Sunday, January 3, 2016

Living Aboard in the Winter

--Blogpost written by Bob

On the mid-Atlantic coast of the U.S. cold weather has just arrived--it will be 19 degrees F tomorrow night.  The past few nights have been below freezing.  Up until now we have been heating our boat with the reverse-cycle air conditioner on heat pump mode.  As the outside water temperature drops below 40 degrees F (it is still 49 degrees F in the Potapsco River), the heat pump will become ineffective and we must switch to using oil-filled radiators for our base heat, supplemented at times by our propane fireplace.

The weather forecast for this week

Today, I winterized the engine, the air conditioner system and the deck wash system.  I have never winterized so late in the season--usually, I do it on Thanksgiving weekend.  Hopefully, this will be the last time I will be winterizing our boat for quite a while.

Living aboard in cold weather is challenging for three primary reasons: condensation, cold floor, and cabin fever--the big three C's.


At places where there is an interface between the warm air inside the boat and the cold air outside the boat (like hatch frames) condensation occurs.  The condensation drip from the inside of the hatch in the v-berth onto my head during the night like Chinese water torture.

This photograph shows how much condensation was on the
inside of our v-berth hatch this morning.

As Maggie says "Everything gets drippy!"  Condensation occurs in many areas where there is little or no internal air flow, like inside cabinets, under the v-berth mattress, and under stacks of clean clothes that lie against the hull.

Any type of (unvented) combustion, such as cooking with propane, increases the condensation.  Because the propane fireplace exhausts to the outside, it does not add much to the condensation problem.

Cold Floor

The floor in a sailboat (the "cabin sole") is below the waterline and the cold water outside the hull acts like a huge heat sink.  As the boat is heated internally, the heat rises to the top of the cabin, leaving the floors cold.  The only remedy we have found for this is the use of throw rugs in the main cabin.

The sides of the v-berth become cold areas in the winter too, though not quite as bad as the floor.  To combat this, we use a heated mattress pad--it is heavenly to climb into a heated bed at night!

Cabin Fever

For me, this is the worst of the three primary problems of living aboard in the winter.  Our boat's internal living area is about 200 square feet, qualifying as a "tiny house."  Unlike the summer when all of the outdoors is our living area, in the winter we are confined.  Due to the shortened daylight hours and the cold weather, our normal outdoor activities, including boat projects, are curtailed.

One of my remedies for cabin fever this year involves a week in Miami Beach
for the boat show in mid-February.  Cabin Fever is such a serious problem I
will be devoting a future blogpost to this subject.


If our blogposts start sounding a little crazy, you have to realize that cabin fever is probably getting severe.  On the bright side, our refrigeration requires less power and just think, only 77 days until Spring!

Thanks for following our blog!

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