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EveningStar 03-15-2006 08:20 PM

Got a winter living question:
Hello all...
I know the winter season is coming to the end but I have a winter-time living question. Could any of you give me some insight as to how you winterize your boats to still allow living? Things such as shrink-wrapping area's, heating, pumpout, etc...I live in Michigan so moving around after the ice forms isn't much of an option.
Thanks in advance to all who respond.

duffer1960 03-16-2006 08:50 AM

Been there, done that!
1 Attachment(s)
Hi Matt,
We (my wife, two kids, two cats and myself) lived for 1 1/2 years on our 38' Catalina at Humbug marina in Gibraltar, MI, just barely up the river from Lake Erie. WInter wasn't too bad. We shrink wrapped the boat and used electric space heaters. Our electric bill by the end of the winter was under $700.00. Another thing I did, before shrink wrapping, was to frame in the whole cockpit and insulate it to give us an extra room. This was also where the door to get in was located. I also rolled out insulation onto the deck and cabin top. This stopped any condensation. On sunny days, the shrink wrap acted as a green house and helped warm things up (I don't know how much food we wasted by storing it on deck in the cold only to have the sun shine and warm things up enough to cause food to spoil). The hardest things to deal with were fresh water and the holding tank. The water to the docks gets shut off for the winter, so we had to constantly refill our water tank. Since our boat only has a 35 gallon fresh water tank, we had to refill about every three days. We were close enough to the bath house/laundry room that a couple of water hoses attached together was long enough to reach so that we could refill easy enough (the hoses were kept in the utility room on a reel when not being used). The toughest thing was the holding tank. We would use the bathrooms in the bath house as much as possible, but sometimes, when ya' gotta go, ya' gotta go! This meant we would have a holding tank to pump out. Since there are no pump out facilities in the winter, I had to come up with another plan. I went to the local RV store and bought one of those rolling holding tanks. I then attached an extra long hose to the macerator pump output. When we needed to empty the holding tank, we would just pump it into my little tank on wheels and then roll it to the bathroom and dump it there. It was a nasty job, but it worked. I will try to attach a picture of a shrink wrapped boat with it's door installation (not my boat). If you would like some more pictures, I can try to dig some up and scan them for you.

eryka 03-16-2006 10:54 AM

Thanx for the photo, Russ; we did the same thing on our 33 footer, tho we built it ourselves with plastic dropcloth and PVC pipe from Home Depot (did someone say cheap?) and loved the greenhouse effect you describe. I'd be worried about condensation, too - especially when those cold winter days inspire you to make a pot of soup <*grin*>. our first winter was tough, then in spring we found mold everywhere, food went bad, envelopes glued themselves shut, and on and on. After that we lined lockers with insulation that looks like silver bubble-wrap (also from Home Depot), and put things that were particularly vulnerable in ziplocs. We also lined the cabin top with it - our boat has no headliner as it was made for southern climes.

About the head, we simply use a bucket and carry it ashore. Sprinkling the solids with powdered bleach does a great job of minimizing the smell.

PS, I find it a funny coincidence that we also from MI - our hailing port is Northport, MI, tho we're currently in the Chesapeake, having just completed our 4th winter here.

duffer1960 03-16-2006 12:46 PM

Ah Northport! (Sorry, off topic)
I pretty much grew up there during the summers in the 70's and early 80's. We used to stay at Timber Shores and had a permanent site there for quite a few years. I even worked there for a couple of summers, one year in the marina, and the next as the Sailing Instructor also in charge of the small sailboat fleet. I've never had a better tan in my life! I still go up there almost every 4th of July, except we now go over to Lake Leelenau. If I could find a job up there, I'd move there in a heartbeat!What are you doing in the Chesapeake?

eryka 03-16-2006 08:51 PM

Northport (still off topic)
Hi Russ,
We had a mooring about 1/2 mile north of the marina (which had a 6-year waiting list for seasonal slips in 2001!) On Fridays when they had the live concerts in the park next to the marina, we'd sit in the cockpit and share a rum and listen to the music. Most of all I remember fondly jumping off the stern for a dip in the clean clear cold water - for about 6 weeks from late july till early sept, the warmest water of the season and the only time we could tolerate the temps.

Here in the Chesapeake we're working and sailing the murky greenish black waters on the weekends. Sailing season is a lot longer than in MI, tho. 3 more years and we're headed south.

EveningStar 03-18-2006 11:18 AM

Salutations to Russ & Eryka,

Thanks for information thus far. It is proving very thought provoking and I'm even busier planning now. Russ I'll take any pictures you have the time and inclination to scan in, thanks I really appriciate them. I'm glad to hear my ideas aren't to far off center with others. Also great to have answers from Michiganders who've been through our special winters aboard.
As for the insulation, what type do you use Russ (Eryka, I know of the type you used and I'd be inclined to use the same)?
I'm currently at Bridgeview Marina in Sarnia Ont., I'll have to move for the winter as they don't have any bathroom or laundry or water facilities available. I have found a couple marina's in the Jefferson/9 mile area that are more suited for living that I'll have to look into.
Thanks to both of you for your help, and if you think of anything please let me know.

Kenshu 03-21-2006 08:19 AM

This is our 4th winter aboard in Newport, RI. We also shrink wrap with the translucent plastic with a PVC support frame. We heat with a reverse cycle heating unit that works until the water dips below 40 F (end of Dec). We bought several small electric space heaters over one larger one to give us flexibility. We insulated the hull with foil sandwiched bubble wrap that you can get from Home Depot. We have a fully enclosed cockpit and I rigged an exhaust fan to suck air out of the cockpit thru a dorade into the main salon, taking advantage of the tropical heat (90*F) on deck during the day. We also have a Force 10 propane heater we use only when awake. Our marina uses bubblers to circulate the water around boats and pilings. This does a pretty good job of keeping ice away from the hull. I am not sure it's necessary. Occassionally I have to break ice up (11" thick 2 winters ago!). We bought slip on crampons to make walking on docks more secure in icy conditions. Several people have slipped off the docks and drowned here during the time we've lived aboard. As mentioned water is shut off in the winter and we have to fill up every week or so by running hoses from the heated lavatory. This has become something of a community gathering, as we all fill up on Saturday mornings. You need to "walk the hose" (making sure all the water is out) after use to keep it from freezing. Woe to those who don't walk the hose and let it freeze solid! We thought that we might have to abandon ship when storms roared in, but floating on a frozen bay greatly limits the motion! Here's a pic of me breaking us out several winters ago. Over all we've enjoyed the winters but not as much as sailing.

duffer1960 03-21-2006 09:36 AM

Something I thought of doing for heat if we lived aboard another winter was to buy a propane RV furnace (hopefully used) and just mount it on the deck somewhere since the deck is weather tight under the shrink wrap. I was then going to run flexible ducts along the deck to the different opening ports. Then, when spring hits, just take the furnace off of the deck and maybe even re-sell it.

I also used the bubble wrap type insulation in the lockers, but nothing on the rest of the "walls". I rolled out regular fiberglass insulation (the pink stuff) onto the deck and cabin top to help keep things warm. This made a big difference, and REALLY cut down on condensation. One of the electric heaters we used was a hot oil type radiator heater. This really cranked out the heat, but to be effective, there had to be some motion in the cabin to circulate the warm air. Some mornings were a little chilly until we got moving and started the air circulating.

Kenshu 03-21-2006 12:24 PM

With the shrink wrap not being insulated, I suspect you would lose a lot of heat to the cold air on deck during the night.

duffer1960 03-21-2006 01:54 PM

I wasn't planning on heating the above deck area under the shrink wrap with the furnace; only using that area as the "furnace room" with insulated flexible ducts running to the hatches. This way I wouldn't have to find somewhere to install a heater inside the boat.
Also, the insulation rolled out on the deck does a great job holding in the heat. Again, when spring hits, I can just roll it up and toss it away with the shrink wrap.

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