Heating a Sailboat

Energy comes to a sailboat by several different paths in many forms. I will speak more of this in a future blog. That energy, a reservoir of necessity, can be expended in innumerable ways on a sailing vessel. It must be managed as a priceless commodity at all times.

In many great places to sail, the water temperature is cold and the air above it is only slightly warmer. To deal with the cool environment, one could always bundle up with layers of clothing but this is inconvenient and uncomfortable on long passages. As might be expected, one of the ways to expend energy on a sailboat is to create or capture heat for the comfort of the crew. I am fortunate that Skiron was designed and modified with redundant systems to heat the boat. Further, the vessel has been insulated to prevent condensation and to retain the heat generated to create warmth. Annika and Bjorn, prior owners of this vessel, created the heating system that even enabled them to work and live aboard the boat during winters enshrouded in ice and snow in their home country of Sweden. They were able to comfortably sail to high latitudes, including to Antarctica, as a result of their efforts.

Skiron, then Lindisfarne, under ice and snow in Sweden.

Diesel fuel is liquid gold on a sailing vessel. On Skiron, it can be used to run the diesel inboard engine. The heat from the engine can then be harnessed and distributed throughout the vessel by a pump that is operated by the house batteries, which can be charged a number of different ways, including by running the engine. Diesel fuel can be used to power two additional heating systems on the vessel. Shore power can also be used to power the major heating circuit while docked.

To date, the Webasto is the only heating system I’ve had to employ and then only on occasion. Our climate is moderate yet it can become rather cold on the vessel at times. I often go to the boat to read, clean, or just relax. On some winter mornings, especially when it’s under 50F I find it more comfortable to switch on the Webasto and let it do its thing. One winter morning this year, when it was 37F, within 15 min of employing the Webasto it was warm and toasty. The system uses a small amount of diesel fuel to heat air that is then blown throughout the vessel via ducts through vents into the cabin. The Webasto is regulated by a thermostat.

I’m still learning the remaining heating systems but will illustrate and share what I know now. I will plan to update this information as I learn more.

Engine heat is transferred to an accumulator tank filled with about 10 gallons of water containing antifreeze. At shore, this water can be heated with shore power. This heated solution can then be pumped or circulated via a pump, located under the sink in the head, throughout the vessel across circuit valves through pipes and into radiators that radiate the heat in various parts of the cabin. It’s a rather complex system as depicted.

The system of radiators can also be charged with heated water by employing the Refleks oil stove system to heat the solution pumped from the accumulator tank through the unit. The system uses the same circulation pump as the aforementioned system. One of my goals for the year is to completely understand this unit. it is also fired by diesel fuel.

The heating system on Skiron is but one of many examples of ingenious redundancy on this particular sailing vessel. Redundant systems offer the sailing crew a choice depending on need and provide for safety in the event that one system fails. The likelihood of both comfort and survival are facilitated by such an arrangement of duplicate and triplicate systems.

I’m not sure that I’ll ever sail the high latitudes but, if I do, I’ll at least be warm while doing so!

Annika and Bjorn in Antarctica on Lindisfarne now Skiron.

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