Ephemerisle Houseboat Info
I hope these notes may be useful to everyone. Please feel free to send me your questions or comments, and please feel free to update the wiki with your own notes, before, during or after the event.
Here are scans of some of the houseboat info provided by the rentors at Paradide Point Marina. Things like the "Suggested items to bring" and the "Houseboat features" may be useful for planning, particularly if you're going to be using one of their houseboats.
Here are some notes from one of our Ephemerisle scouting expeditions.
Hi folks, The Seasteading folks kindly let me tag along on a scouting trip for the Ephemerisle location, and I thought I'd share some minor notes from the trip in the hopes they may be helpful. They are also working on notes, and I don't really want to preempt them, but at the same time I hope my observations may be useful.
Some things to bring
- Bath towel
- Bedding or sleeping bag (sleeping bag may be too hot; an old fashioned flannel sleeping bag may be more comfortable, or a sheet and blanket)
- Lots of water for everyone and each day
- Sunscreen, hats, umbrellas, etc. Water reflects sunlight back up too, sort of like the desert.
- Spices for cooking
- Pam or oil and brush if grilling
- Walkie talkie, such as FRS or GMRS for coordinating houseboat maneuvering like weighing anchor.
- Your own PFD (life vest) might be a good idea http://wiki.seasteading.org/index.php/Personal_safety_equipment
- GPS can be useful, though we're not going very far
- Gloves for handling anchor lines
- Duct tape
- Liquid hand soap dispensers for bathroom and kitchen
- Boating rope for tying up, rafting houseboats together (boat comes with some; more can be useful)
- Fenders for rafting houseboats together
Also, to add to the list
- Cell phone and electronics chargers.
- Power strips
- Solar panel
- 12V sealed battery
- Inverter/charge controller
Get an inexpensive inflatable 2 or 3 person boat from Walmart and two oars. It can be really handy for getting from the houseboat to the platforms, shuttling coolers, drinking water, etc. A small portable air compressor or foot pump is very handy to inflate it. Walmart has these for under $50.
- Insect repellent
- flying insect traps (sticky paper in boxes, etc.)
- Citronelle candles or incense to keep bugs away
- bug zapper (too noisy for night time + no AC power?)
- bug spray, etc.
Fly paper is silent, effective and environmentally relatively benign. Better form may be inside boxes with windows so people don't get stuck too. (The sticky paper traps are probably the best IMO. Though they won't keep bugs away, they will stop them if near. The rigid yellow foam ones from the hardware store were easy to use. We hung one near an interior light.)
There were many bugs that clustered to the houseboat interior and exterior lights after dark. Probably they were many hundreds. That was after we moved to the rocky levee shore instead of the reedy island side of the channel since James remembered there were lots of bugs by the reeds.
95% of the bugs were green meaning they probably eat plants. They did not bite us. There were very few mosquitoes, and I saw one housefly. Most of the bugs are probably harmless, but some of us found them annoying. Others largely ignored them. We did squish hundreds with paper towels inside the boat by the lights.
Note that insects are become inactive when the temperatures go down. Their activity will depend on the night time temperature.
When I switched on the light at night in the bathroom, I saw the bugs immediately attracted to the outside of window. So a major "failure mode" is probably opening the big sliding doors to the outside when the inside lights are on. The quick answer is: don't open the doors. All the doors and windows have bug screens. I thought they worked very well. Others didn't think so. Again, I believe the major way bugs got in was opening the big sliding glass doors. Don't open the doors at night. I kept the window by my bunk bed open at night with the screen on and lights off and curtain closed. I did not get "bugged". I did however get fresh cool air, which was nice.
The generator is quite noisy and ours wasn't very reliable. It quit several times. It won't be practical to run them at night unless it's really hot and we need the air conditioning. The delta is very quiet at night. All the lights run off 12V DC batteries of the houseboat. The generator is used for 120V AC to run the air conditioners, microwave oven, and AC outlets (for charging electronics, plugging in appliances, etc.)
The secret for getting the generator to start again was to hold down the "on" button for like 20 seconds before hitting the start button. That gets the gasoline line re-primed.
I'm bringing at least one solar panel, 12V battery, inverter and charge controller to charge electronics. It's a much more attractive alternative to the generator for running small electronics, recharging, etc.
The outboard engines are meant to run at a maximum 3000 rpm. We ran them much faster at first and one of them cavitated at high rpms:
Better to run them slower. (Cavitation is turning the props too fast so that they generate air pockets behind the blades. It's equivalent to stalling a wing where there's flow detachment on the back surface. Cavitation can actually damage the prop due to the repeated mechanical shocks.)
Ideally you want to run both outboards at the same RPM.
Keep at least one running and engaged when moving so you always have some directional control, coolant flow, etc.
The toilet was somewhat smelly. We added one of the included enzyme packages to try to knock down the odors, but it didn't help much. (The smell in part may be the enzymes working.) Recommendation: KEEP THE TOILET LID CLOSED AND OPEN THE WINDOW. The window has a screen. There is a can of air freshener included.
Also, use minimal toilet paper. Using a lot may clog the toilet. There's no plunger, but a brush can be used to clear it down.
Showers were nice and use river water. Don't drink the river water. The gas water heater was fine, but may be smallish. So there's unlimited* cold water, but probably time-limited hot water. Good to turn off the water when lathering up to save hot water.
(* The greywater holding tank is 120 gallons, which is pretty big. It's large enough for a multi week trip so filling it up should be a non-issue for a few day event.)
The kitchen sink has two taps, one for river water and one for potable water from the onboard tanks. Both run from 12v electric pumps that come on when water is used. Kinda noisy at night when people are trying to sleep.
You should not drink the river water, but it's ok for cleaning dishes with soap. I also plan not to drink the potable drinking water from the tanks. It may be ok to drink, but usually will have off flavors. I'm drinking bottled water. You'd probably want to wash dishes with the river water and soap, but rinse them with potable water. That's what people do with sailboats and seawater in place of riverwater.
The stove, oven, water heater, space heater, outdoor grill and refrigerator are all Propane-powered. There are two 20-gallon (?) Propane tanks on the back deck of the boat. Those are relatively large tank sizes, so they will easily last 3 days.
The medium-small sized refrigerator isn't very cool, but the freezer is very cold. It froze things solid very quickly. The refrigerator is bigger than a dorm-room size one, but smaller than a home or apartment one.
- Refrigerator = pretty warmish
- Freezer = very cold
The boat comes with a very large ice chest on the front deck under the awning.
The location we liked best is only a couple miles from the marina, so if there are houseboat equipment problems, the marina guys should be able to come over and help, BUT ONLY DURING BUSINESS HOURS. We got some after hours consulting from the emergency phone number about the generator.
The boats have common Danforth anchors that dig into the mud when pulled horizontally. To dislodge them from the mud, move the houseboat directly over one then lift the anchor line straight up. It will almost always release. Gloves may be nice for handling the wet, muddy anchors and lines.
Attach one anchor line at the rear right cleat and run it along the right outside of the boat, and around the front cleat. This gives a short "rode" or free length of line (rope) from the boat to the anchor. This is fine because the delta is so shallow and the lines so long. Then reverse the boat slowly in the desired direction to set the anchor. The anchor will stop the boat when set.
Attach the other anchor line to the front left cleat, run it along the outside of the boat to the rear cleat. Attach the anchor and drop it near the cleat. Keep the line away from the motor. You don't want the lines anywhere near the props where they can get caught. The rear anchor will set by itself due to the boat drifting down current.
The anchors may become unset due to tides and changing currents and may need to be reset occasionally. Ours stayed set during the partial day we were there.
The anchors pick up vegetation (I call it seaweed, though I guess it's some kind of freshwater macroalgae and not technically seaweed; looks like seaweed to me), even on the rocky levee side. On the reedy side, Patri had to cut them off with a knife. On the rocky side, there were fewer and he just pulled them off by hand.
Oh yeah, stay away from the anchor lines. They can be under a lot of force and dangerous when moving. Never get your hands, legs, feet, arms caught under them, especially when moving. We were able to move the boat by pulling the anchor lines, but make sure the engine is off or at least in neutral. In fact we weighed (unset) the rear anchor by pulling the line to move the boat over it, then lifting it straight up. It may be possible to do the front one that way also.
Remove the anchors in the opposite order of setting them. The one at the stern goes on last and comes off first to minimize the chance of fouling the prop with the anchor line (i.e. getting the rope tangled in the props), which could require cutting the line, replacing the prop, replacing a drive pin on the prop, etc.
- Front = "bow"
- Rear = "stern"
- Left = "port"
- Right = "starboard"
Walkie talkies were really useful for coordinating anchoring operations with the pilot from the back of the boat. It's a bit too far and noisy to shout.
James thinks we won't need to anchor, instead tying up to the platform.
The Epehemerisle location is about 2 to 3 miles from the marina. The houseboats travel at a rated 6 mph, so it's about 20 - 30 minutes away by houseboat. It's probably 5 minutes away by speedboat.
There's a large strip mall on the delta side of 8 Mile Road at Highway 5 that has a Lowe's hardware store, Target and many other stores. It may be possible to go back there using the Ephemerisle marina shuttle. Naturally you could also stop there on the way in. There is a small but pretty well stocked convenience store at the marina. It has two large freezers of ice. Use ice in the ice chests to refrigerate things. Put your food in ziplock bags for when the ice melts, and/or use the onboard refrigerator (which isn't very cold). There's a restaurant there too, with somewhat limited hours.
Here's a link to the shopping mall:
Looks like it has a Sports Authority store that should have life vests, etc., in addition to the Target, Lowes, and lots of other stores (but no supermarket). Targets usually have a small grocery section, though I haven't been to that one.
This book is super useful and relatively concise. It's the best single (power-)boating book I've found.
Boating Skills and Seamanship, 13th Edition (Paperback) by U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary (Author). (Note that the Coast Guard Auxilary is a volunteer group that works on boating safety with the Coast Guard.)
It was definitely useful to get more time on the water in a very benign environment to start to get up to speed on some of the issues and generally get experience. Incrementalism, IOW. :)