On-deck comfort is important, but eventually night falls and we retreat to the cabin, and in the winter, nights are long. Even the most glorious spring and fall sailing days come hand in hand with cool nights. There is no reason they can't be spent in comfort, like an evening in a quiet cabin.
56. Dickenson P9000 Propane Bulkhead Heater. The live aboard is going to be happier with forced air heat and a thermostat. But for those of us using heat for a few evenings in the winter and to stretch the spring/fall seasons, a propane fireplace is all you need.
Yes, you need leak sensors, a propane locker, and careful installation, but this one is pretty simple, well within the DIY catagory. It is also just as energy efficient as installed furnaces, thanks to a double-pipe flue that preheats the combustion air, and it's just as safe, since the unit is completely sealed, preventing carbon monoxide from entering the cabin. Locate a small fan nearby to spread the heat, and you'll have a very cozy cabin.
Please just forget everything you've heard about flower pots over burners. That is thermodynamicly and chemically provable as nothing more than wishful thinking, and dangerously erroneous logic. Exactly the same number of BTUs are going into the cabin as with the burner on, with potentially higher carbon monoxide emissions than a naked flame (because of the relatively cool pot surface. The burner can consume the oxygen in the cabin in a matter of minutes, after which carbon monoxide production soars and the floor comes up to hit you in the face. The same goes for small fired lamps and candles. Every bit of pollutant is going into the cabin air which you are breathing. Yes you can ventilate, but then you need more heat. In my opinion, ventless heaters in general are a dangerous, awful product catagory. I'd rather wear more clothes, just like tent camping.
I'm working on a simple solution for stove top heating that vents the exhaust from the cabin, something like the Dickenson Cozy Cabin heater. Look for a post this winter.
57. Electric Blankets. The first assumption is that the power draw will flatten the batteries, but upon closer examination, the typical 50-100 watts is not that much for a large battery bank. If used primarily to pre-heat the bunk, and then turned off or way down, the over night draw might be 30-50 amp-hours. Personally, I like sleeping under a mass of quilts, pressed down into the mattress. But this is worth consideration, particularly if one of your party is cold blooded and you have a heafty battery bank.
58. Insulated Window Covers. I've seen all manner of quilted covers, but there are two simple solutions that really work.
- Bubble Wrap. Just spray the inside of the window with water and apply. Static cling will hold it all winter. I wouldn't have believed it, but it works. It does look rather Hoverville, but it works and it lets light in.
- Closed Cell Foam. My favorite source is cheap yoga mats. Cut to shape, make Velcro buttons to hold it in place, and reduce the heat loss by half.
59. Double Glazing for Windows. If the window has a removable bug screen, you can make a storm window for it in minutes. Just cut a rectangle from 1/8-inch polycarbonate and round the corners to fit. This will eliminate condensation (there is a dripper over every bunk) and retain more heat than you would think. and I'd love to provide a spoiler, but the editors would yell at me. See the upcoming article in Good Old Boat Magazine.
60. Towel Hot Dogs. Cold air leaks around companionway sliders are nearly universal. Slice an old towel into 6-10" strips and sew these into rolls. Stuff them in the cracks. Keeps bugs out too.
61. Carpet. The simplest of all. The cabin sole is cold, adjoining the unheated bilge space. Carpet protects the varnished sole while adding important insulation.
62. IR Thermometer. These have come down so far in price (as low as $10, but not the Fluke units) I know consider them to be must-have tools. Uses include checking the oven temperature, monitoring engine and cooling water temperatures, looking for drafts and poorly insulated spots at home, and checking your boat for drafts and cold spots. The first time you spot something at home it is paid for 10 times over in saved heat. The boat applications are free!Just scan inside the boat, note any cold spots, and then do something about it.
63. Shoveling Snow at Home. You should also prepare on the home front. While this thrifty sailor has gone with a bottom shelf brew, I would suggested a stout with a higher alcohol content (to prevent freezing). No bottles--they may burst.
All kidding aside, a plastic shovel is handy on a boat, and never, ever touch soft vinyl windows below 50F (they will crack--below zero they shatter like glass), and thaw frosty decks with un-heated seawater.