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post #31 of Old 10-30-2008
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Location: California
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Winter Liveaboard

What is it like living on your boat in the winter ? Not really that much different than summer except a bit colder. The fans are put up and replaced by a space heater and dehumidifier.

Is it cold, hot, do you get ice on your boat ? I've never had ice form on the boat...dock does get frost sometimes but it's gone as soon as the sun comes out. I once had the heater set too high and woke up at 2:00 AM to an 80 degree cabin.

Is it tough being inside the boat all winter, do you find you have to get away sometimes ? I don't work anymore but spend much of my time preparing my boat for cruising and making my way from SF Bay to Florida. Even during the summer, I have to get away sometimes.

Do you sweep the snow off of the boat ? Snow?...what's snow? Oh, that white stuff skiers enjoy. It doesn't snow here.

Do you wrap your boat in plastic, and if so do you actually go out on deck during the winter, is it warmer ? I don't do plastic-wrap. Many of the liveaboards in my marina drape a tarp over their boom (ie creating a tent). I think this is so ghetto. It makes the marina look like a gypsy camp. Why not fix the leaks and wash the decks occasionally?

What are you pretending not to know ? Now how can I pretend not to know something if I tell you about it?

Like MattGardner, I live aboard in San Francisco Bay (see Vallejo). I've listed the major winter specific problems encountered and my solutions:

1) Heat... Last winter, I started off using an oil-filled heater. The time to initially heat the boat was several hours and recovery time after mainhatch opened (even briefly) was an hour. I switched to a cheap ($25) 1500watt space heater and it crapped out before the two month mark. The second ($65) 1500watt heater has been working great so far.

2) Condensation... This is linked to humidity levels. Any combustion, unless vented outside, will increase humidity. Cooking (ie boiling water) produces water vapor. Showering (unless you like cold ones) is a real problem. Heck, even breathing will produce humidity. Since I like to breath, eat, take warm showers, and have an unvented instant propane water heater; I started to have some condensation issues. So, I open the hatch when cooking or using hot water and leave the head hatch open. I also bought a small dehumidifier (pelter style that uses 25watts of power). With these measures I no longer have any condensation problems.

3) Insulation... I found my greatest heat loss was from hatches. After some quick work on some styrofoam with a utility knife, the problem was solved. I covered the foam in plastic (white trash bag) and placed them between the hatches and screens for overhead hatches. The screens did a nice job of holding the foam. This seemed to make a world of difference and had the side benefit of quieting the boat from the neighborhood party boats.

4) Leaks... Prior owners had moved some of the winches and clutches around on the cabin top. Whatever was used to seal the old holes didn't. Over the summer, I drilled out the old holes and filled them with epoxy. I can only hope I got them all. I also pulled out the windows (non-opening) and re-bedded them using silicone glue specifically for lexan. Still the windows leaked some. Since I've sealed them with aquarium glue, I've had no problems.

5) Pumping out... I move the boat every week to week-and-a-half to pump out. Sometimes, it rains here for almost two weeks straight. I've had to bite the bullet quite a few times and move the boat over to the pumpout and back in the middle of a rainstorm.

I will say last January was a bit scary when the winds were blowing almost 50 knots and the boat was heeling 10 degrees...and I hadn't even left the slip (and wasn't about to). But, just like sailing, the boat seemed to have less issues with the weather than the skipper.

Skipper, J/36 "Zero Tolerance"
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