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Go Back   SailNet Community > Out There > Cruising & Liveaboard Forum > Living Aboard
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  #1  
Old 11-25-2007
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Winter Ice in Maryland

I'm new to the Potomac River area and am assessing the need to use bubblers while in my creek over this winter. I have one man telling me that its needed and two others telling me not to bother.

I'd like to think that since the ice doesn't get real thick around here, that I shouldn't worry about becoming crushed, stranded, and marooned on the "ice flow." (e.g. Shakelton)

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Old 11-25-2007
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I know many marinas require them. We could have a cold winter ....
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Last edited by Freesail99; 11-27-2007 at 09:57 AM.
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Old 11-25-2007
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Shack - I've been on the Bay since 1987 and have seen a few winters in the Northern Bay where ice was somewhat thick in areas of little movement. We've kept our boat on the Yeocomico River off the lower Potomac for 6 years and have not seen ice that lasted long enough to cause problems. Granted, I don't live on the Yeocomico, but work (40 mi up river) in Dahlgren and see the Potomac every day. I've kept my boat in the water with no bubbler for one season (south, in Reedville) and had no problems. No one in our marina who keeps their boat in the water uses bubblers. With all this said, the normal precautions should be enacted - frequent checking on the boat, AC battery charger, functioning bilge pumps, tarp over the cockpit, frequent cockpit drain inspection, etc, etc. For the cost and peace of mind, I think that a bubbler would be a good idea. IMHO, think that 2 is overkill.

To be honest, I keep my boat of the hard so that I don't have to worry about ice buildup - I read Boat/US's Seaworthy magazine and have seen the results! For the few hundred$ cost of hauling, it's worth it to me to spend the winter with a peaceful mind...... and we're not event in "real" ice country!

Good luck - play it safe.... and have a boat still floating to play on safely.
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Old 11-25-2007
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Hauling out

Saberman,
We're a liveaboard in the DC area. Haul out doesn't appear to be an option. I think I have to just watch the weather and see where the winter takes us. If I used a bubbler, I'd probobly crush it at low tide as my keel is in the silt and on occasion sits on the mud at Low Low tide.

I have heard of some seasons where ice has pushed lighthouses over on the bay. Here's to hoping that those are rare occasions.
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Old 11-26-2007
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If you're a liveaboard, that makes things much easier since you'll be with the boat all the time. If need be, you can simply go out and buy one. Yes, ice has definitely destroyed lighthouses, but I think that was during the last ice age. I recall one time in Herring Bay where I saw ducks walking across the ice. I also recall seeing ice in very large chunks covering the entire Rapphannock in Fredericksburg, and heard that Tangier Sound has frozen such that an Icebreaker from Crisfield had to make its way down to clear a path for the locals to get out. It seems that winters recently have been very mild, but that just raises the possibility of 6" of ice THIS winter, I guess.

If it were me and my boat was my home, I'd get a bubbler. Good luck, we wrapped up things Saturday and Sunday. (
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Old 11-26-2007
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Shack-

I think you will want a bubbler.
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Old 11-27-2007
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Shack -

Bubblers here in MD are installed by marinas and homeowners to protect their docks/pilings, NOT your boat. The ice forms around the pilings, and when the tide comes in it lifts the pilings off the bottom. In our experience, the heat leaking out of your hull is sufficient to keep the few inches around the boat ice-free. Then you just float up and down with the tides.

The second concern is ice dams, larger chunks of ice piling up as they are moved downstream by current during winter breakup. These are the hull-crushers, I haven't seen them here, they were a factor in Michigan wehre we were before, and I would think they would only be on faster-flowing main stem rivers - IIRC, you're on a smaller creek?
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Old 11-28-2007
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To bubble or not to bubble, that is the question.

Eryka,
You make four of five locals who recommend against the ($700) bubbler system. We're in Swan Creek - out of the Potomac "proper". The ice here apparently only gets about 2" thick.

The bubbler is a dead issue for me in my marina location. If I start busting up, then I'll deploy to the ice in my dinghy, hunt seals for food, eventually be forced to eat my dog, then eventually make the treachous trip to the parking lot to get in my truck and buy a bubbler.

Switching gears...
How's eveything going over there with the Peace Talks? Did you get a chance to give them some advice.
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Old 11-28-2007
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I'm out of Deep Creek near Annapolis and second eryka's statement, bubblers are for pilings, not boats. Plus they are a PIA to rig/unrig.
Try one of the temperature activated underwater fan things (I forget what they are called) instead of a bubbler, much easier to put in and take out, cheaper (about 400) - and they protect the boat and the pilings. I use one in my slip. It only comes on if the temp is low enough to form serious ice.
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Old 11-28-2007
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Shack..

You don't want a "bubbler" for your location (Swan Creek). But, in an extreme situation, an "ice eater" rigged off the bow would probably be enough. This is a submersible electric motor with a 2-blade propeller and a cage around it. West Marine and Boat U.S. usually have them stacked up about this time of year.

I'm at Capital Yacht Club up the river a bit. Have been there with one boat or another since 1983. We've had some bad winters with ice 12-14" thick, but in recent winters we've not had much ice.

Because the water depth where we are is 20' or more, we can rig the ice eaters about 15' below the center of the boat, and they clear a circle about 60' in diameter. They work by: (1) bringing up warmer water from deep down; and (2) agitating the water. Both work. Some folks rig them near the surface at their bow, depending on the water movement to keep their slips ice-free. This works, too, and it would probably work in your situation.

There used to be quite a few liveaboards at Swann Creek. Suggest you seek out some who have spent the winter there and get their opinion/practices.

A few years ago there was an older fellow from the midwest who was coming to Washington in mid-winter to hold some serious discussions with his government. He made it in his modest sloop up to Ft. Washington before he got frozen in the ice in mid-river. Stayed there for at least a week and refused all assistance despite having no heat aboard and running out of food (he was a bit 'touched'). Finally, I remember that the police or fireboat came and towed him to Alexandria. The Potomac DOES freeze over sometimes!

Bill
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