Nine days. That’s how much time lies between our warm, dry, comfortable home in Lakewood and living aboard a big drafty blue sailboat in the winter. We are feathering our floating nest preparing to move aboard during what is predicted to be a very cold winter in the Pacific Northwest. Brrr. It makes me cold just thinking about it, but here I sit in our cozy cabin, warm as toast.
Many of our land based friends wonder how we will keep warm on the boat during the winter. I wondered that, too, especially as the weather turns colder. It’s not a secret that I have decidedly NOT envied those liveaboards in our marina who are there year round. Nope. I did not envy them as I sat snugly in my sturdy energy efficient 1960’s rambler with all the thick insulation, double glazed windows and easy-to-adjust forced-air heat. I did not begrudge them their trip to the marina showers, and the hike back with wet hair wicking heat from heads hunkered against bitter wind. I did not yearn for that life style. But it is certain I will be joining them. Nine days and counting.
Move aboard, we will. This may not be the most cunning part of our plan, but it will do and it moves the plan forward considerably. After all, we have less than 6 months before we leave the dock! I’m looking at this as an opportunity to learn to stay warm in creative ways. Galapagos was built in Greece. She is a warm weather boat. But if I am successful in not freezing my ass off and can learn to enjoy being aboard even if it’s cold outside, then maybe we could sail someplace like Norway or around the UK someday. Or even Ireland. A girl can dream.
Before I go on, I want to make the point that Mike does not suffer from cold as I do. Mike is the very definition of a warm-blooded mammal. Even when I know good and well that he’s cold just by looking at him, he says he isn’t. I’m not sure if he has that good a denial system, or whether his metabolism is, indeed, that impeccable. All I know is that when we go to bed at night, I’m the one using an electric blanket and wishing for a nice hot flat rock somewhere to lay in the sun and soak in the warmth. I’m the one with feet like small icebergs. I’m the one who wears fingerless mittens to bed so I can hold my hands up to hold the Kindle in fleecy comfort. Make what you will of that, but I’d appreciate your avoiding the term ‘reptilian’ when referring to me.
No, Mike does not suffer from the cold. He suffers from ME being cold. Because the day that I stop complaining about being cold one of two things will have happened: We will either be in Mexico, or I will be dying of hypothermia and be unable to speak. We’re not in Mexico yet. You do the logic. I owe it to him to continue to be cold out loud lest he think I am dying.
No, Mike could be just fine living aboard in sub zero weather with only a hot water bottle to give him succor. So it’s up to me to consider my heating needs… All right, fine. Mike considers my need for heat, too, but I suspect much of that has to do with keeping my loud whinging down to a manageable level. Anyhoo, in anticipation of the longest and darkest night of the
soul year, we’ve begun collecting our resources and putting plans into action in what we hope will not become “The Big Chill of 2017”.
Giving it some thought for this post, I realize it comes down to these things:
- Keep the cold out.
- Create and keep warmth inside.
- Wear a lot of clothing.
- Move around.
On Galapagos, keeping the cold out starts in the cockpit. We have that cockpit enclosure that, while on its last legs, is going to last us this one winter. That keeps the wind and water out of the cockpit very nicely and also creates a greenhouse effect, making that space warmer than the surrounding air. It serves to keep the cold out, and it also serves to create heat. So we start getting warmed up just by entering the cockpit.
Many of the things we are doing to keep the cold out serve the purpose of also keeping the warmth in. I’m referring to all the ways we are insulating the boat. Non skid bathroom rugs make fine insulation between feet and the cold cabin floor in the middle of the night. In the salon, I have cut a yoga mat to fit under the table and across to the starboard settee. It’s easy to sweep clean, colorful, and gives another layer of insulation against cold feet. You know, if the extremities of the body are cold, the rest of the body follows suit.
We lose a lot of heat through the ports and hatches because Galapagos has a ton of them. Some people block these with foam, but I do not want to block the life-giving rays of whatever weak and watery sun we get during the winter. To insulate the ports, I bought a cheap Frost King window insulation kit from Home Depot. It cost about 6$ and comes with plastic shrink wrap film and double sided tape. I taped all the ports after cleaning them well, then put up the window film, which is then shrunk tight using a hair dryer, effectively giving us double paned windows. It’s a quick and satisfying project and will help reduce the amount of heat that escapes the ports.
For the clear overhead hatches, I’m planning to use big bubble wrap plastic, cut to fit the window, and secured with a little dab of caulk in each corner. We want to be able to open the hatches if necessary, and I’d like to preserve the light as much as possible.
As a source of heat we have a really nice diesel stove and a selection of small, efficient electric heaters. The diesel is our main source of heat. It actually works so well that it keeps most of the boat warm. If we close the forward and aft cabin doors, it really heats things up. Mike says it’s so efficient that it must run on love because even leaving it going 24 hours makes barely a difference in the amount of fuel in the tank. The stove has its own 14 gallon tank that is connected by a series of valves and pipes to the main fuel tank. Right now we have 300 gallons of fuel aboard. We’ll be fine.
Even with the temperature hovering around 68 degrees in the cabin, the air can feel chilly when I’m just sitting around reading or seeing clients. So I keep our electic throws we bought at Costco spread on the settees in the salon. Turned on low, they create a little bubble of warm air, just enough to allow me to sit comfortably and write this post. On very cold nights, we can use them in the aft cabin for sleeping. At least I can. Mike probably won’t need one.
Even with plenty of insulation and heaters, it’s not like it’s summer inside the boat. We’re wearing clothing that we hope to mostly leave behind next spring. We’re talking wool. We’re talking layers. We’re talking entire polar fleece suits. We’re talking polypropylene long underwear. I’ve already mentioned my little fingerless mittens. Those are terrific. And there is no law against wearing a hat inside the boat. Keep the head warm, the feet warm, the hands warm. The rest is easy.
I think we have all these elements under control and we should be able to stay cozy during the cold winter months. The most challenging one will be ‘moving around’. That’s because unless I’m working on a project that requires it, being on the boat involves a lot of sitting. Mike’s daily routine won’t change that much because he still goes to work each day. I, however, work from the boat. Sitting around does not create much heat in the body. That’s bad on so many levels I don’t even know where to start. I’m working on a plan for a new routine once we move aboard; a plan that involves getting off the boat every day; a plan that will keep my body moving around. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Post script: I’m adding a link to our brief discussion of our dehumidifier. I had a paragraph or two about this, but took it out because the post was too long. That led people to believe we didn’t have one. We love the Ecoseb unit. We moved it to the forward head where it drains its clean water directly overboard and is centrally located.