Labour of Love

Life aboard a boat in the winter season of ice and snow is without question a labour of love. As any time of year, there are particular tasks that have have to be done to ensure the safety of our fine vessel in the winter despite the fact that we are firmly tied to the dock. All those jobs that are performed
effortlessly and quickly in the warm months tend to take far longer in the cold moths, and then there is a whole other plethora of things to be done. 
Filling water is a prime example. It’s easy peasy usually, connect the hose that is coiled up on our dock standard and within 10 minutes our 50 gallon tank is full. On those brutal days in the midst of freezing temperatures, we hope to get the tank filled within an hour. Before the ice settled in we laid a long length of water hose from our dock across and beneath the water to the main marina building to assist in the process. Approximately a 100 feet. Now, the ice surounding each end of the hose will have to be broken to in order attach the connecting hoses. In the main building there is a general hose that everyone is able to use, and with a bucket or so of hot water down our long hose, it’s usually ready to connect. This depends on how long it took to break the end of our personal hose out of the ice. The other week the ice was so thick Gordon was able to stand on it and attack it with a fire axe. So you see, this could take some time. After turning on the water we return to our dockside to retrieve our end of the hose from beneath the ice, if need be. Hopefully as you haul it up to the surface, it is of course made fast with a lanyard, water should be steaming out flushing the hose. Then at last you can connect the other hose that attaches to our interior fill fitting and Bob’s your uncle! Cross your fingers that there is good flow and pressure, and the tank should fill in 10-15 minutes. 
Breaking ice is an everyday occurance for us winter liveaboard folk. An arduous task and preoccupation that could have dire consequences. As we are steel hulled it’s not as imperative but we really don’t like to be ‘frozen in’ as we say. Generally speaking the water agitators do the job. In the extreme cold we’ve experienced their efforts are just not enough. I’ve come to see quite an array of ice breaking techniques by now. Anything from a length of rebar, a 2″ x 4″, a weight on a long line, homemade and store bought edges, even a chainsaw, all in an effort to get the job done. Our boat often resounds with the sound of a neighbor out on the dock, chop, chop, chopping away at the ice. If you are lucky Mother Nature will help do the job for you. A light snow fall will act as insulation and the ice will break up itself, soon opening a small gap around the hull. Ideally, you want open water all around.

Then, when you thought you were done there is condensation to deal with. We are running a third heater this season and the extra heat has helped incredibly in drying out the boat. The condensation and therefore my allergies are much improved. That said, it still lurks about and there is no complete escape of it. In our situation condensation accumulates in the bilges and so periodically it has to be removed. A wet/dry shop vac is our best choice. You can read more about last winter’s war on Condensation <>. 

As we’ve merged into March we begin to reap the rewards of our labour; Spring!! It is so incredibly fulfilling to know that the long, cold, dark nights are slowly falling behind us. The sunny days warm our shrink wrap like a greenhouse, therby making the boat so warm we can keep the hatch open during the day. We are able to turn down the heat, and often completely turn off the extra heater or two during the day. We may even dare to turn off the agitators in the week ahead. Spring is nigh my friends, only 49 days ’till the Island!


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