Winter of discontent
Woke on a recent morning to the sound of someone pinging handfuls of jellybeans off our cabin top.
Or at least that’s how it sounded, until your head clears and you realize it is hail. Looking out a porthole, the “hail” was like nothing we had seen before – gnarly chunks of ice, not round at all.
This winter on the Salish Sea has been strange; colder, whiter and wetter than we have seen for many years, though your experience varied depending on the micro-climate in which you reside. Here, some days ago, I had to get on my hands and knees to crawl off our finger which was a sheet of glare ice.
Several friends and relatives with homes ashore kindly offered a place to stay until the worst of this nasty winter had passed.
We thanked them for their generosity, and assured them we would be fine, though their expressions of doubt did not perceptibly diminish. It would be rude and ungrateful of us to point out that our little boat was much warmer than their sprawling, roomy rancher. So we did not.
That does not mean this winter has not had its challenges for liveaboards to stay warm and dry.
When we bought this boat a few years ago it was parked at a yacht club, not used as a liveaboard, and came with a silly little propane heater. That was removed and replaced with a diesel heater. On our previous boat we installed a little Refleks diesel heater and would have been very happy with one of those, but chose a Dickinson for its fit and BTUs. We have come to love the little window that gives the Dickinson a fireplace effect.
We also considered forced air and hydroponic systems, which are slick. If we had a boat much larger than our Tayana 37 we likely would have sought out a more central heating system, but our Silom essentially has a single cabin, with forepeak and quarter berth, and heating from a single source is quite adequate if sometimes the seat in the head can be a little chilly.
We have portable fans which we move about the cabin, directing warm air wherever we want. Works like a dream.
For insurance reasons, we don’t leave the diesel heater burning when away from the boat for longer than a few minutes. Instead, we switch on a small oil-filled electric heater when away for the day. It does takes the edge off on cold day, but the colder it is the longer it takes to warm the boat when you again fire up the diesel heater.
We also have a small, low-power electric blanket, which makes climbing into what would otherwise be cold sheets pretty sweet.
But as all boaters know, keeping warm on a boat is not rocket science. Just about anyone can install and maintain heaters of adequate output if they can afford the investment. The key to happiness is staying dry.
I was a late convert to this. I figured boats sweat, that’s what they do in our climate. It’s natural. And, when disgust finally overcomes you, you go around with cleaning supplies to rub black mold into its somewhat less threatening cousin, grayish mold.
Lynne was having none of this when we sailed home to the Salish Sea, traded up to our current vessel and moved aboard.
She brought home a variety of products. Powders that absorbed moisture and turned to mud, small dehumidifiers that hummed and gurgled, heaters that blew, heaters that sucked, special lights that glowed deadly anti-mold illumination inside lonely lockers. Helpful as always, I rolled my eyes a lot and said things like “Oh, hon, it’s not that bad.” Which only made Lynne more determined and less likely to share her latest drying project.
Then came the pièce de résistance, a dehumidifying colossus, named Bionaire, a few letters short of a billionaire.
This new dehumidifier might be adequate for a skyscraper, but instead ate up most of the leg room under our salon table. It idled deep-throated like an 18-wheeler after driving all night. We ran it only during the day when the diesel heater was off.
And something amazing happened. The boat has been bone-dry since we turned it on. The giant dehumidifier takes gallons of water out of the air. Its huge tank has to be emptied regularly. Of course, we still remove locker doors to allow air to circulate, but the dehumidifier does all the work and has changed our quality of life. I stopped rolling my eyes.
And, of course, I am also grateful that my mother-in-law has a garage not too far away where we can store the behemoth in the high season.