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Old 10-10-2015, 05:00   #1
JMK
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Winterizing for liveaboards

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.

Thanks,
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Old 10-10-2015, 18:48   #2
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

Having lived aboard for 10 years in Annapolis, I would winterize my deck wash system, the engine, and my water-cooled AC system when it got cold. Even though you may keep the core of your boat warm enough to live aboard, the systems in the extremities of the boat could still freeze. An oil-filled radiator is a welcome heater in the winter. You do have to plan for failures in your heating system and have alternate forms of heating.


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Old 10-10-2015, 18:52   #3
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

If the temps don't get below freezing for a sustained period your engine will be fine... especially of the cabin is warm and the engine room is was well. You can run the engine regardless and probably should every once in a while.

Water systems exposed to freezing temps need to be emptied and purged or add antifreeze.
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Old 11-10-2015, 06:40   #4
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

I fill my potable water lines with inexpensive vodka to prevent freezing. I tell my friends that my boat has hot and cold running vodka. No lie
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Old 12-10-2015, 11:12   #5
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

Unless you're in waters that form ice, and if some of your boat is heated, your plumbing is probably safe. The first winter I went thru in this boat had lows of 10 - 15F and a water surface temperature of about 40. At the time none of the plumbing in the bilge and other unheated areas were insulated. I was only heating the main deck cabin with wood. The boiler hydronic system used 5 gallons a day in cold weather and diesel was about $3.50 so I avoided using it.
Now I have a pellet stove for heat and a diesel stove for cooking and both are fitted with a water coil. One heats the boiler (so I don't have to use oil) and the other keeps my hot water tank hot. In really cold weather, and I choose to heat the whole boat, now costs about $10/day. If the mains are running, I also can heat the boiler that way, too.
I'm a former commercial fisherman where diesel stoves were common. They keep your boat dry.
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Old 13-10-2015, 11:14   #6
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

We just spent our first winter (last) on the Potomac aboard our Gulfstar M53. We are from Florida - quite a difference - learned a lot!
I second DainyRays' advice - plan for dock power loss. If your marina turns off the dock water from NOV to FEB...plan for getting water to your on-board tanks. Recommend you take a hard look at where condensation will likely form (and later invite mold) and where freezing is possible (water connection on deck and water lines that touch/run down the hull above the waterline). We were able to use our Heat-pumps until late DEC then switched to our electric forced heat backup system). When power is out (infrequent but at the most inconvenient time) the "Little Buddy" propane heater is nice (yes - ours is vented) when we didn't want to run the Genny - although ours does auto-crank at 11.4V Battery reading on the mains. We use incandescent shop-lights on a "farm plug" to keep hull spaces above freezing and nipping the condensation issue in the bud saves "spring-cleaning" effort later. We have thermostatic bilge heaters that did us well in 4 inches of ice this year on our "little creek" off the Potomac. We use a heated (farm) hose and an electric battery blanket wrapped around the water fitting entering the boat above deck (also on a farm plug) as our marina keeps the water on year round. Although infrequent - snow was a new twist for us - woke up one morning to 10 inches on the deck...snow shovel modifications are important (narrow enough to run down the gunnels...plastic edge so as not to scratch the gel-coat). We love our electric blanket! (Thanks to the 16KW diesel Generator on-board if the power goes out). If your marina has synthetic docks - they are SLICK in the sleet/snow! We use small throw rugs on the floors to keep feet happy and the Admiral LOVES the toilet seat warmer (called a "Toastee Tush") - really nice gadget. The "Ice Eater" pays for itself in one season - ablative looked good after ice disappeared for the winter since the motion reduces ice "scratching" on the hull/waterline. If your water heater is not insulated - not a bad idea to save on the energy bill. Just some thoughts from a newbie to the cold ... staring at another round this year.

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Old 14-10-2015, 05:30   #7
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

Not sure if you get ice that far south, but if it does, you'll need bubblers/agitators. Ask your neighbors if they're required, they can be expensive both in terms of electricity and purchase price, so don't bother if its not required.

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Old 14-10-2015, 05:48   #8
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

Thanks for the detailed advice. The Potomac is farther north than us so I noticed that we got less snow and ice last winter than the up on the Eastern Shore (Cambridge) when we were boat shopping. Out in the Pacific NW where we were previously our diesel heater took care of the condensation issue so we're hoping that will be the case here. They do turn the water off in the winter so that will be a new joy. Should be an experience!
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Old 14-10-2015, 06:14   #9
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

All of the above is excellent advice.... Also plan ahead for slippery frozen snow covered ramps while you are hauling water and groceries...

After 4 years overwinter in Deltaville (mid Chesapeake) I got it figured out... Sending this from Eau Gaille FL in transit to Boot Key
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Old 17-10-2015, 10:16   #10
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

I found that putting strips of non-skid tape on my boarding ladder (really a set of steps we built) and again right on deck where you first step onboard were a great help. Most of the time your hands will be full of something( groceries, garbage, a dog) and you'l be at your most vulnerable then. A misstep will hurt in various ways. Since I got the tan non-skid tape it blends in well with the deck so I left it on this past summer, but it wouldn't be hard to take it up and use acetone to remove the adhesive later when and if we move to warmer places.
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Old 18-10-2015, 10:28   #11
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

Quote:
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.

Thanks,
J.M.
Hi J.M.,

I have years of experience wintering over in higher latitudes [e.g., 56-61N with winter temps ranging from -20F 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 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 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 pressure cooker 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 15F [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 heaters might be a worthwhile winter enhancement- again assuming you have shore power...]

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 61N 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 56N two weeks ago 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., <48F] 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.

Cheers!

Bill
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Old 20-10-2015, 02:46   #12
JMK
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

Thank you for that information. When we were in Skagway once on our boat it was summer, but I wondered what it would be like to winter there in that latitudes. Reminds me of the book about spending a winter in the artic in a sailboat "North to the Night" by Alvah Simon.
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Old 20-10-2015, 08:00   #13
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Re: Winterizing for liveaboards

You are welcome, J.M. I'm glad you found some of it useful.

I agree, "North to the Night" is a great read, and reminds me to pull it out for a re-read this winter.

Cheers!

Bill
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