Heat During the Winter

When patients find out I live on a sailboat, one of the first questions I get is: "How do you stay warm in the winter?" Once again, I feel they think I live in this:

So how do we keep warm in the winter? We turn on the heat!

On board Wisdom, we have four different heat sources.

Heat Pump (through the reverse cycle air conditioner)
Hydronic Baseboards
Electric Space Heaters
Diesel Fireplace

The heat pump is the easiest to use, it runs all the time as long as the water temperature is warm enough. It cools the raw water that the boat floats in to heat the air in the boat. This works for a while, but when the water gets too cold (like it is right now), we switch it off and rely on our other heat sources.

The hydronic baseboards provide a surprising amount of heat. They are plumbed to a circulation pump that flows water from the water heater in a circuit. This draws water from the water heater through the baseboards and then returns it to the water heater to be warmed once more. I have the water heater set to 180F to provide enough heat for the baseboards. The baseboards location is critical, as it greatly affects their efficiency. One is located in the salon, the other by the V Berth in the bow. These provide safe heat that we can leave on when we leave the boat for the day, keeping the boat above freezing while we are away. These provide heat, but only while we are plugged into shore power. 

Our next line of defense against the cold is our electric space heaters. We carry two on board Wisdom, since electronics tend to fail when you need them most. One is from Walmart and cranks out some serious heat, the other is "The Cube" from West Marine and will make your skin burn if you are too close to it! These electric space heaters can help heat a small space, but they struggle to heat the whole boat, especially on windy days.

Our last, and most effective source of heat is our Dickinson diesel heater. We have the Newport, bulkhead mounted model. It has a 3 inch chimney running right through the deck to vent out its exhaust. When it is burning properly, there is little to no soot and it provides plenty of heat. It is fed via gravity tank which will keep it fed and burning for over a day. 

We usually keep the air conditioner set to 70F during the winter, which keeps the boat nice and comfortable. The diesel is not as easy to regulate temperature since its settings correspond to how much fuel flows through it. When it's burning, the whole boat will stay in the temperature range of 80F to 90F, even on the coldest of days.

There is nothing better than being cozy and warm in a boat during the coldest of days.