The beast from the East

We’re in the middle of the hardest winter since we moved onto the boat and now we have been hit by the Beast from the East. IMG_1361Now I have to say that my first thought on this was that it was a woman that we met in a Colchester night club, that I needed Maria to protect me from! But no, apparently, it is from Siberia, freezing cold and dumps a load of rubbish on you. So completely different then!

IMG_1363We often get asked how we survive winters on the boat, surely we get cold! The answer has always been that we have heating, however, this winter is sorely testing our heating setup.

On Mariadz, we have three reverse cycle air conditioning units that pump out heat backed up by a cheap and cheerful 2kW heater in the bedroom and a posh Dyson heater in the saloon. From a heat generation perspective, that is a lot, but it also requires a lot of power to run them all. Each of the aircon units takes 4-5A on average and the two heaters need 8A although one can be set to half that. So if we wanted everything on, we would be using 31A which is nothing in a domestic setup but a lot for a marina where our current is limited to 16A. If you go over the 16A shore power limit, a trip goes on the pontoon, which will result in a lovely stroll in sub zero temperatures through the snow. Definitely not something to do if you were in the shower when it tripped! Of course there are other loads too which further reduce the availability for heating, such as the hot water and lighting, so it is a balancing act with the power. We are in a slightly better situation with our large domestic battery bank and inverter setup which can top up the shorepower but this drains the batteries which then need recharging requiring available power. So the batteries will loan you power but you have to pay it back. However, the inverter does stop the tripping on the pontoon so no cold walks!

IMG_1362Reverse cycle air conditioning isn’t the most efficient system either and I suspect the fact that the water in the marina is frozen in places is not helping. So we use a combination of a couple of air con units boosted from time to time by the Dyson heater. The other useful item for our comfort is the heated blanket on our bed which has individual controls for each side. This goes on early evening, makes the bed warm for bedtime and keeps it lovely and warm all night.

With the battery monitoring we have onboard we are able to play the balancing game quite well but you wouldn’t describe the boat as tropical! So we are not quite as toasty as we have been in the past, when it hasn’t been quite so Siberian outside. One thing that surprisingly seems to make a difference is closing the curtains in the saloon and bedroom, the temperature is noticeably higher.

A recent acquisition which is helping us has been a small supply of smart switches. These work really well and allow some items to be controlled by timer or an app on the phone. It’s really nice to put the heater on in our bedroom half an hour before I get up.  It can also be voice controlled by Maria’s Amazon Echo – don’t ask – she had to have it and loves it. It will be interesting to see how the home technology can be deployed on a boat in the future.

Having recently returned from skiing, IMG_1359we’re accustomed to a bit of snow and the few inches we got in the first few days was less than the light snow we had just before leaving Austria. In Austria, that didn’t take much effort to clear but in the UK the story is very different. Fortunately we have the land cruiser to drive around but the roads are terrible around the marina and in Ipswich itself. The pontoons will of course get more treacherous as the snow melts and refreezes overnight. Our snow boots will be tested then.

All of this reinforces Maria’s commitment to only be in warm places, if the butter is starting to solidify then we are obviously too far away from the equator. Maria is definitely counting down the winters before she can go!

So it’s the beginning of March, officially the start of spring, as I recall. Spring is meant to be nice and warm, it is when you start to think about going out in the boat again and going sailing, hmm maybe a few weeks yet!

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