Saturday, 6 August 2011

Winter living

A quick reminder - I wittered on a bit about the night sky last month. A week today (13th of August) the Perseid meteor shower will be at its best. Whilst the moon will be up, if the clouds stay away it could still be a good show. From about 11pm to 3am will be the best time to view.
Quote "The next notable meteor shower is the Perseid's in mid-August which are associated with Comet Swift-Tuttle. This year the dates range from the 17th of July until the 24th of August with the peak being on the 13th of August. Typical maximum ZHR rate of around 100. Zenith Hourly Rate of a meteor shower is the number of meteors a single observer would see in one hour under a clear, dark sky. The peak this year will coincide with a full moon that will spoil the show, but it will still be worth watching. Where to look. Meteor showers are almost always named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. For the Perseid's, you will need to look in the direction of Perseus a constellation, named after the Greek hero Perseus. Look to the North East. Look for the constellation Cassiopeia, which is in the shape of a "W". Perseus will be near Cassiopeia and the left of the Great Square of Pegasus, a constellation that contains four stars in the shape of a giant square. The brilliant star, Capella in Auriga, will also help you find Perseus. It is between Cassiopeia and Capella. However, to see the meteor trails, you only need to look in the general direction and in this case, look to the North East."
Now back to the usual boating trivia.

Narrow-boats as leisure craft have progressed over the years, somehow people have not realised how well they are furnished with all the modern conveniences, so to speak. A popular question is, "does it have a toilet?" my usual answer is "no but we have a button flush fitted on the bucket handle." I love the confused look on their faces.

The second most common question I get asked during the colder months is “I bet it is cold in the winter isn't it?” My stock answers vary a bit but “it depends on just where I set the thermostat” is my favorite retort.  There is that five second gap until the penny drops and a smile soon follows.

As in all things, I might be a bit premature in talking about winter matters on a nice warm summers day.  The last few winters have not been mild so being something of a pessimist I expect the worse. That way I am never disappointed! However, I do like to get things prepared and squared away in good time.

Deep winterising has not been needed on Rosie so far, in the main because we like to spend time on the boat even in winter. But, as we are not full time live aboard's we need to take some precautions. Rosie is an easy boat for keeping internally warm. Last winter was very hard with -15 C being the coldest night.

I have a digital greenhouse thermometer that records high and low internal and external temperatures. Last winter the lowest internal temperature recorded was +12 Celsius.

The lowest temperature recorded in the engine bay was +3 Celsius. I also have an anti-freeze hydrometer that I use to check the antifreeze level as winter approaches. Every few days we would start up the engine and allow the engine to completely warm through. This also heated the water in the calorifier for doing the odd domestic chores.

We put up sheets of bubble wrap on the boat windows to reduce heat loss. (Use the clear type as this lets light in) We have a couple of 100 watt electrical cylinder greenhouse heaters on thermostats which are set to come on at 7 degrees Celsius which we keep plugged into the mains shore line. I also used a passive water absorbing system that would absorb upto a large cup full or water each day from the cabin. I also noted that when the front cratch cover was fitted there was a couple of degrees rise in the internal temperature and it also helps to stop the build up of snow over the water tank.

We use gas for cooking and we also have an Alde gas central heating system on board. The Alde heating is set to come on at 5 degrees Celsius. The pilot light serves as a frost deterent for the Alde boiler. However, it is very rare that we actually ever use the Alde because we also have a sold fuel stove. It is a simple case of economics. The gas heating on its own will use a bottle of gas a week. The stove uses about one 25kg bag of solid fuel a week. So the much cheaper option is to use the stove. We also supplement this with adding the odd log or two when we are aboard. The flames from the logs make everything seem much more cosy.

The stove is left damped down for 24 hours a day (in tick-over mode) but still giving off a good amount of back ground heat. I did notice that getting the right settings to keep the fire ticking over for 24 hours was a bit trial and error.  The air setting also varies depending on the type solid fuel we use. The stove also plays a secondary role in being used to burn combustible rubbish reducing the amount we have to store on board in between disposal points.

I have started my preparations for next winter already. I have just purchased solid fuel at the summer rates. We have a solid fuel/log burner stove and a couple of half ton bunkers at chateau "wits end". We can easily bag up and take fuel with us as needed. I have also just ordered a spare set of stove door seals which we find we need to replace each year. If yours need replacing, remember to order the special heat resistant glue at the same time.

Now that we have retired, we have decided to spend a couple of months next winter in India (one of our favourite places to visit) So we will need to drain the fluids down this winter. I need to have a practice run on doing that at some point.


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