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Old 28-11-2022, 22:16   #1
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Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

I have a Dennis Choate 40 that my girlfriend and I live aboard on. We are starting to get really cold nights and I can tell that this winter will be rough but doable. I would like to make it less rough by insulating, but I don't have a clue how to safely and properly insulate a fiberglass boat from the inside.

The boat has teak slats on all of the vertical surfaces, and much of the headliner areas.

What could I use to make it so we don't need to run the heaters so hard this winter, nor the a/c so hard in summer? I am not super handy unless I have to be, so ease of application does matter somewhat.
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Old 03-12-2022, 15:26   #2
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

Pendleton makes warm sweaters. REI has down jackets & snow pants. Installing insulation will require a major effort. If you remove all the ceiling (the slats on the inside of the hull are called ceiling) you can perhaps put in foam insulation sheets. Make sure it is closed-cell foam, or it will absorb water and weigh the boat down. If you don't insulate the hard-to-get places like inside of cabinets and under bunks, you will continue to lose a lot of heat. Then you get to re-install the ceiling. A possible other option would be to have foam insulation blown in to the spaces. This is tricky because it might cause the ceiling to detach or rip its fastening out. Perhaps someone who has tried this can chime in.
Putting up temporary insulation on the inside of the ceiling might work too. You would need to look into the materials that might be suitable and asethetically acceptable.
One of the reasons ceiling is put in boats is to provide a ventilation space to prevent rot. Installing insulation blocks the ventilation, so it might end up causing rot to develop. Your choice.
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Old 03-12-2022, 16:49   #3
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

Get some 3M double stick tape. and some half decent vinyl fabric. Then make fabric pieces to as much of the exposed ceiling (SIDES!) as you can within reason. Then stick the fabic on . Be neat! Plan ahead so you can leave this inner barrier in place after winter. eBay is good place to source fabic. Search "Marine Fabrics. " good luck PS be sure to do inside vented lockers. you can easily also do backsides of cabin doors.
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Old 03-12-2022, 17:16   #4
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

You're in a tough spot. Choate's are more "racer" than "cruiser" and there is no insulation, and there is really very little you can do to add insulation without taking down the interior teak slats that are laid against the hull and the headliner, and installing proper insulation.

My advice would be to get a Wabasto diesel heater, or a Dickinson 00-NEWSF diesel heater and get it installed.

When I lived aboard in Seattle, I had a Dickinson Antarctic heater, and it kept the boat really toasty. If you go the route of a Dickinson make sure to install a gravity tank, and don't feed the heater directly from your fuel tank.
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Old 03-12-2022, 17:34   #5
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

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If you go the route of a Dickinson make sure to install a gravity tank, and don't feed the heater directly from your fuel tank.
Why do you say this? We've fed our Fab-All (similar to Dickenson) heater from the main tank for the twenty years we've owned this boat... seems to work and is more convenient than having to fill a day tank, especially when in full time use.

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Old 03-12-2022, 18:58   #6
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

Morgali sez: "I don't have a clue how to safely and properly insulate a fiberglass boat from the inside."

That may very well be because that is not what you do. The reason that you don't do it that it's totally futile. The moment you open a hatch, your temperature aboard is the same as the temperature outside! I am a tad north of you, but, like you, subject to the "stuff" that comes in from the Pacific. You do know that the reason you're freezing your butt off just now is that we have "global warming", don't you :-)?

The way you insulate a boat is by putting on more clothes. Layer upon layer upon layer. If things get really snarly you crash "all standing". If you are in a marina you trek up to the shoreside loo rather than use your on-board "lavatory" (latin: "washroom"), don't you? And you grab a nice three-buck shower while you are there to "evacuate", don't you?

Fear not! You are through the worst of it. The temperature in Seattle tonight is gonna be positively balmy: about 28ºF. Below decks, with no windchill to speak of, you could sit around in your ordinary jammies in perfect comfort :-)! And in a mere three month's time the daffodils will be out all over the marina.

Cheers

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Old 03-12-2022, 19:43   #7
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

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. . . If you go the route of a Dickinson make sure to install a gravity tank, and don't feed the heater directly from your fuel tank.
I wonder about this too. My boat's diesel stove is also fed from the main tank and it's been fine for nearly 40 years. It would certainly be nice to eliminate the pump even though it's reliable and uses negligible energy, but then I'd have to fill a day tank every few days (with another pump) which would be inconvenient. I'm not living aboard now but have for a few years and the stove would run continuously in winter.
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Old 03-12-2022, 19:48   #8
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

We had the same concern when we lived aboard our 43ft uninsulated race boat in Seattle.

But we had no interest in living bundled up in heavy clothing. We wanted our boat to be as comfy as a house or condo ashore.

Our approach to achieve that was three fold:

1. Insulating. Our wood slats (not teak) were removeable, and they were not present on all hull surfaces, so where needed we exposed all the hull surfaces by removing the slats and other decorative coverings. Then we glued closed cell, flexible, foam, 1/2 inch in every possible place, including in the backs of cupboards and lockers. Our deck is balsa core which is a good insulating material so we did not add insulation to the overhead.Then we reinstalled the slats and decorative coverings.

2. Heating We determined that we needed about 10,000-11,000 BTU of heat, which far exceeds what you can get from electrical heaters. The solution for us was dry diesel heat. First we installed a forced air heater (Espar) which workled well, however it was unreliable. Then we installed a drip diesel heater (like a Dickinson) and I cranked it up by modifying the drip rate. We added 5 fans to move the heat away from the heater. We also added protective metal panels (with air gap) to protect the wooden bulkhead where the heater was located. We found it essential to use an interior air supply for the heater and exhaust it outside. This removes most of the humid interior air.

One really nice feature of the diesel drip heater was the window on the fire box which allowed a warm orange and yellow flickering light to flood the cabin.

3. Reduce the area to be heated We hung curtains to close off the parts of the boat where we didn't need the heat. We also had a full boat cover made which kept snow and ice off the deck.

With these measures we had a warm and toasty interior and we could live there all winter in normal street clothes. We lived aboard comfortably in Seattle for 10 years and never stopped sailing. We averaged 90 sailing trips a year and that included winters. It's all in our logbook Log Book Pages

Since our heat was independent of shore power we could go away from the dock and anchor out and still be toasty. Port Madison was one of our favorite anchorages even on frozen and snowy days. There is nothing like a crisp sail than to anchor in a beautiful cove and be warm and make hot buttered rum. Port Madison, Eagle Harbor, Port Ludlow, Blake Island, Quartermaster Harbor, and many others were all within reach of a day sail and we visited those place year round and particularly enjoyed them when it was frosty and white.

A few notes: Generally you cannot use diesel drip heaters while sailing. The high presures air surrounding the sails blows the fire out and floods the cabin with smoke. So we bundled up for sailing but stripped off the woolies once we were anchored and had the heater going. Also you have to watch the fuel air mixture or you get a lot of soot on deck from the smoke stack. Finally, we used about 1 gallon per day of diesel to heat the boat during winter.
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Old 03-12-2022, 20:52   #9
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

Others have recommended closed-cell foam sheets, and I do too. However, if you're desperate right now and just want a quick fix, carpet is better than nothing and is very quick and easy to work with. It can be glued in place with temporary spray-adhesive, stapled, or fixed more permanently with contact cement. It's not as good as a proper job with foam but it will really help if you need something asap.
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Old 04-12-2022, 12:05   #10
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

Build an insulated "coat" to drape over the outside of the boat for the winter??
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Old 04-12-2022, 13:02   #11
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

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Build an insulated "coat" to drape over the outside of the boat for the winter??
Well Raymond, I guess yours was a tongue in cheek comment. but just in case you were serious.
  1. The "coat" would be cumbersome to take off and put on. (remember the OP live in a place where sailing is done year 'round and as owners of a ex-racing boat they like sailing and would likely wish to take it out even in winter, which means removing the "coat")
  2. No serious sailor wants to hibernate like a bear all winter
  3. Where would they store the "coat" when it wasn't needed?
  4. The "coat" would be heavy and difficult to clean

Seattle is a wonderful place for winter time sailing; crystal clean and sparkling blue waters positioned between two high and rugged mountain ranges covered in tall evergreen forests which even during these days of climate change are snow covered all winter. It is a drop dead gorgeous place to sail. There a snug harbors everywhere with safe, deep anchorages.

Nobody puts their boats away for the winter in Seattle.
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Old 04-12-2022, 13:09   #12
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

Hello, Morgali,

The first thing we did was to get double stick tape, and clear vinyl, and attach the vinyl over the inside of the hatches, and ports, so we stopped losing heat from there. Jim also make a foam insert for the companionway duckboards. This helped. It was very inexpensive and in obtrusive. It also lets the light in, which we prefer.

If you are in a marina, for the power, you can run a de-humidifier, set it up to passively drain out the sink. Pete7 posted one that is small.* The one we found here where we are is about twice that size, and requires emptying. The de-humidifier really kept down the mold, because we exhale so much steam that it became like a rain-forest below, with the only thing to do to fight it to mop it down with towels each day. [Our first winter here, the condensed water ran down the inside of the hull, and into the bunk cushions--mildew city! Not fun.

If you can acclimatize your bodies to the cold, you don't have to bundle up so much, and if you could leave air circulating throughout the boat, you might not need the de-humidifier.

It's really tricky, because the warmer you make the boat, the more water the air absorbs, and that is why the de-humidifier helps with the rain forest.

You need to insulate under the deck, and cabin top, too. So do we, and we have not. In our case, it is a timber deck and the ceiling is bonded to it. It's all structural. We'd have to bond closed cell foam to the overhead, and that would ruin it's appearance, and that isn't going to happen. If you do decide to do it, you can buy closed cell foam from foam stores, cut it with a bread knife to the shapes you need, and use contact cement to put it up. You could probably glue your overhead slats to that. If necessary, paint the foam between the slats. Same for the hull liner. Contact cement and closed cell foam, and bond the slats to the foam.

A side benefit of all this insulation will be that the boat becomes more quiet, less of a drum, in the heavy rainfalls.

A downside is that even foam has weight, and it would be a permanent addition if you use glue. I'm wondering whether you could cut foam backing for your decorative slats? and then use longer screws up into the overhead and along the inside of the hull? The foam needs to contact the hull surface to work properly as an insulator.

You'll want to place the insulating material along the outsides of the cupboards and lockers, deck to waterline, as well. It is a huge job. Living aboard, it is going to be really hard. The previous owner of our boat sprayed in closed cell foam under the headliner under the deck forward, and also in the head.

We continue to shower aboard in the winter, but, we crack open the port and the steam goes out the port, and we wipe down the shower with a towel, afterwards, too. Have to wait for a dry day for that, but there are "eyebrows" for ports, that help keep out the rain or snow.

Good luck with it. We are in Tasmania at roughly 43 d. 12 min S/147 d 05 ' E, and in winter have frontal passages about every 3 days. Spring is blustery. Had a snowfall below 1000 m. 3 weeks ago. You're a little farther north than we are south.

Ann

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* A CF Custom Google Search on Pete7 + dehumidifier should get you to his post.
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Old 04-12-2022, 13:57   #13
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

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Originally Posted by JPA Cate View Post
...We continue to shower aboard in the winter, but, we crack open the port and the steam goes out the port, and we wipe down the shower with a towel, afterwards, too. Have to wait for a dry day for that, but there are "eyebrows" for ports, that help keep out the rain or snow...
There were occasions when Judy would find an excuse to visit Florida during periods of abnormal cold in Seattle.

I recall one time when she left for a week and I was still on the boat. I went into the cold bow where the shower was and started my shower one morning and was shocked to find a 12" icicle hanging down from the hatch frame. Dang that Judy for running away.
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Old 04-12-2022, 15:32   #14
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

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Well Raymond, I guess yours was a tongue in cheek comment. but just in case you were serious.
  1. The "coat" would be cumbersome to take off and put on. (remember the OP live in a place where sailing is done year 'round and as owners of a ex-racing boat they like sailing and would likely wish to take it out even in winter, which means removing the "coat")
  2. No serious sailor wants to hibernate like a bear all winter
  3. Where would they store the "coat" when it wasn't needed?
  4. The "coat" would be heavy and difficult to clean

Seattle is a wonderful place for winter time sailing; crystal clean and sparkling blue waters positioned between two high and rugged mountain ranges covered in tall evergreen forests which even during these days of climate change are snow covered all winter. It is a drop dead gorgeous place to sail. There a snug harbors everywhere with safe, deep anchorages.

Nobody puts their boats away for the winter in Seattle.
Make it in sections out of felt like the Mongolian nomadic herdsmen do for their Yerts and throw it into the back of the ute to store it ??

Down here in the southern hemisphere I just drop the mooring, go down the river and head north towards the equator for 900 or so nautical miles. Works great for staying warm.
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Old 04-12-2022, 15:56   #15
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Re: Insulating a 40' 1980 fiberglass racer for living aboard?

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Make it in sections out of felt like the Mongolian nomadic herdsmen do for their Yerts and throw it into the back of the ute to store it ??

Down here in the southern hemisphere I just drop the mooring, go down the river and head north towards the equator for 900 or so nautical miles. Works great for staying warm.
Well, we did something similar. We went south until the butter melted then turned west and stayed in that latitude for the better part of 26 years. But that trick does not work for people who live in cold latitudes and still have to go to work every day.

I still reject your felt yurt cover idea, not practical for anyone who sails their boat every week or so all winter long. Plus, doesn't felt soak up water, as in rain? I think it would get heavy. They are in Seattle, remember.

Ute? Nope, I have a nice 4 door luxury sedan.
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