I live aboard in NorCal on a steel
boat and have done plenty of cruising (and camping) in cold weather, as I'm originally from Canada
Underway - stay dry and overdress. It's hard to warm up once you get cold. Foot and head
wear are crucial. On my boat I can keep the companionway
open and sit in it behind the dodger
when keeping watch. I can stay dry and out of the wind this way, and yet I am partially in the cabin. However, I can close a second door a few feet in front of the gangway
, which helps to keep the main cabin even warmer and drier. My diesel
is in the main cabin and this makes a huge difference. If the weather is rough and crew is " standing by " they should be sleeping/resting geared up so they don't end up rushing up top under-dressed.
On the dock
with power available it's easy - an electric
space heater (I prefer the oil
circulating no-fan type) works great.
On the hook or on the dock
with (very) calm conditions, my solution is cheap
, simple and effective, and I have been using it for thirty years in everything from boats to vans without an issue. Buy a Coleman portable propane
heater (about $30) - the cheapest, most basic model with the large, round base for stability is the best. Others will likely jump all over this and cite Carbon Monoxide threats, but as mentioned I've never had an issue, nor has my detector gone off (despite the fact that my propane stove has set it off). There is enough ventilation (via gaps in hatch
boards, louvers, dorades etc) in my boat to vent the cabin. If that is not the case with your boat, just crack a window/hatch as necessary. These heaters are so effective that you only need to run it for a short time to get the cabin really warm, so before you go to sleep you can shut it off. Then, fire it up first thing in the morning and go back to bed
for 15 minutes.
Never leave it on when underway, when unattended, or when asleep, and make sure there's a large enough open space on the floor to set it that you won't set your boat on fire. In other words, just use common sense.
cold? Not in the three years I spent there....cool, windy and wet at times - sure. It's all relative I guess.