Pardon the pun, but it is a chilling feeling as a liveaboard to look a few slips down the dock and see ice on the water, as I did this morning. This week will be one of the toughest challenges I have faced in my brief time aboard so far. Highs of less than freezing are predicted all week. Lows around 12 degrees predicted several nights. I have not winterized any systems and am concerned with keeping the engine, the raw water intake and exhaust, the holding tank, and any below-the-waterline hoses from freezing. I moved the work light from sitting atop the engine to the back of the engine room and upped the wattage from a 60 to a 75 watt bulb. I added a 40 watt bulb on top of the engine. I frequently check a thermometer resting atop the Racor fuel filter; yesterday it was 50 degrees, today it has fallen to around 45. I crawled into the engine room yesterday through a lazarette and found a socket for a light bulb, but I have been unable to locate a switch to turn it on.
Staying warm myself is less of a concern. I have warm clothes, a down comforter, the dog, and two cats to keep me warm. In my quest to circulate warmth throughout the length of the boat to protect the various systems, I am attempting to balance running multiple heaters. I am occasionally cycling off the rooftop HVAC unit so that I can run the water heater...both to have warm water for washing dishes and to generate residual heat in the engine room. I am testing the limits of my core shore power line by running two space heaters on it at once, though each is at half capacity or less. The problem is that shore power line is not linked to my ammeter, so I can only guesstimate how much strain I am placing on the electrical system. One space heater is an oil-filled radiator, kept aft near the galley, engine room, and the settee where I currently sleep. The other heater is a Vornado fan/heater on a low setting, aimed to blow warm-ish air forward to the V-berth and head. With three heaters (two space heaters and the rooftop one) running, the cabin is still only 60 degrees. I generally keep it between 60 and 65, but that rarely involves running more than one heat source at a time. Just to be on the safe side, I also had some cocoa with peppermint schnapps.
The dog ramp has been a godsend, but I'm still working out the kinks. Pup was nervous that it didn't seem entirely stable and I was worried about it falling off the boat and/or dock. (A line is tied to the ramp just in case and I have learned that it floats...) I spent some time at Bacon Sails chatting with an employee there, browsing the aisles, and brainstorming a fix to affix the ramp to the boat, while allowing it to move with the tide and be readily removable when underway. A swiveling shackle and pad eye solution looked enticing, but the cost of nice hardware was less palatable under current budget constraints. I opted for drilling holes through the ramp and using quarter-inch nylon line to tie the ramp to a stanchion and the backstay (half hitches are my friend... "two is secure and three is for sure" as the floppy-haired sailor guy taught me). The ramp is secured to the boat, has enough "give" to move with the tide, and can be removed and stowed for cruising in just a couple of minutes.
I still need to develop a solution for the telescoping of the ramp. I want it to be able to telescope to adjust to the tide, but it can compress as the pup dog runs down it... the ramp and pup almost went in the icy water but I stopped it from sliding just in time.
The tides have still been incredibly low. This morning I had to lay across the finger pier, hug it, and pull myself over and up. I went to a training event that perhaps I should have worn something business-y for, but in light of the tidal issues, they got me in yoga pants and boots. Safety first!
Last Saturday I faced the sad realization that the holding tank is full. I was surprised to have made it six weeks, but now I am forced to go ashore 100% of the time until I can get the boat pumped out. It appears that all the marinas have winterized their pump out stations, so my only hope may be getting one of the larger liveaboard marinas to let me come into a transient slip and use their dock cart pump out; I will call tomorrow and see if I can swing it. Otherwise, I am facing a couple of months without being able to use the head aboard at all. And I still need to replace the vent hose...a job that will be much less painful if the holding tank is empty at the time. I just do not understand why there isn't a pump out truck to service the many, many liveaboards who stay aboard throughout the winter here in Annapolis. Any investors out there want to help me buy a "honeywagon?"