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The Choice is Clear. -or- White Ain't Right.

We've talked a fair amount about what we do in winter to prepare Cygnet for the coldest months and to help keep us warm as the temperatures dip to inhumane levels.  When someone new hears about our lifestyle they still most often ask about what the winters are like, how it's possible to live on a boat through sub-zero temperatures.  If you're a regular reader you know a lot about how we prep and cope, but this year we did make some changes which have been good and bad.  One of the issues with preparing for the cold is we often can't change what we've done halfway through winter, the weather doesn't allow it.  For example the tape we use for closing off openings in the hull and for sealing up windows doesn't stick well when the temperature is below 50ºF (10ºC) and the nearly constant Chicago wind means removing or adding plastic sheets can be a challenge.

So what did we do different this year?  The number one difference is the plastic wrap on the outside of the boat.  In the past we've only used a translucent style of plastic that allows you to see colors, shapes, and your general surroundings.  It's not a clear plastic that is fully see-through but it does allow us to have a bit of a view with imagination.  What it also allows is sunshine.  When the sun is out on even the coldest of days the greenhouse effect caused by the clear plastic means a toasty interior of Cygnet.  We're often able to sit in T-shirts on the bow of the boat, under only the plastic.  It really helps to keep Cygnet (and us) warmer through the winter.  This year Kevin didn't contact the guys who do the wrap before the normal time.  He usually lets them know when we want the wrap put on and confirms they will be out.  This year it was something that slipped through the cracks and when they did get around to River City to do the work they only had opaque white plastic.  For boats that are stored on land, or "on the hard" in boat lingo, it's fine.  The white helps to keep the sun's rays off the wood, canvass, and other light sensitive areas.  White wrap means the boats are better protected and actually help to regulate the temperatures by not allowing the sun to penetrate as much and create wild swings in temperature inside.

Tightly wrapped, ours is the one on the right, the bridge makes everything easier.
What we've learned with the white wrap on for the last few weeks is that we just don't like it.  There are many reasons but it really comes down to two: we can't see and it's colder.  The white wrap covers all our windows so even the small porthole windows below the rub rail are blocked.  We can't wake up and look out to see if it rained or snowed.  When large boats go by and create a wake in our marina Kevin likes to stare off in the distance to lessen the effects of the motion and stave off brief seasickness.  But the white wrap makes that impossible. Sometimes we like to sit on the back deck and enjoy another part of the boat while having a "view" through the translucent plastic but the white makes it seem like we're inside a volleyball.

The heat is not as consistently warm.  It has only been a few mild weather weeks and we've been OK so far but the cold of January and February is about to hit. Already we've notice much less solar gain inside Cygnet on sunny days.  Over the holidays we were both home in the middle of a sunny day and sitting inside you'd hardly know the sun was shining, we had as much light as if a blanket of clouds were above us.  On rainy days we even turn on the lights just to see a bit better.  With the translucent plastic it used to be bright when the sun shone.

Will we survive it?  Certainly, and for two people like us who work a lot and are rarely home during the day we barely even notice most of the time.  At night we don't see outside much in winter anyway so it's not that big of a deal.  We are a bit worried about the warmth we'll lose from less sunshine entering the cabin, but we have a better heater situation this year that should help.  After replacing power inlets every winter we've been aboard (this is our fifth year) we decided to have all heat come from external sources.  We simply can't plug any heater into the boat's outlets.  In the past we did so on only the coldest nights and only ran those heaters on low but it's something we aren't going to do anymore.

The new solution involved running two 30A shorepower cords and two 15A construction gauge extension cords from two power pedestals into Cygnet. Originally we had a different plan that involved 50A cords but the marina changed our closest pedestal from a 50A and 30A combo outlet to two 30A and a 20A household style combo outlet.  Not sure why they did this, but we imagine it involves incompetence and thrift.  See the updates about the marina below.

Two 30A then get split to two 15A that run through a window, taped to seal.
As you can see from the photos we have a good solution that may not look pretty but seems to work well.  Each 30A cord is split to two 15A outlets meaning we can theoretically use all heaters on high at 1500 Watts each and still have power in reserve.  With 110 volt supply, which we usually can rely on, that's 13.6A per heater.  For safety we decided to limit ourselves to less.  Currently (pun intended) we have a heater in the forward stateroom that we'll run up to 1250 Watts (11.3A) and a heater in the galley that we'll run up to 1250 Watts (11.3A), or we'll use the full 1500 Watts in the galley if the forward stateroom heater is on low using 750 Watts (6.8A).  The forward stateroom is quite small and gets very warm on the lowest setting so it should be possible to run each of those on a single 30A circuit since we're technically using a maximum of 22.6A or 20.4A on the coldest nights.  Then we have a radiator style heater in the salon along with a fan style ceramic heater sitting in the salon but blowing toward the aft stateroom.  Again we have power to work with on these but we're limiting ourselves to the same split of power.   We prefer to keep things low and so far we haven't had to crank them up to test, but winter is a brutal season in Chicago and we'll find out soon if it works.

Additionally we ran two 15A cords through the vents to the engine room. One powers a heater set to keep the temperature about 50º in the engine room and one runs through the engine room and into the aft stateroom.  We figure we can run either one on high if needed in a pinch, but will only run the one in the stateroom on high on the coldest of nights.  The aft stateroom, where we sleep, is definitely the coldest room on the boat and even with two heaters we sometime struggle to keep it above 60ºF (15ºC) on the coldest nights.  With flannel sheets and snuggling we usually get through it, in fact some people like sleeping in 60º and we often had our entire house that chilly at night during the winter.

Cords run into the engine room, sealed by tape to keep the breeze at bay.
Enough of the heat, let's talk about the marina.  You think you got problems?  Recently we talked about the water and sewer issues we have a River City Marina and none of those have been rectified.  We're now over 70 days without a pumpout.  We've had two trucks come evacuate us and the marina did pay for a truck to come a week ago to pumpout everyone but it was rather inconvenient. Kevin had to take off work and pump out three other boats for owners who couldn't be there at that time.  Now, Kevin doesn't mind helping these friends out but it really shouldn't be his responsibility to shovel other people's shit.

We also still don't have fresh water.  The spigot we use on the building has been broken for over a month.  Now, dear reader, let us assure you this spigot breaks every year and it always takes this long to get the part.  Nobody at the marina has ever thought about keeping an extra spigot in stock for this not-uncommon situation.  Every time it is blamed on someone from the marina causing damage. For any spigot manufacturers out there who may be reading I implore you to make better spigots that can't be broken so easily.  It's usually the same old story from the marina management too, that the hose was left on the spigot and it froze.  But the weather was well above freezing when this failure occurred so that excuse isn't holding water.

Oh, and someone stole our dumpster.  Or at least that's what we were told when we alerted management to the fact it was gone.  We found out the garbage service company made a mistake and took it when they picked up the dumpsters from the building next to us.  We're now have of a freshly painted and clean bin that was delivered yesterday.  At least one thing was fixed quickly!

So Water We Thinking about our white wrap and winter heating situation?  It's still a bit too early to tell if the revised power solution will keep us warmer this winter and save us from an inlet meltdown.  We are very hopeful.  The white wrap isn't the end of the world, it is less nice, but it's just a few months until April and we're confident we'll survive.  We'll surely report back on that later this winter and see if the lost solar gain becomes an issue.  Two boats in our marina decided not to wrap because translucent wasn't available, but they are set up differently than us and have insulation and better heating solutions built in.  We're hoping they stay just as warm as us - or warmer.


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