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Old 07-30-2010
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We have an Espar forced air heater on Cirrus. Nice and toasty and we rarely turn it much above the lowest setting on the thermostat.

Another boat owner here has rigged a hanging locker with ducting from his forced air heat and uses it to dry clothing.

S/V Elnora
Pacific Seacraft "Crealock" 37 #312

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Old 07-30-2010
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My boat came with Webasto forced-air that was a major maintenance issue. Lots of $$. I switched to Espar forced-air and am much much happier. Beats the heck out of electric heat; pays for itself in a year and nothing to trip over.
sail fast and eat well, dave
S/V Auspicious
beware "cut and paste" sailors.

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Old 07-30-2010
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I use an electric heater from west marine ($60).
If you have a big boat, get two, probably the most important
area of the boat to keep warm is the head/shower.
PS31#111 Cielo Azul
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Old 07-30-2010
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For what it's worth...

We are full time liveaboards on a 40' sloop, Mad Dog Voyager.

The winter of 2008-2009 was spent living aboard Mad Dog Voyager while in Alaska. Specifically we spent the entire winter (September 2008 - April 2009) in Glacier Bay (later we learned from the Rangers that we were the first boat to spend the entire winter living aboard in the Bay).

We have an Espar D4 and it did a fantastic job. Everything was dry, toasty and we had very little condensation problems. However if you look closely at the warranty for the Espar it is covered for 2 yrs or 2000 hrs; the Webasto is 3000 (or might be 3500) hrs.

Doesn't matter if the heater is run at min or max, the hours chalk up nonetheless. To replace the Espar blower motor is between $250 - $400 (depending where you buy it).

Espar is quite specific about their warranty and normally you either need to have a dealer check the hours on the unit or send it in to have the hours read before they'll do any warranty replacements.

Running it for an entire winter will very quickly clock in the hours.

However, having said all of that forced-air is definitely the ONLY way to go in wet environments.


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Old 08-02-2010
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Originally Posted by T37Chef View Post
Eryka...where are you???
Chef - Spent most of July in Canada. Couldn't really post about it in my blog (for obvious reasons, who's going to write in the local paper that they'll be away from home for several weeks ) But do want to write about it now that we're back; great cruising. And cooler and dryer than we heard it was here!

Hard to think about winter and heating yet, but here goes. I don't know that we have the "best" method, but I do know that we have a method that works in the Chesapeake, refined after 8 years of living aboard in Annapolis. Actually I think the "best" method of heating is to take your boat to Florida, the Bahamas, or the Caribbean for the winter, but I don't think that's what the OP is asking.

Our marina, like several others in the area, doesn't bill individually for electricity, so that is a factor in our cost decisions. We use an oil-filled electric space heater (the kind that looks like an old-fashioned radiator) in the main cabin, and a pair of small ceramic heaters one in the head and one at the toe of the V-berth. Our mast is keel-stepped, which means its a giant heat conductor - or cold conductor in this case. We wrap the below-decks portion with insulating material to minimize heat loss. Reflectix (the silver bubble-wrap looking stuff from Home Depot) is effective, efficient and easy to work. We also have a Webasto diesel heater that can heat the entire boat on the 1/2 setting - for if we're at anchor, or if there's a power outage. As others have mentioned, condensation is an issue in winter here, and the drying effect of these heaters is an advantage.

We tried tarping over and shrink-wrapping the boat; didn't seem to help the heating all that much, and we don't have a headliner, but the cover needed maintenance after every wind/snow storm, and it kept ALL the moisture in, making the condensation issue truly horrible. We settled for just fully enclosing the cockpit, giving us an airlock and cool storage room.

Pappy, feel free to PM me or email me (my email is just my screen name @att.net) if you want to chat about living aboard here - we really do love it!
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Old 08-02-2010
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So here are my .02. I have lived in the PNW (Seattle area) for the last two years onboard a Catalina 36. We have a two stage heating system that goes like this.

In the fall and early winter we can get away with the oil filled electric heaters that others here have talked about. The local marina will not allow the use of ANY unattended electric fan heaters. They have had trouble with fan type heaters burning down boats and marinas around here. If the fan stops working while the heat is on the coil burns up and if there is dust in the system it can catch fire. Oil filled heaters never get over around 160 degrees so they are safe at all times. They also do double duty drying off clothing that gets wet when you walk down the dock. Look for a short height version that can fit under chart tables and into smaller spaces. Kenwood makes one as does DeLonghi. They are perfect for sail boats. Our wiring doesnt let us run them both at full power but even so we get a lot of heat out of these little units.

After we get to the point that the heat from the oil filled electrics is not enough, we add the Webasto air heater that came with the boat. It is a very pleasing heat that keeps everything dry. The webasto runs off the main diesel tank and we do have to be very careful not to run out of fuel, but it doesn't burn too much and we get a good month of heat from around 10 gallons.

We found that also keeping our overhead hatches cracked open to allow air to move is essential. The heat creates a temperature gradient at the hull and deck that creates lots of condensation. Allowing the moisture to filter out through the hatches and dorades keeps it from building up inside the boat. Our first year was very cold and we never opened the hatches even once. We clamped down the dorades and hunkered down. It was a wet mess. This year, while warmer, we opened the hatches and vents and were completely dry. Everywhere. Sure, some of our heat went out the vents, but so did most of the moisture. I am expecting a very cold winter this year so I will try this out again and see if it still works as the temperature drops.

The other thing that I love on our boat, and that will be a part of any future vessel, is a fully enclosed cockpit. It is one of the most important items of winter living we have. The canvas was recently updated when we had our dodger replaced. The effect of having both an "airlock" and a "mud room" on deck makes heating the boat easier and much more effective. We store our winter coats in a Rubbermaid bin that holds lots of stuff we use in winter. That way we can keep the clutter out of the living areas. The companionway becomes the second point of entry to the boat and keeps us from losing lots of heat every time we open the boat to take on provisions or move things around. Fully enclosed cockpits are not possible on all boats so look closely to see if yours can be modified for this. If you can do it, get one! In a colder winter location there is no better way to keep yourself comfortable than this. You can take it all off in the summer so there is no down side. We store our steel on the dock and put the canvas in our dock box. Nothing to it.
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Old 08-05-2010
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I am using diesel hot water system. The main advantage of this system is lowered maintenance cruise and longevity of use. It allows great flexibility in what areas you warm. You can turn on without some piece you want to heat.
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Old 08-05-2010
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I like the sail your boat to the Bahamas idea posted earlier.
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Old 08-05-2010
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An electric heater or a small propane heater works well. Be careful with a propane heater though and make sure you have adequate ventilation. Also, don't run any propane heaters for an extended period of time in a small enclosed space. They're good for just warming up the boat a bit in the winter.

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Old 08-11-2010
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our winters here in bc can get a little cold and a lot wet. i run 2 small caframo marine style electric heaters and when it gets really cold i fire up my dickinson propane heater. this unit has a dual chamber chimney so no issues of using up O2 from the cabin. this heater works really well for my boat.
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