Thursday, January 10, 2013


December is the darkest month, so we have to make our own light and warmth.  And I love love LOVE the madcap swirl of holiday parties, sparkle and lights, reconnecting with friends that we let slip a bit, good cheer and the relaxed mood at the office.  Looking at our December calendar, there aren't very many days here that don't have something to do written on them!
And for us the party season continues through early January, with our anniversary on New Year's Eve and Dan's birthday on the 9th.  But now, even I've had enough.  Time to slow down the pace, hunker down with just the two of us, and hibernate.  
I'm looking forward to the (relative) quiet.  

We're staying in Annapolis for the first winter we'll experience since 2008.  And the first question people ask us when they learn we live on a boat and will live on it through the winter is what do we do about heat.  Um, the same thing you do - we turn up the thermostat.  Sort of.  When we're at the dock, our primary heat/cooling is a heat pump.  When it's in "heat" mode, it sucks water in, extracts some of the heat that's in the water to warm the room air, and then discharges that water, chemically unchanged but 5-10 degrees colder than it was when it came in.  Well, guess what?  If the water coming in is only 40 degrees (as it was at Thomas Point buoy yesterday) and it discharges 5-10 degrees colder, we could be trying to discharge ice cubes.  That isn't going to work, obviously, so our heat pump is shut down for the season.  Instead, we use electric space heaters (those oil-filled things that look like an old-fashioned radiator) and the built-in diesel heater that we generally use at anchor.  Besides, as the previous owners pointed out as they were explaining some of the features of the boat, "The heat pump is really meant primarily for air conditioning and to take the chill off an occasional morning, not to run full-time heat all winter long.  What would you rather put the wear and tear on and have to replace sooner - the $1000 marine-grade built-in heat pump, or a $20 electric space heater from Home Depot?" In addition, our boat does not have an insulating liner so it could get c-c-c-cold in here and the system have to work even harder.

Living on the water is a humid environment to start with.  Put two people aboard, breathing and taking showers, and we're adding humidity to the air.  One of our favorite hunker-down activities, cooking soups and stews, adds even more humidity.  And we can't open the hatches to let out the moist air - it's cold out there!  So to avoid living in a chilly rain forest we've added a room-size dehumidifier.  Bonus - it produces waste heat which helps keep us both warmer and drier.

Our biggest winter concern of course is getting a load of snow on the deck.  We've also had to prepare the boat in a way that we haven't for several years.  The heat leaking through the uninsulated deck could melt that snow, then let it refreeze to ice, or sit on the deck for long enough to leak through the fittings into our living space below.  So we've encased the boat in a bubble of white plastic shrink wrap.  It will help shed snow and keep us just a little warmer.  On sunny days the little insulating bubble soaks up solar gain and makes almost an extra room outdoors, mitigating our tendency to get cabin fever cooped up below for months.  What I find niftiest of all, though, is the way the boat looks in the shrinkwrap - exactly like a cocoon, perfectly in accord with my "hibernation" theme for the month.  
All tucked in for the winter.  This isn't our boat; it belongs to a dock -neighbor.
Due to the orientation of our slip, I couldn't get an uncluttered photo of ours, but we're using the same plastic.
Ours has a bit more visibility at the stern, clear plastic there in the cockpit.  Note the zipper flap "door."

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