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Old 12-06-2013
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Cold weather concerns

Up here in the Northwest the temperature has been holding at 20-30 degrees. It's been a while since I visited my boat, but I was thinking about going over this weekend and rerunning the reefing line.

I was contemplating firing up the heater and motor to charge the batteries while I worked, but then had some concerns. Are there any issues with using a diesel motor in this cold of weather? Do I need to be concerned about metal expansion/contraction or heating the interior? What are normal precautions to take?
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Old 12-06-2013
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Re: Cold weather concerns

Well if it has been in the 20 to 30 range, I would be most concerned about the cooling system and fresh water freezing up. I remember a few years ago there was a very bad stretch of winter weather in the NW and a lot of boats sank due to snow build up in the cockpits. Ice can dam the cockpit drains as well and cause flooding with rain. But a raw water line freezing up and cracking could be a real issue if the seacock is open.

I guess it does depend on if you are raw water cooled, if you have winterized the cooling and fresh water systems, and how high the level of salt is in your local waters.

As far as issues with heating the interior, I would not see any issues except for some condensation. As long as the diesel has been protected from freezing water you should be good. You might want to leave the glow plugs on a bit longer or use the preheater if equipped. If you winterized the diesel, you will have to do so again after running it. Also if you do start up the motor, make sure you run it pretty good to get it up to full temperature, and that means you will have to put it in gear and rev it, just be careful. If you don't think you will be able to get it up to full operating temperature then I would not fire it up as you want to burn off any condensate in the motor.

Take this with a grain of salt though as I am on the East Coast and we generally fully winterize the water systems and most take the boat out of the water for the whole winter.

Last edited by Faster; 12-06-2013 at 08:52 PM.
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Old 12-06-2013
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Re: Cold weather concerns

The PNW is big and covers a lot of water. Where are you?

I'm in Seattle, my boat is on Puget Sound. The water temp stays at near 50F, so even though it is freezing outside the boat rarely gets below freezing. I did go down to the boat on Monday and power on two "dehumidifiers", the low power heaters that are sold at Fisheries Supply and West Marine. When I did this last year the interior of my boat didn't drop below the mid 40s, despite a similar (but not as long) cold snap.

My Yanmar still seems to start right up despite being cold, but takes a little longer to be happy about it.

miatapaul: Cold rarely comes with snow in the PNW, the weather systems that bring us cold air are also the ones that bring us dry conditions. It has been a very dry fall in Seattle, just a lot colder than normal.
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Old 12-06-2013
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Re: Cold weather concerns

If your raw water intake isnt frozen you'll be ok if your boat in frozen in then you may have bigger problems to worry about.
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Re: Cold weather concerns

Thanks Alex, I'm in the same boat as you it sounds - I'm over at Shilshole. My main concern was about material expansion and contraction as the interior heats up and cools. I'm not hooked up to power (we don't have 110, so never really a need), and was thinking it would be good to charge the batteries and flex the motor a bit. My engine is a Yanmar and raw-water cooled, so aside from checking that I'm shooting water astern, it sounds like there aren't too many concerns.
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Old 12-06-2013
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Re: Cold weather concerns

When it's sub freezing outside, it can be quite shocking to reach inside a locker that's 'heated' by the 45-50DegF water.. it literally feels 'warm'!

As long as your marina isn't freezing over you'll be fine. Running the engine isn't an issue, but I'd recommend running it long enough to get it fully up to temperature, and even running in gear for a while to warm up the tranny too. Make sure your spring lines don't allow you to 'hit' the dock in gear...
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Re: Cold weather concerns

I'm also in Shilshole at one of the northern end docks and have a Yanmar, though it is fresh water cooled. I don't hook up to power for 6 months of the year, but like having a dehumidifier (a real one, not the heater type) onboard when it's cold like this.

I'm not sure there is much reason to run the motor at the dock, assuming you've used it sometime in the last month or two. I'm going sailing tomorrow and will use it for that reason, but otherwise I'd be happy to just leave it alone.
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Re: Cold weather concerns

You're a braver soul than I. I wanted to go out this weekend, but don't think I could convince a single soul to join. Are you racing this Vashon SSS this weekend?
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Re: Cold weather concerns

Why not just wait 2 days till it gets back into the 40's?
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Re: Cold weather concerns

Fresh water engine coolant is what we in the real cold (-26C) call it anti-freeze.

The fresh water from your water tanks may be an issue. Some folks have been know to replace it with vodka. Just invite several friends over when you decide to remove it from your system. Up here we invented Caesars just for such occasions.
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