Boating in the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful experience. The landscape is sometimes awe inspiring with stunning waterfalls and interesting wildlife. It can also be down right cold at times, even during the summer months.
We have a heater on our wakeboard boat, as Detroit was where we went for water sports. Although now we have that boat a Shasta and there really isn’t a need too often there. However, the sailboat is another story. I can remember coming up during the winter to work on projects when there was ice on the docks. This makes for a very cold night on the boat.
After some discussion we installed a Newport solid fuel heater…on our Newport sailboat. Step by step instructions come with the kit and are quite easy to follow if you go slowly. The chimney is easy to do and quite rain and bow spray proof. It’s not an overly technical bit of cabin improvement but the improvement in cabin comfort is huge.
As we were concerned with the heat generated by both the firebox and the chimney we built a backboard for it to help dissipate the heat so the teak wouldn’t burn. While some maybe concerned about the weight of the stone used, we felt the ambience was worth the extra few pounds. We’ve seen others who’ve used metal for their backboard but for us, the ‘look’ was too commercial.
Since there were no instructions for building this with the solid fuel heater, we generated our own ‘pattern’ by using notebook paper taped to the wood. Once we had a solid pattern of overlaid/taped together notebook paper, we traced it onto a piece of ¾” plywood and cut it out. We then laid it against the wall to be sure it fit correctly before laying the stone. Once we had it correctly adjusted, we used a tile saw to cut the few stones that need to be re-sized. The rest was just like any tile job.
Once the stonework was dry we drilled the mounting holes and mounted the backboard with bolts. We then drilled four mounting holes for the solid fuel heater and four bolts later the firebox was up plus the chimney was extremely easy to connect as the pipe just slips right over the top opening. A 12-volt fan mounted near the unit helps to spread the heat and keep the chimney cooler.
For us, the entire look of this system is very “homey” and we enjoy this heater very much. The front tile slides up to open the fire for viewing so it’s rather like having a fireplace on board. We tried having the tile down like an old style wood furnace where you ‘dampen’ the air flow and cause the fuel to burn slower. We found that didn’t work very well and caused quite a bit of smoke inside the cabin.
We decided to use those pressed wood chip logs you can buy in grocery stores for the fuel and thought the self lighting ones would work best…you know, one match lights the log? We chopped them into sections and stored them on the boat. They do light very easily; however we discovered much to our dismay that they smoke inside the cabin quite a bit and also leave deposits of black soot on the deck.
We then tried smaller sections of them to get the fire started with bigger sections of just regular pressed wood chip logs on top. We slide the tile on the door full open/up and burn a very hot fire. It was a little spooky to see the chimney glow red near the firebox but the backboard absorbed and spread the heat and the fan blew over the chimney and everything worked well…no soot on deck and the cabin went from 45 degrees to 85 degrees in about 15-20 minutes.
If you decide to install one of these solid fuel heaters on your boat, start with a small amount of fuel and work up slowly until you get a feel for how much pressed log to use. Charcoal briquettes didn’t work well at all and for some weird reason smelled ‘funny’. We like the pressed logs, they’re easy to break into sections to store near the heater and we can stack the unopened packs under one of the seats.
On a final safety note…be sure if you use anything with a flame, heater or cook oven etc., that you open a port or hatch. These items can make life aboard much more pleasant but they consume the oxygen in the air and can kill you if you don’t bring in fresh air too. Our 12-volt fan is next to the starboard port and I open it and the port in the head as well as cracking open the hatch.
Safe and warm…happy sailing!
1 Comment posted on "A Solid Fuel Heater For Your Sailboat"
Heating a Sailboat on October 11th, 2008 at 8:02 am #
[…] Heating your sailboat cabin can make the difference between really living and just camping. If you’re interested in what we did to be able to heat ours then you might want to read this post. […]
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