to figure the amperage that a generator can output at 120 volts, keeping in mind that wattage is equal to volts times amperage (w= v X a). Divide the wattage by volts to find the amperage (a = w/v).  Now, remember that some generators may be a dual voltage type and also output 240 volts….ouch! Thank goodness we have a voltage/amp meter that tells us what we are producing and what we are using! Math really isn’t my strong point! But we are very careful to keep an eye on our power consumption so that we don't draw down the batteries too much or overload the generators. We try to use no more than we need.

But after awhile aboard, it becomes second nature to manage all the above. From cleaning to power management to water use and production (reverse osmosis is an essential thing!), we're aware of our needs. Much more so than on land -- whether out in remote anchorages or out on the high seas, it's vital to know! And, being cognizant, we try to be ecologically sound whenever we can, be it by monitoring our power use, our fuel consumption or  by recycling and re-using items. Some days we are green and are able to leave a smaller carbon footprint, but then there are moments in adverse conditions when we are cahoots with Capt. Kirk: “Scotty, give me all she’s got!”. It's all about balance – on land or at sea, we know we aren't perfect, but at least we are aware and always try to do better! 

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