You may want to eliminate the water bowl. You really don't need it. Without it, you will be able to easily access the charcoal pan. With a long, sturdy tong, you will also be able to access meat on the second grate, Your meat will get tender without the water bowl. If you dry rub or wet soak your meat for a couple of day before smoking, you really don't need to baste. I also inject my meats with my special marinade right before cooking. I never need to baste. The last half hour or so, I add my BBQ sauce and it cooks into and adheres to my meat without crusting and burning......adds loads of flavor.
I've been using this smoker for 13 years now. It took me awhile to understand how it cooks....now, I don't need a thermometer. I just eyeball my charcoal. It doesn't handle a lot of meat very well. Much more attention to cooking is required if using in cold weather. It doesn't do well with Matchlight charcoal. It likes a basin full of charcoal at the start. I let my coals get good and hot before adding my meat. I make sure I have a good smoke going at the start of cooking. For what I tend to cook, 9 or 10 briquettes is what I use per 1-1 1/2 hours. Temperature can be risen by just opening the door. Often, I only use one grate. I start on the highest cooking level and after 2 hours I put my meat on the lowest level until it's done. I don't cook big chunks of meat. That's not my thing....at least not now, but if I ever get into that, I would purchase an upright smoker with pull out racks and a big door or a kettle with a separate charcoal compartment. I do ribs, chicken, and boneless shortribs of beef. I make some good BBQ on this smoker. As I write this, I have some ribs smoking in the back yard.
Thanks for the tip on drilling holes in the bottom. I may do that. It will be a good way to use less charcoal while cooking.