A common question I get asked is how the boat will fare during the snow. Quite well actually, it's the ice that concerns me!
Snow blows off the deck almost as quickly as it lands. Snow storms are usually accompanied by strong winds that keep the decks clear. If there is no wind, the snow will pile up evenly, and then blow off with the next wind. Ice on the other hand is a concern to me, it will build up on all exposed surfaces and add considerable weight.
Ice will build on all surfaces, adding weight aloft and creating slick surfaces that are hard to walk on. This is where having sea worthy deck features pay huge dividends. On deck we have jacklines, hand holds, lifelines, and foot chocks to keep us from slipping and falling overboard. I wish we had bulwarks, but we don't, a small toe rail is all we have as our last line of defense on or canted deck.
The short trip from the cockpit to the gate may seem risky, but then you have to contend with walking the plank. Literally! The gangplank also suffers from ice buildup and the grain in the wood offers zero traction as you try to reach the pier. This is where the ratbars shine!
Ratbars are the horizontal wooden bars on the gangplank that offer a positive stop to your foot. They are also used on lower shrouds to help you climb the mast to check for coral reefs and other obstructions (When they are made out of rope in the rigging, they are called ratlines). Ratbars will stop your foot from sliding down the gangplank, but you need to be certain that your foot is securely planted before you place your weight on it.
Once on the pier, the ice presents a slippery path to shore. Walking in the middle of the pier on the nails heads will provide some traction in this situation. You will find a better foot hold if there is snow on the pier as well. You can see the foot prints in the snow running down the center of the pier, as this is the safest way to traverse this type of terrain.
When it snows, Maddie and I like to go out and play in the fresh powder with Morty. When it sleets or rains, turning to ice, we avoid going outside as much as possible. If you are considering living aboard and wondering how it will be in the winters, just remember that we all get used to it.
My first winter aboard was an interesting one. I grew up in Puerto Rico where it was eternal summer. I moved to Maryland for Dental School and never experienced the snow because I was locked inside a building for 4 years studying. Then I graduated and was free! Living on a boat made the seasons even more apparent. There was no air conditioning or heat when I bought Wisdom, so I had to go adding the necessary heating systems as the seasons got colder. It started out with the baseboard heaters, followed by the space heaters, and lastly the diesel fireplace.
Being prepared to accept the varied weather conditions is a must when transitioning to life aboard. Simply be careful and think ahead when you encounter a new weather conditions. After a while, walking on an ice covered pier or snow covered deck will seem like a normal part of life. It might seem insane to walk out to a boat in those conditions, but in time it will become the norm and you won't think anything of it. This is when life aboard really shines, you experience all of the benefits without letting any perceived negatives bring you down!