Another view of full-timing in winter-long! - Fiberglass RV

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Old 12-07-2002, 12:07 PM   #1
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Another view of full-timing in winter-long!

Excerpted from the Internet below.

Pete and Rats

LiveAboard Magazine & Marine Chandlery

Living With Winter

The following is a compilation of various letters from boaters and how they have dealt with the problems of winter condensation and heat.

I have been interested in the current letters concerning keeping warm in the winter.

Having spent 11 years aboard various boats I did find that warmth is of primary

importance in the cold winter months in any part of the country.

I found that small wood heaters are available for boats and produce a wonderful dry

heat. In fact the one I had required a kettle of water on top to add humidity. I can still

remember the winter storm in 1982 when the snow was piling up and I was walking

around inside in a pair of shorts and "T"shirt. You get some strange looks from

people passing by during such times. The particular stove we had would accept a

lump of coal for keeping the fire going all night.

Still available in many areas are the CAT heaters that use propane and are very

effective in small spaces. We heated our Columbia 34 quite nicely with our

thremostatically controlled CAT heater.

One last thing to remember for those electric heater folks. Keep the air moving. If

possible leave windows or hatches open a little for good air movement. This will aid

in keeping mildew and condesation to a minimum. Here's wishing you all warm

evenings and toasty mornings durning the next couple of months. Gentle breezes...

Ric Whitson

One of our readers wrote with some questions. He was wondering where in the boat

the dehumidifiers were placed and where he could purchase the 3/4" closed cell

foam used to insulate the boat.

The closed cell foam is available through Tacoma Foam Rubber in Tacoma,

Washington. They get their rubber in approximately 4 foot by 8 foot by 3 foot

bisquits. They then cut it into any size or shape desired. I have had matresses and

cushions custom cut and laminated by them and they matched the template perfectly

on odd shaped pieces. The closed cell foam as I recall was a layer of 1/2" with a

1/4" layer laminated to it.

One side had white vinyl on it and we used it for the finished side and used contact

cement to glue the rubber faced side directly to the fiberglass hull. We cut out the

exact size (or as close as possible) to fit in closets and cabinets. We then used duct

tape on the edges to seal out moisture. Anyplace the warm air can contact the cold

hull there will be frost and/or dew. We also covered the through hull bolts from our

sail rigging. It had been in the sailboat for about 9 years when the boat burned out

from under us and was working beautifully.

The only thing I had to do in those 9 years is replace a piece of duct tape

occasionally. As per the dehumidifiers, it doesn't really matter too much where you

put them as they have fans that circulate the air and relative humidity disburses

throughout the boat and eventually evens out as does temperatures if the air is kept

moving. I have 2 on my current vessel and turn the one closest to the source of

humidity on. If I am cooking a big pot of pasta I turn the one in the galley on. I usually

turn the one on in the stateroom as it is closest to the shower.

We have not had any snow in Petersburg, Alaska yet this year (yes you read it

correctly and it is true) but the temperature is hovering in the 20's and teens with the

clear skies. 2 nights ago I cooked up some linguine and noticed the galley window

starting to fog up. I turned the dehumidifier on until I sat down to eat and the windows

were then clear. I haven't turned either on since. My boat is now 72 degrees with

about 30% humidity. If there are any other questions, feel free to contact me and you

may give out my address to other boaters. My present boat was purchased in Fort

Myers Fla. and brought to Alaska via Panama. I do not consider myself an authority

on tropical sailing. I do however know how to survive in Alaska and cruising in the

Temperate rain forest. I would be happy to help anyone planning a trip to Alaska.


Dean Andreasen

Battling Condensation

Some time ago I posted a long 'discussion' on condensation aboard and various

ways to deal with it. Since then I've gotten some mail that points out an interesting

fact. You can have relatively dry air and still have a water condensation problem

(and a dehumidifier, heater and ventilation might not help).

The cause is, again, cold surfaces, such as fiberglass hulls and windows. Example,

we live aboard a 40 foot sailboat, have a dehumidifier, heat the air, and have

reasonable ventilation. BUT, the warm air holds more moisture than cold. The

dehumidifier can remove significant amounts of moisture from the air, but to live in

the air we breath, you still need about 50/60% relative humidity or you get bloody

noses from the dry air and the wood on you boat (joinery) will start to separate. What

happens is that the warm air comes into contact with the cold surface and the

moisture condenses out (the temp is below the dew-point for the air and the

moisture content). I've noticed pools of water forming in the bottoms of cabinets on

the shelving where it's run down and accumulated. The problem is severe where air

is trapped (poor ventilation) and where cushions and the like (books as well) come

into contact with the hull (bye bye books).

An obvious solution is to insulate the hull, adding (for instance) closed cell foam

insulation (like the 1/4" thick blue-board sold in Home-Depo) to the hull, but you've

got to glue it down firmly to prevent airflow behind. To add a nice touch, cut the foam

boards to fit first, then apply a nice fabric to the outside surface before using a good

contact cement to adhere the board to the hull surface. The problem here is that you

can't do this everywhere, so you've got to do what you can and run fans during the

day to dry up the accumulation of water before it gets to be a problem. Putting the

insulation between the hull and any cushions you *can't* move would be a minimum.

Drilling holes to add ventilation to cabinets against the hull that you don't want to

insulate might be another minimum stance to take. This is a passive ventilation and

may not gain you much, but if you can add a 'goldenrod' heater to the bottom of the

locker, the heat will rise and create a warm ventilation to help drive off moisture.

In a real cold snap, you will still have problems because of the cold hull and window

surfaces. You just have to live with it, dealing with it as much as possible and drying

out as often as the weather permits.

I'm not a rep for West Marine, but they sell an "Air Dryer" that runs off of 110. They

call it a dehumidifier but it's really just a low watt heater (less than an amp) with the

added feature of a fan to circulate the warmed air and can warm the air in closed

lockers, like under our aft cabin bunk for instance. They also sell the golden rod

things, but buying a lot of them can get costly at about $25 each (10-100 cu.ft.


I do not recommend the chemical dehumidifiers. Done it, been there, thrown away.

Still living aboard,

Darwin Boblet & Family

Dragon Lady

Originally posted December 15th, 1996

I read the article about damp boats and mildew with great interest. We live aboard a

50 foot aluminum trawler in a temperate rain forest in Southeast Alaska. We receive

in excess of 110 inches of rain per year and temperatures down to as low as minus

20 degrees. We have lived aboard for about 15 years now and we have no problem

with humidity inside the vessel. We do have to scrub some green off the deck in the

spring from the constant snow and rain, but no problem inside. This is our second

vessel we have lived aboard in Alaska.

The first was a 50 foot ketch of fiberglass construction. It was necessary to add 3/4

inch of closed cell foam to the inside of the hull inside all lockers. The foam has a

vinyl coating for easy cleaning of spills. We simply cut and glued it to the hull with

contact cement. We had a Webasto hot water furnace and a dehumidifier. The

water lines on the webasto ran entirely around the vessel through all lockers. We put

an extra coil in the towel locker so when we got out of the shower, our towels were

heated to 140 degrees. The boat kept itself at 72 degrees all winter. That boat

burned out from under us in the summer of 91.

We bought our current vessel in Florida and brought it to alaska via Panama in the

spring of 1992. We did have to install a heating system to go with its 3 air

conditioning units. We installed a Dickenson Antarctic free standing furnace. It was

a special order as we wanted 3 coils built inside it for hot water. We then installed a

Webasto hot water furnace and piggy backed it into the Dickenson. If the Dickenson

cannot keep up with the demand on cold winter nights, the Webasto kicks in and

runs for 5-10 minutes and brings the water up to 140 degrees. It then shuts down. 4

Red Dot units work on thermostats as needed.

We also added 2 dehumidifiers, although we only run 1 at a time. Our rule of thumb

is if we get out of a hot shower and there isn't any fog on the mirror, we turn the

dehumidifier off for two days. We then run it about 5-6 hours a day. We have never

had any problems with mildew in the boat. On the contrary, we often wake up with

dry or bloody noses as the boat gets too dry.

I can empathize with boaters with green shoes but feel there is no excuse for them

on a boat large enough for a dehumidifier. We have one bought from Sears before

they did away with their catalogue and one bought from J.C.Penny since. They are

not expensive but necessary for comfortable living on a boat.

As I write this I am looking out of a starboard window at a light drizzle. There is an

iceberg about 30 feet across against the next dock over from me and some smaller

ones drifting down the channel. There is a male Stellar Sea Lion (about 2,000

pounder) playing with a Dolly Varden about 100 feet away from us. He has been

feeding here for about an hour. I am sitting at my computer in 72 degrees and about

20 percent humidity.

Life is good.


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