Surviving Winter Aboard

Author:
Updated:
Original:
Despite the quiet, this marina is home to a couple of dozen winter liveaboards

Despite the quiet, this marina is home to a couple of dozen winter liveaboards

Living aboard has its challenges, whether you do it full-time or part-time in the Caribbean or the North Pole—which, I imagine, is not too different from living aboard through a Boston winter.

I’ve lived aboard through two New England winters. The first, the notorious winter of 2014-15, was a tremendous learning experience. The conditions were extremely harsh, my boyfriend, Phil, and I were new to the liveaboard scene, and the boat belonged to someone else. (We were caretakers for a family that traveled to Costa Rica.) Plenty of things went wrong, but we learned a lot and developed a newfound appreciation for a lifestyle we would come to adopt permanently. Now, going into our third winter afloat, we’re finally starting to feel prepared.

The first thing we think about each fall is which shipyard or marina we will call home for the next six months. A lot of factors come into play when we make this decision. First, be sure to figure out the cost of electricity. Check the marina’s metered rate, or you might be signing up for a warm but expensive season, especially if you run electric heaters. We’ve seen everything from 15 cents a kilowatt hour to 32 cents a kilowatt hour.

Then there’s the water situation. That first winter, after finding out the water lines were frozen while going to fill our then empty tanks, we spent the next two months washing our dishes in the bath house, brushing our teeth with bottled water and using a lot of hand sanitizer. Check to see if your marina has winter water at the dock and if it’s available at every slip. If you can hook your boat up to shore water you will be saving yourself a lot of time and energy. It will also help prevent wear and tear on your water pump, and save you the trouble of having to monitor and refill your water tanks throughout the season. Pro-tip: invest in a heated hose to help keep the water from freezing.

Speaking of heat, keeping your boat warm and dry is vital. One of the first things we did was add insulation, installing a mix of spray foam and Reflectix on the hull sides in the V-berth. It made a noticeable difference. You’ll also want to find a relatively affordable, safe and efficient heat source. I would recommend a diesel heater. Some of the better-known brands include Webasto, Espar and Dickenson. Webasto just came out with a new Air Top Evo line, which looks promising, with a fuel pump redesign and an upgraded control system. You may also want to consider a hydronic system instead of forced air, although the installation is more complicated.

The diesel heater has been great, but making sure we had enough diesel on board to run it has not. After learning this the hard way, we now keep jerry cans of diesel on board and make sure our tanks are topped off going into the season. Lugging heavy containers of diesel from the gas station to the car to the boat in the snow was not fun.

A final note regarding diesel heaters—make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors on board. We use Nest Protect, which we love. We are also installing an additional CO detector that has an automatic generator shutdown, which Phil is adapting to work with the diesel heater. A good detector is great for peace of mind and will help keep you and your neighbors safe.

Something else you can do to keep yourself and your neighbors safe is overhaul your shore power. Inspect all of your boat’s AC cabling, be on the lookout for undersized cable and make sure everything is on appropriately sized breakers. We went as far as changing our shore power inlets to the Smartplug.

Then there is the question of shrink-wrapping. Not everyone shrink-wraps every winter, especially those hardcore sailors who want to be able to get out when there’s good wind, even if the temperature is 25F. That said, shrink-wrapping allows us to work on deck during the colder months, and provides another level of both storage space and personal space. Of course, it also helps protect the boat from winter weather. If you live aboard I’d advise going with clear shrink-wrap, so you can get as much sunlight as possible and feel connected to the outside world.

Finally, be aware that living aboard in winter can be isolating. When it’s cold outside it can be easy to come up with excuses to stay on your boat. Make friends. Don’t be afraid to knock on your neighbor’s boat. Look out for each other. Sometimes the community in the marina is hidden in the winter, and you have to go find it. It may be so hidden that you don’t think it exists, but trust me, it’s there. Somewhere, on someone’s boat under the shrink-wrap a bunch of liveaboards are drinking rum and watching “Captain Ron” during the first big snowstorm, and you don’t want to miss out. 

November 2016

Related

e60aa842-1c3c-41da-b0ba-dfd7678479e4

The New York Yacht Club Submits a Protocol Alteration with its America’s Cup Challenge

The New York Yacht Club (NYYC) has submitted a challenge for the 37th America’s Cup to the current Defender, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) in Auckland, New Zealand. The challenge was accompanied by a draft protocol for the regatta, which would see the Cup take ...read more

01-LEAD-CCA-Antarctica2-01

Cruising: Honoring Remarkable Ocean Voyages and Seamanship

The Cruising Club of America, an organization of about 1,300 offshore sailors, has been honoring remarkable ocean voyages and seamanship with an array of prestigious awards for nearly 100 years. The club’s highest honor, the Blue Water Medal, has recognized renowned and ...read more

2.4mR's racing at the 2018 Clagett Regatta-US Para Sailing Championships credit Clagett Regatta-Andes Visual

Host for 2021 U.S. Para Sailing Championships Announced

The 2021 U.S. Para Sailing Championships will be hosted by The Clagett Regatta at Sail Newport, in Newport, R.I. on August, 24-29, 2021, according to a joint announcement from the host and US Sailing. "We have had a very long working relationship with US Sailing and look forward ...read more

Reflections-photo-CMerwarth

Cruising: Reflections of an Old Salt

I am 90 years old, dwindling in mind and body and fear living too long. Twenty years have passed since I last weighed anchor. Still, when a Carolina blue sky is polka-dotted with billowing cumulus clouds and the wind blows fair, I sorely miss raising sail and setting forth. I ...read more

DSC_0145

Waterlines: Solo Sailing

In spite of the fact I came to the sport of sailing alone and untutored, in a boat I acquired on my own, I never really aspired to become a solo sailor. It just sort of happened. All these years later, I still never explicitly plan to sail anywhere alone. I’m always happy to ...read more

01a-DJI_0398

Racing The M32 Class

This year the M32 celebrates its 10th birthday. Swedish Olympic bronze medalist Göran Marström and Kåre Ljung designed the M32 in 2011 as the latest addition to an already impressive portfolio that includes the Tornado, M5 A-Class, M20 catamaran and the Extreme 40. Two years ...read more

01-LEAD-23274-Coastal-Oilskins-GSP

Know how: Cleats, Clutches and Jammers

Since the invention of rope, there has also been a need to belay or secure it. Every sailboat has rope on board so, unless you own a superyacht with captive reels or winches, you’re going to have to find a way to make it fast. (As a side note—and before you reach for your ...read more

9e4d8714-2a8e-4e79-b8f6-c9786aaec4d0

Antigua Sailing Week Announces Women’s Mentorship Program

In partnership with the Antigua and Barbuda Marine Association, Antigua Sailing Week is launching a mentorship program to encourage women and girls to join the sport of sailing. President of Antigua Sailing Week, Alison Sly-Adams says, “When we devised the program, we looked at ...read more