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Old 24-09-2019, 14:26   #1
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Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

Hi All-
I'm new to sailing, please be gentile with me. My partner and I just bought a 1986 C&C 41 to l ... initial plans were to get to Florida starting this Fall, but we're not going to make it. So plan B is to stay in Norfolk VA -area for the winter and sail the Chessie (where I can practice) etc.

I have lots of questions, but starting with this - apparently it does get cold and even snows in Norfolk, and I've read all about condensation etc. We can't shrink wrap, so ...
I've read some forums about different options for heating, and am looking for advice here, especially given this boat and our circumstances - this is likely not our "forever boat," given that we'd planned to go back and forth between the warm South for the winter and back to New England for summer (I have some family for a couple of years anyway) - boat has 8 ft draft and tall rig - oops!
Anyway, I'd like something safe (electric space heaters out I guess?), non-invasive in terms of punching holes all over the boat (though maybe we could manage a diesel heater by using a work-around for chimney). We did purchase a small dehumidifier.

I'm very worried about mildew etc. ruining cushions, hardware, etc. inside the boat.

I'm also worried about snow and ice on the topside.


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Old 24-09-2019, 14:32   #2
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

No shrink wrap huh ?
Enjoy !
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it's not that I'm set in my ways but it's taken me 69 years to get it right and I'm not changin' now !
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Old 24-09-2019, 14:40   #3
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

That's a bit of an overstatement, but yes, it can and does snow here on the lower Chesapeake, particularly if we get a nor'easter.

If I were in your shoes I'd get something squared away on heating aboard, and also have a few centavos handy for a motel room for two - three days if we do get a nor'easter.
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Old 24-09-2019, 14:49   #4
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

Think about installing a Dickenson or similar stove used in commercial vessels in the PNW. You buy a cheap alcohol stove that will fit on top of the Dickenson for use in warmer climes.
You can purchase and have it installed for a couple of thousand, including the the Charlie Noble vent.
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Old 24-09-2019, 14:52   #5
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Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

Electric space heaters are the way to go. But get good ones and use heavy duty extension cords. There is a ceramic element cube available at West Marine that is very effective.

I use a flat Caframo unit that is about the size of the telephone books we used to get. It is old heating technology in terms of the element, but very resistant to tipover and has several power settings -which I like- in addition to thermostat. It is available from various vendors and West carries it with their name on it.

I believe in distributing heating sources and also employ 4 small 250w units that are only $10 at Walmart. They are only on/off but do have a tipover switch. I put them in places that don’t get the heat from main units. One goes on shelf in forepeak.

Electric blankets and throws are fairly cheap at Target and Walmart. Make a big difference for minimal power draw.

You should do some basic insulation. Reflectix will be your friend for starts. Get in rolls 2ft up to 4ft wide at Lowes or Home Depot. There also is rigid foam sheet insulation that comes in accordion folds. About 3/16” x 4ft x 20ft. I use behind reflectix and cut to fit inside hatch covers. It doesn’t have to look pretty - and won’t- just needs to make a difference.

It won’t be bad if you do the basics and watch for what happens, adjusting as needed.

Keep track of your current draws and use oversize extensions. Feel the plugs. A little warm is ok. Hot is not.
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Old 24-09-2019, 15:15   #6
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

Great ideas - so grateful!
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Old 24-09-2019, 15:20   #7
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

Wintered over in Norfolk once. Electric heaters didn’t work worth a damn. So much condensation that I thought there were massive leaks in the decks and that was with just me on the boat. With the moist air, was never warm. It did snow occasionally with a few short cold spells into single digits. Didn’t get seriously cold till mid December and began to warm up by late March.

You’ll need a heater that vents to the outside. A Dickenson Newport diesel or propane heater would be the easiest to install but will involve drilling a hole for the chimney and location for a fuel tank. Taylor’s and others made small bulkhead heaters that might work but they may not put out enough heat for a boat your size.

There are forced air and hot water heaters. They will give you almost the convenience of house system but installation is involved routing the ducting. Definitely the best systems for long term cold weather live aboard though.
Peter O.
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Old 24-09-2019, 15:46   #8
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

Electric with a dehumidifier is the most cost effective and safest way to go, but as mentioned above you do lose the drying affect of an atmospheric combustion appliance (pulling combustion air through the living space) if not using a dehumidifier. A sealed combustion 'direct vent' appliance will not dry the interior and it will heat similar to an electric heater. But you have to ensure there is adequate combustion air Failing to do so can lead to low oxygen levels and possible negative interior pressures causing back drafting of the combustion gasses. Back drafting can also happen with strong winds and limited venting.
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Old 24-09-2019, 16:39   #9
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

If you are only looking for heat for one winter and don’t want to invest in a diesel heater that is vented outside (through deck or transom) electric space heaters and electric blankets are your best option provided you have reliable shore power. As mentioned the cube type ceramic heaters or the oil filled radiator type can be safe. A fan or fans to distribute the heat may help. In a closed in heated boat you and your husband will put enough moisture into the air you will need to remove it. A dehumidifier that drains into the gallery sink will help greatly.
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Old 24-09-2019, 16:39   #10
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

Are you living aboard?
Is the boat in the water or on the hard?

We’ve wintered in Maryland, so we can offer advice, but it depends on the answers to the above.

Webasto diesel heater is ideal; excellent heat, cost efficient, no condensation, but wouldn’t run it unless you’re onboard.

Feel free to PM us if you prefer.
Carlos & Maria
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Old 24-09-2019, 16:49   #11
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

Insulation, ventilation and dry heat.
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Old 24-09-2019, 16:53   #12
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

I would have thought the blower style diesel Webastos could be installed without cutting holes in the boat, simply by using a temporary replacement for a hatch or portlight and cutting the holes in that?

You'd need a few though, I think they are only 2KW. At least the ones I have seen.
On my way at last.
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Old 24-09-2019, 16:55   #13
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

I installed a Sigmar Marine diesel 17k BTU heater (believe they are now owned by Dickinson - same heater as Newport, more or less) and lived aboard for about 4-years in San Francisco. I had about 6-feet of stove pipe, and drilled the deck-hole for a 4-inch Nicro Vent so when I headed to tropics, I could lose the stove.

I had regular problems with the stove back-puffing due to winds. Basically, wind comes down the stove pipe and blows-out the flame and creates a ton of smoke, smell, and is very dangerous because the fuel keeps running and is potentially hot enough to re-ignite. Granted, SF is a fairly windy place, but there is no way I could leave it unattended, and worried about leaving it running overnight.

When the wind was calm, I loved the heat and ambiance - I plumbed it to my diesel fuel tanks with a small low pressure diesel pump. I tried installing a fan beneath the burner chamber, extending the stove pipe, installing a Charlie Noble (two different styles), and opening ports to equalize pressure. The only thing I did not try was to install a second stove pipe from bottom of stove through the deck to equalize pressure.

I had 30A of shore power so running more than once ceramic heater eventually tripped the main breaker (water heater or microwave). I now like reverse cycle AC/Heat units. Granted, it still takes a lot of power so I have to be careful about running the microwave if water heater is on when cabin heat is running, but is more efficient than ceramic heaters and heats the entire boat nicely due to forced air. Plus, my plan is to head to the tropics where AC will be much appreciated.

A friend installed a small bulkhead propane heater. Small 1-inch stove pipe and worked well even in San Francisco Bay - rated at 6500 btu (ceramic heater is 5000 btu, so about the same heat). 45-50 hours of run time on a 20-lb tank, so for a liveaboard, a large tank would be advised (Tractor Supply Store has decent prices on 100-lb tanks)

Regards - Peter
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Old 24-09-2019, 17:00   #14
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

We installed one of the Chinese knock-off (of the Russian Planar of the European Webasto/Eberspacher) diesel parking heaters. They can be had on eBay or Amazon for less than $200. We love it. Have put about 80 liters/20 gallons of diesel through it this summer. Had to clean out the combustion chamber once, which might not be necessary if we ran kerosene. Downside is the ducting, so depends on your space. Combustion air and exhaust both require small holes (about 25mm/1"). Works great on the hook or at the dock.

For when we're at the dock we also have a small dehumidifier. We love that too. Only caveat, most dehumidifiers won't work at low temperature, ours is rated to work down to 41F (5C). We run the dehumidifier for a day or so every time we get shore power, then tuck it away on the hook. Makes a big difference, gets moisture out of all the nooks and crannies that you can't even reach.
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Old 24-09-2019, 17:19   #15
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Re: Heating our sailboat this winter in VA - HELP!

Originally Posted by joycemango View Post
Great ideas - so grateful!
Space heater, 1500 watts, will not do it for that boat if the temps gets under freezing, and it does nothing to reduce humidity, moisture and mildew .

You will need a diesel heater to provide the BTU and remove the moisture. Dickenson or similar is good, it will need installation. Webasto or Espar better, more installation. A Chinese copy of the webasto or espar is cheraper, also needs installation.
Sailing is a sport, an athletic activity, not a sedentary one.
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