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What We Learned in the White of Winter

If you read THIS previous post you know we wrapped Cygnet this year in white plastic instead of our usual translucent.  This was a mistake.  It wasn't our choice, the guys who do this only had the white available and we went with it to keep Cygnet out of the ice and snow for the winter slumber.  We were a bit concerned about less light making its way inside the plastic and not getting the greenhouse effect that normally helps tremendously to keep us toasty warm in the cold months.  Well, we were absolutely right.  By using white we effectively kept the sun and the warmth created by it out of Cygnet.  With a new method of routing power to our heaters and a slew of new heat units we thought we'd be nice and warm but it turns out we were worse off this year than we've ever been, including our first winter in 2014/15 where we didn't see temperatures above the mid-20s the entire month of February.

Cygnet Burrito.
We had a couple mornings where the outside temperature was -20ºF (-29ºC) and inside our bedroom we were at 38ºF (3ºC) and the main area of the boat struggled to hit 50ºF (10ºC).  We feel that if we had the translucent wrap we wouldn't have had temperatures as low inside since the sun throughout the day would have warmed the boat inside and that heat would have stayed a bit through the nights.  What we realized is that we had a 40º difference with all the heaters on.  If it was 40º outside it was 80º inside, 30º out = 70º in, etc.  This wasn't always true as calm days helped the temperature inside climb to a higher level but if we had any bit of wind that 40º difference was all we could muster.

We all did the same dumb thing.
We also blame out heaters which seemed to not be able to create the same amount of heat as we know them to.  We've had a couple of these ceramic heaters in the past and found them to be great little units that put out lots of heat, but for some reason this year they just weren't.  We had run two 30A power cords that split to two heaters each and we figured that's plenty of power but it seemed as though the heaters either weren't getting the voltage or we just got a bad batch this year.  Mid way through the winter we replaced one with an older heater we've had since our first winter aboard and it worked great so the lack of power seems to not have been the issue.  Next year will be different, we're not sure how yet, but it will be.

Not enough.  Normally these small heaters make a lot of heat, but not this one.
Normally we take the wrap off Cygnet after April 1st, figuring the worst of the cold is past us and the outside temperatures usually allow us to keep toasty inside without the protection.  But this year due to unforeseen circumstances we unwrapped early.  Usually we try to hop on our neighbor's boat to cruise the river on St. Patrick's day when the water is dyed green, but engine troubles at the last minute held that boat back and Cygnet was the vessel of choice for this year's festivities.  So off came the wrap, out went some furniture, and Cygnet was ready for the trip along the river.

The party ended on the lawn with Cygnet as the home base.
Cozy fire with Buck Wonderdog on guard.
Chicago's famous Green River. 
Kevin hides from the camera while piloting Cygnet on the Green River.
So Water We Thinking about our winter?  Overall it was fine, the weather wasn't terrible and we were able to keep Cygnet out of the worst of the snow and ice.  We definitely learned that the white plastic wrap was a bad choice for a liveaboard and we're not going to make that mistake again.  Even the sunniest of days felt like a dreary rainy day under the white plastic, it never let much light in and always felt dark, we often needed to have lights on during the middle of the day despite having massive wraparound windows in the salon and galley.  With the transparent plastic the sun shines through with vigor!


  1. Hey!

    Just moving to Chicago, and considering buying one of the inexpensive sailboats, and living aboard during the summer. I doubt I would have the wherewithal for the winters aboard, but I live light so maybe bouncing between a 6 month lease on a studio and liveaboard. Do the city marinas allow liveaboards as well as river city? If I get a sailboat with a tabernacle, would river city be the best option instead?


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