Friday, February 7, 2014

How We Stay Warm On These Cold Winter Nights

- Jeff's post.
Ice on the inside of the chart-house.

While I know it's worse elsewhere in the country (which is one of the reasons we live in the Northwest), winter is here in Bellingham for the second time this year.  Winter means a switch from the warmer south winds to NNE howls coming down off the Fraser River in B.C.  Typically the skies will clear up, we'll get 30 knot winds (gusting higher) and the temperatures will drop into the high 20's during the day and the teens at night.  Usually this lasts for a week or so and then we resume the normal low 40's, clouds and rain.

We just returned from a school meeting tonight and one of the parents I was talking to asked us how we stay warm onboard.  This is actually one of the most common questions we receive in the winter.  I must say our first season onboard was quite an eye opener about the lifestyle change we'd just made.  Since then we've learned, rebuilt, adapted and stay quite comfortable now.  I will confess that one of my favorite parts of living aboard is being closer to the environment around us.  As such, we are very good about wearing sweaters when it's cold, rather than turning the heat up.

The first component is our trusty woodstove.  It's a vintage Lange Svendborg that was in the boat when we bought her.  In fact, for the seatrials at purchase, Doug had fired up the stove and warmed the salon, which almost in and of itself clinched the deal!  We use the compressed sawdust Prest-logs, which I break into thirds to fit in the stove.  Along with scrapwood from the shop, it's very economical to fire and I can get the salon to tee shirt temps when it's 20 degrees outside.  

Kwaietek's Calcifer
We use the Prest-logs specifically because they have no wax in them, only compressed  wood.  They split really easily and leave little "sawdust".  Our first season we were using recycled coffee logs that we'd found at a local store, thinking they were pretty cool.  Then our friend and neighbor came over, asking what we were burning, as it was leaving a waxy residue all over his boat.  Needless to say, we discontinued the coffee logs!
Last summer I tore out the locker behind the stove and removed all the tile surround.  After building a new locker and cabinet I built a new hearth for the stove.  We had gathered smooth beach stones on various trips and I tiled the hearth with them.  The surround was finished with a new sandstone colored tile.  Included in the field are two handmade accent tiles that Chris had found days after we'd made our original offer on Kwaietek and we'd been saving for this project.  All that is left is to replace the cracked window behind the stove and this corner will be finished.

Miyazaki's Calcifer
Oh, the woodstove has been named "Calcifer", after the flame that powered Howl's Moving Castle in Hayao Miyazaki's movie.  Juliet's contribution.

Down below in the galley is our 1940's vintage Vanco diesel cook stove.  Three months after moving aboard I spent a long couple of days cleaning the stove out, replacing fuel lines and filters and trying to clean the stove's fuel tank in the lazarette.  We were in Seattle for the Christmas season and I must have walked to The Evil Empire (West Marine) a half dozen times for more fittings or fuel line.  I finally got the stove lit and it runs constantly now.  Since I lit up the stove in 2010, it has been cold for less than a total of three months.  Day and night, summer and winter, the cook stove is on.   It's always ready for baking or cooking, although we do supplement with propane cook top. The warming oven keeps crackers and chips warm and dry, never going stale.  We also kept all of our cast iron cookware from the house and the stove keeps it warm and rust free.  

Attached to the stove is the brass hot water tank.   A heating coil in the stove provides our domestic hot water (and hot it is), thus the reason we leave the stove running continuously.  In the summertime, we have the ports and aft scuttle open and have never experienced the galley being too warm.  In the winter, it's great to wake up, walk aft and open the oven door.  It's the warmest place to get dressed!  We also leave a tea kettle sitting on the stove top,   Placed properly, the water is just at boiling in the morning.  Just put coffee in the french press and the water is ready to go!  Next fall when I rebuild the galley the stove will get a complete overhaul and be ready for another fifty years of service.  We burn just over a gallon of fuel a day, a better burn rate than I can find for any new diesel heater. 

The Arkenstove heating water for coffee today.
The cook stove in 1943.

We have a habit of naming inanimate objects.
"Calcifer" was named before we even owned Kwaietek, but it took us three years to finally name the galley stove.  The day we saw the first Hobbit movie I realized that this stove was really the heart of the boat, so I started to call it the "Arkenstove".   (Yes, I'm that much of a geek).

Restored boiler waiting to be connected.
Radiator in forward stateroom.

 The last component of heat is still in progress.  When we purchased Kwaietek, there was a radiant hot water heat system in place.  The system was old and in need of attention, but basically sound.  I've been removing components and restoring them, slowly rebuilding the system.  Right now I'm waiting on three circulation pumps to arrive and then I can complete the installation.  When complete I'm sure there will be a blog post on this system.  In the meantime, the oil-electric space heaters do the job.

 So there it is.   Yes, we stay warm.  No, it's not always as warm as living in a house.  Occasionally we have to scrape ice off the ports.   We do keep warm blankets on the bunks.  We certainly wear our sweaters and warm socks. Interestingly enough, as the temperature climbs into the 50's we feel we don't need the heaters on anymore.  Once it reaches the 60's, we've got the ports open and we're airing the boat out.  

I do enjoy being as close as we are to our environment here in the marina,  but I will confess that I'm looking forward to taking Sugaree to a more temperate winter climate in a few years!

~ Jeff