November 26, 2015

Holidays on a boat...

Our family and non-boating friends often share the sentiment [usually with a detectable hint of sadness...] of what it must be like to live a 'camping' lifestyle- especially during traditionally family-holidays...

Well, as our fellow boaters know, it is really no different than on land. We shop days [or weeks, or months...] ahead selecting only the finest quality trappings for the meals- which are meticulously prepared- just like in a home...

And, as holiday tradition warrants, we are always prepared for the unexpected guest(s.)

In essence, we eat our hearts out, and so should you...

Our photo epitomises one of my favorite quotes: [from Chevy Chase's movie Vacation]
 I don't know why they call this stuff Hamburger Helper; it tastes just fine all by itself...

Wish you were here...

November 22, 2015

Ride the wind of today...

A sentiment worth aspiring to...

Thank you Mira, Ivo, and Maya of The Life Nomadik!

“Ride the wind of today, for the wind of yesterday will bring you nowhere and the wind of tomorrow may never come.”

November 15, 2015

Using heat from the engine [hydronic heater cores]

We occasionally participate in various boating forums. [See our Some Forums We Read sidebar for links...]

Some of those topics may be relevant here, so once in a while we will repost on our blog for reference.

The following may be one of those cases. To accommodate our non-boating blog readers, sometimes we add some {additional information and links} to the original forum post, below. 

There are also additional references listed at the end of some of these forum posts with related information. 

Link to original forum post [11-Nov-2015]

Re: Adding a heater to boat

Originally Posted by TurboTim View Post
Does anyone know where one can purchase some kind of heater that runs off engine coolant to heat my boat so I can start boating earlier in the year and later in the year?
Hi Tim,

Not knowing anything about the type, size, use, or current/desired cruising grounds for your vessel, I'm providing this feedback in the blind, so it may not apply to your circumstances.

We love the stainless steel Dickinson Radex heater in our pilothouse. [It uses computer pancake fans, so it is quiet- even though our engine isn't...]

In addition, since we have central forced air diesel heat [Espar] we use at anchor or when cool weather sailing, I am preparing to piggyback a hydronic core into the same forced air ductwork to pipe heat throughout our sailboat when we are motoring. [We enjoy winter outings...] This would be supplemental to the previously mentioned Dickinson Radex unit already installed in our pilothouse.

If you are interested in a central hydronic core running using waste heat from your engine(s), I have found that the REAL brand appears to be first rate. [Not that other brands aren't just as good, if not better, but I scrutinized some hydronic core products at the Seattle boat show earlier this year and the REAL brand looked to be superior. However, I haven't purchased anything yet so I cannot provide first hand information about using REAL products... But that is the brand I will be going with.]

I know Sure Marine Service carries the REAL brand and just about every other heating component one might need. [But I haven't done business with them yet...]

I'll close by sharing a couple of thoughts with you regarding the install of hydronic heating loops:

1) Ball valves in coolant loops: We tapped into our engine auxiliary coolant inlet and outlet [same used for your water heater heat exchanger] and installed short bodied ball valves at the engine and to each hydronic loop so we could shut off these coolant loops for maintenance, leaks, or when a hot heater core in the main salon is undesirable...

2) Proper fluid flow: Plumb the hose containing coolant from the engine into the lowest pipe of each hydronic core. [i.e., Coolant flow should be bottom-up in each core- to purge air; just like when changing the lube in an outboard engine lower unit.]

2.1) Longer runs may require the insertion of an additional coolant pump [12 VDC or to spec.] in the hose circuit to ensure adequate coolant flow throughout the system.
3) Bleeding air from hydronic loops can be quite a chore as the top of each loop is not always conveniently accessible. [I know ours aren't...]

To make this easy, we use small, float style [vs. Schrader valve; e.g., Watts brand] automatic air bleeders used in home boiler heating systems. [Cheap at ~US$10-15/each] 
Typically we install a T at the top of each hydronic core and install a ball valve [to isolate the bleeder when not needed, and for maintenance...] then the the air bleeder in the highest port of the T. [i.e., Where the coolant return line to the engine exits the core.] Basically, air bleeders need to be installed at a high point in each coolant loop.
We installed air bleeders on our water and bus heaters. They eliminate manual bleeding- even when first commissioning a hydronic system...

In case this is useful.



Additional References:


Follow-up post [11-Nov-2015]

Re: Adding a heater to boat

Re: Adding a heater to boat


I have existing diesel forced air ducting in our new to us boat (but no forced air system currently), would be very interested in hearing more details about how you plan to piggyback into the whole ducting system... I would consider doing that instead of installing a Red Dot heater if it seemed manageable for the semi (semi-semi?) skilled.

Originally Posted by wrwakefield View Post
In addition, since we have central forced air diesel heat [Espar] we use at anchor or when cool weather sailing, I am preparing to piggyback a hydronic core into the same forced air ductwork to pipe heat throughout our sailboat when we are motoring.
Wow, these are three super useful suggestions for this... printing this one out now... thanks!

Originally Posted by wrwakefield View Post
1) Ball valves in coolant loops:
2) Proper fluid flow:
3) we use small, cheap, automatic air bleeders used in home boiler heating systems.
Thanks, Bass.

I'm glad some of it was useful for you.

RE: Having both diesel and hydronic heat sources sharing the same forced-air ductwork, there are a lot of variables, but that doesn't mean it has to be complicated.

For example, my Espar is mounted in my engine room [which is underneath my pilothouse.] The Espar has one main duct that branches outside of the engine room to feed 5 outlets positioned throughout the boat.

It is important to note that the Espar return air is ducted outside the engine room in an adjacent cabin [not outdoors... direct marine air wreaks havoc on these heaters...] This means odors from the engine room aren't being distributed throughout the vessel when that unit is running...

I will do the same with whichever hydronic unit I install.

As far as tying into the existing forced air duct, my first try will be simple: I will just insert a Y [not a 90° T...] in the heat duct near the Espar. [One with a diverter flap; e.g., A purpose made unit like this one for heating systems- similar in concept to those you can buy for diverting your clothes dryer vent into the house...] I plan to run a control cable to it for convenient access, and add switching that heat source flap to the check list for turning on the heaters.

I haven't done all of the engineering yet, but some considerations include:

1) BTUs available from engine waste heat [i.e., You can only tap so much heat from a particular engine without causing it to run at lower that desired temperatures. This can be somewhat mitigated by using the individual coolant loop ball valves I mentioned in my previous post as flow controls...]

2) Airflow capacity of existing ductwork: e.g., My Espar D5 pushes 137 CFM air on high. The hydronic cores I'm looking at push almost twice that much. [e.g., I reference a unit, below, that pushes 206 CFM.]

Will that be too much air flow for the existing duct network? [e.g. excessive duct noise, heat loss, etc.] If so, I plan to mitigate by running a couple of new ducts from the new hydronic core to areas adjoining the engine room [e.g., galley, workroom, and pilothouse] thus reducing airflow into main duct system. That would not be difficult in my boat, but does start to dilute the concept of sharing duct work and subsequent shorter installation time and cost...

Multiple ducts could easily be accomplished [in my set-up] with a unit like this one...

I hope this all makes sense. I'm just sharing my initial thinking before I have delved into the minutia... My approach may require adjustments once I get to that stage...


SV Denali Rose

Short on opinions; focused on research, facts & experience [yours and ours...]


    Additional References:

    November 8, 2015

    How much water, anchor chain, and heating fuel do we use...?

    We occasionally participate in various boating forums. [See our Some Forums We Read sidebar for links...]

    Some of those topics may be relevant here, so once in a while we will repost on our blog for reference.

    The following may be one of those cases. To accommodate our non-boating blog readers, sometimes we add some {additional information and links} to the original forum post, below. 

    Related posts:

    Link to original forum post [23-Apr-2015]

    23-04-2015, 17:28  #1
    Registered User

    Macblaze's Avatar

    Join Date: Nov 2013
    Location: Edmonton
    Boat: Hunter 386
    Posts: 211
    What's Necessary to Liveaboard in the PNW [Pacific northwest] in Comfort?

    I am a total beginner at owning a boat. But I bought a pretty well equipped one and this summer we move aboard to live (hopefully) for a year. But as I am working my way through both the budget and the equipment list, I am not sure it's well-equipped enough.

    I've budgeted (on average) one night a week at a marina except for the winter months where we will likely hole up for 6 months. But now I am worried that I am missing some things to successfully live on the hook for 4 or 5 days at a time at an anchorage. We want to get up to the Broughtons or maybe even further north and get away from it all for as many weeks as we can.

    The boat has:
    Full enclosure
    110 feet of chain and a long stern line
    75 gallon water tank
    35 gallon holding tank
    2-10 lb propane bottles
    10' zodiac with 8hp outbaord

    Seaward 6 gallon water heater
    Fridge & Freezer Adler Barbour 12V plate & compressor
    Propane stove and oven
    Webasto hydronic heater

    55 amp alternator
    Magnum 2800 watt charger inverter with remote panel
    4 Trojan t105+ (225 amps)

    The only thing I have planned so far is to replace the 33lb Lewmar claw with a Rocna or Mantus.

    The issue is while we have done a reasonable amount of chartering, it's usually been travel everyday and a lot of motoring and staying in marinas. I have no idea how long 75 gallons of water or 10 lbs of propane lasts. And try as I might (because I suck at the math), until we get out there I have no idea how many amp-hours we are going to burn through on the hook.

    So do I need a generator or to add some solar? Is our tankage sufficient? What is missing to make our adventures comfortable and our learning experiences pleasant? This boat is new to us and so, obviously, is ownership. Right now it is all theory and so much of it that it's not making a lot of sense 

    All wisdom gratefully accepted.
    Gaudeamus igitur iuvenes dum sumus...

    Re: What's Necessary to Liveaboard in the PNW in Comfort?

    Hi Bruce,

    I've lived aboard a bit further north [Prince William Sound, Alaska] off and on for 20 years. Now we are further south in Wrangell, Alaska.

    Regarding comfort, it sounds like you have all the pre-requisites. [Heat, water, fuel, etc.] One thing not often mentioned is the importance of ventilation- especially in cooler climates. If you don't ventilate [i.e., waste a bit of heat...] you will be living in a damp, moldy environment that often takes a while to manifest- so people don't see it coming until it arrives... It also helps to insulate the hull and underside of the deck to reduce condensation. But even if insulated, make sure to ventilate well... [i.e., don't close your dorade and solar vents no matter how tempting it might be when the wind is howling during the blizzard...]

    Consider using a pressure cooker to reduce cooking fuel and water consumption, as well as release of moisture into the cabin...

    Regarding consumption, the safe way to determine this is to live aboard at the dock, but off the grid [unplugged] as though you are at anchor. Keep your routines as you might prefer them [e.g., take daily showers, etc.] and monitor your consumption. You can always plug into shore power to charge the batteries, and turn on the host to fill the water tanks...

    Some personal examples: I lived aboard for a few winters in Valdez, Alaska where the temps averaged teens above zero F, but reached teens below zero for weeks at a time. During that period I averaged 1.5 gal/day heating oil [Sigmar bulkhead heater] in my Valiant Esprit 37. Since I had to haul water and fuel on a sled to the boat [it was frozen-in at those temps...] I knew I was consuming precisely 5 gallons/day/person including lots of hot beverages and daily [Navy] showers.

    When I anchored out, I had to go ashore and haul fresh water from flowing streams between cold spells.

    I also spent 2 winters in northern WA state (Semiahmoo) on a 47' Tayana with hydronic heat. I averaged about 3 gallons/day heating oil there... water consumption remained about the same.

    On our current boat I dedicated one of the two fuel tanks to #1 heating oil to keep the Espar forced air heater happy [This helps reduce maintenance intervals as it prefers #1 with no additives...] I figure I can always transfer #1 to the #2 diesel tank for the engine and generator and add the correct % of Marvel Oil to it and keep everything happy.

    We also are now spoiled with a water maker that doesn't seem to care about the cooler water temps. ({10+} Gal/hr consistently in 40°F to 50°F water temps.) In SE Alaska our consumption in winter is 1.5 gal/day fuel oil, and 15-20 gallons/day [for 2] water because we are also spoiled with a washer/dryer on board...

    Let me add another water usage metric that may be useful for perspective: Our house in Fairbanks, Alaska is high on a hill where a well is not cost effective. Therefore many homes in this area have underground water holding tanks (ours is 2000 gallons) We have water delivered (or haul it ourselves in a 400 gallon tank in my truck...) so I know precisely what our water usage is. Over 13 years we have averaged 35 gallons/day/adult with all the usual water consuming appliances [clothes and dish washers...] and fresh water toilet flushes. We take no real water preservation measures other than to use what we need and need what we use...

    Regarding ground tackle: From my experience you will need at least 300 ft of anchor rode to be safe in our often deeper than usual anchorages on the northern part of this coast. You mentioned 110ft of chain. If that is all you have, plan on more before you go out... [It doesn't have to be all chain, but that is a personal preference...]

    e.g., On our present boat, I put in a new windlass with all new chain in June 2014 to accommodate simultaneous use of 2 permanently installed anchors on the bow (5 anchors on board) The main bower has 360ft of 5/16 G4 chain (the max I could fit on that side of the anchor locker...) attached to 100ft of 1in 3-strand rode. [The Hail Mary rode to be let out in an extreme situation where we might have to cut and run...] The secondary anchor has the remaining 190ft of the chain [550ft/barrel of 5/16in G4...] attached to another 100ft 1in 3-strand... I also have 3 other 300ft 3-strand with 40ft chain in bags for deployment of other anchors as needed... you get the idea. Why? In years past I've been blown off my anchor in williwaws in the dark and I don't want to ever experience that again...

    I hope this is useful.

    Have fun living aboard. I look forward to hearing what you discover...


    SV Denali Rose

    Short on opinions; focused on research, facts & experience [yours and ours...]

    November 5, 2015

    Living on a boat in cold weather... [Updated May-2019]

    We occasionally participate in various boating forums. [See our Some Forums We Read sidebar for links...]

    Some of those topics may be relevant here, so once in a while we will repost on our blog for reference.

    The following may be one of those cases. To accommodate our non-boating blog readers, sometimes we add some {additional information and links} to the original forum post, below. 

    –––– Updated 8-May-2019 [by Bill] ––––
    [Added resources; updated some links]

    Related Posts and Resources:

    Original Forum Post [18-Oct-2015]

    Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

    Originally Posted by JMK View Post
    This will be our first winter living aboard on the East coast (Chesapeake Bay). The temps will be a lot colder than we are used to. I think we've got the heating aspect covered with a new diesel heater, but I was wondering what else we need to do to winterize the boat for the winter.

    Hi J.M.,

    I have years of experience wintering over in higher latitudes [e.g., 56-61°N with winter temps ranging from -20°F to hovering around freezing- sometimes freezing in place] in various sailboats with a variety of heating systems.

    Besides heat, the next most important thing [in the living space] is moisture control. If you don't you will culture mold in hidden areas and have cold water dripping on you at the most inconvenient times... Not to mention damage to woodwork, etc.

    As tempting as it might be to close off the ventilation when it is cold and blowing; don't. Use fans to keep air circulating, and a dehumidifier [we like this small, quiet, energy efficient one...] if you have shore power and you are still getting condensation on cool surfaces.

    Insulation helps, but only if it is adequate and sealed so moist air cannot get between it and the cool surface it is insulating... [Adequate defined as thick enough to keep the heated side of the insulation above the dew point in the cabin. 1" foam board [or 2- 1/2" foam board for more flexibility fitting the hull...] or closed cell foam used for HVAC ducts are both adequate here. Those with radiant foil surface on the heated side are a plus. I often use two 1/2" foam boards, installing the first foil side out against the hull (for future insulation in the tropics) and the second on top of the first foil side in. This provides greater flexibility for fitting tight curves.]

    Cooking and showers are the two leading contributors to excess moisture on my boat. Vent that steam as it happens and you will be in fairly good shape. I use a [modern] pressure cooker and/or a thermal cooker [like a non-electric crock pot...] more in winter to reduce moisture from cooking and use a good AirPot to keep hot water immediately available for beverages and the like. [Remember a propane stove also releases moisture into your boat as a by-product of combustion... and doesn't work well once the temps drop below about 15°F [lack of vapor pressure in the propane tank- assuming the tank(s) is/are stored outside the heated space...] For this reason, one of the portable electric induction cook tops might be a worthwhile winter enhancement- again assuming you have shore power and your cooking pans and pots work on induction cookers...]

    Quickly remove snow on the deck so you don't become top heavy or get an ice build-up. Beware freezing spray conditions if you venture out. Frost/ice can quickly build up on the rigging, and heavy ice high on the mast and rigging is undesirable and dangerous [and makes for unwelcome projectiles when it releases...]

    Keep your fresh water and fuel topped-up especially if you have to carry/sled portable jugs to the boat. [Some marinas will keep some fresh water on one or two docks with hose bibs running full time at the end of those docks to prevent freezing the pipes... Our fuel docks are typically open year-round...]

    Double-up and chafe protect your dock lines now [bow, stern, and spring]- using different attachment points where possible- so you don't have to go outside to rig a new line or adjust existing lines during the height of a blow... [My version of a dock sleeping pill... This technique requires thick skin to ignore possible derision from a sub-set of fellow boaters...]

    I like to set up my dock lines with double rolling hitches at the dock side so I can quickly and easily adjust them when necessary. Douse them with a bucket of saltwater if they are frozen... I find this much easier than trying to uncleat and recleat a frozen line or other type of knot/hitch...

    At 61°N we can always count on one or two 70+ knot sustained blows each winter... and we already had 90 knots pay us a brief visit at 56°N two weeks ago {Early October...} when the remnants of Hurricane Oso passed by SE Alaska.

    And... I always remind myself to be extra careful walking on the deck and docks. It is very likely that no one will be around to hear me fall into the water... and my ability to self-rescue in cold water [e.g., <48°F] expires around the 2 minute mark... [From personal experience established during cold water survival training...]

    I can elaborate more on specifics if there is an interest [and have to various degrees in past posts on this topic.]

    OK. Enough with the warnings about things you undoubtedly already know about or anticipated.... Go enjoy your adventure and please share what you learn.


    SV Denali Rose

    Short on opinions; focused on research, facts & experience [yours and ours...]