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  • Writer's pictureDan Brown

Cold Nights on a Boat!

It is getting a bit chilly!

Since the beginning of September, the weather has been far more unpredictable than the incredible summer heatwave that we had been experiencing in the UK. Rain, wind and cooler temperatures became regular features, although still punctuated by occasional bright bursts of sunny, hot days, such as yesterday (25th September).

(This is a post from my 2018 Boat Life Archives!)

Completely caught out by the weather, I found myself pushing my bike up one of the steepest hills in the area, wearing a warm coat and long sleeves beneath it, sweating away as the sun bore down on my back and I puffed and panted making my way up the hill. This brief moment of slight discomfort was well worth it when I then got to cycle down some of my favourite roads that you will soon see over on the youtube channel!

The reason I had been so caught off guard by the weather was the fact that we have been seeing a "cold snap" in the weather over the last few days, but more importantly from a boat life perspective, the evenings and nights have been getting "proper chilly". The night of the 24th into the morning of the 25th has been the coldest yet. It was so cold in fact that there was a covering of frost and ice on the ground to wake up to!

This brings us to one of the biggest winter worries of boat life; Keeping Warm! In past years onboard Narrowboat Tilly, I slept on a sofa bed in my 15 foot of indoor space, my head was literally a few feet away from the wood burner onboard. Even in the coldest of cold circumstances, my sheer proximity to the fireplace on Tilly kept me warm and often far too hot, frequently having to open windows to let the heat out.

On Narrowboat Abel's Ark, I have twice the indoor space, a full size double bed in its own separate room from the living room area, and of course, I don't sleep in a sleeping bag like I often did onboard Tilly! The joy of boats and heating is that the ceiling is so low indoors that you don't have to heat a lot of wasted room above your head, the tiny area onboard Tilly made her incredibly easy to heat, but even with twice that space on Abel's Ark... it is still incredibly easy to heat... or at least part of it is...

The wood burner on "The Ark" is huge compared to Tilly's, so much so that the space for wood and coal inside has been shrunk by adding in a double layer of firebricks because filling the fire with fuel in such a small dwelling as as boat would create an unbearable amount of heat! This all sounds like it will make for a nice cosy, and easy winter onboard my new boat, but as my first icy cold night illustrated, my experience with the bizarre homemade stove on Tilly is completely irrelevant to keeping warm on The Ark.

In the evenings, I often sit at my desk, with my back to the fireplace, writing or editing videos for a while before bed. In this case I can keep the fire smouldering away with a few coals inside throwing out just a little bit of heat, if it gets chilly I can throw on more fuel or even open the fire door for a few minutes so the heat can beam out directly into the room. When in the living room or kitchen, where the fire sits in central position, the last thing you want is the fire going crazy throwing out loads of heat.

When I move through to the bedroom however it is a different story. The bedroom is not only much further away from the fireplace, but also separated by a short alleyway that passes by the bathroom, this alleyway seems to really cut off a lot of the heat flow despite not being blocked off by doors. The living room can be nice and cosy, while the bedroom is teetering on the edge of outright cold!

My current solution which is not at all perfect is that when I am ready for bed and cleaning my teeth, tidying the boat etc, I throw on a few smaller sticks and logs that will burn quickly and force a lot of heat into the boat and therefore make the living room unbearable but the bedroom more welcoming. Then, at the last moment before settling down for bed, I throw on a lot more coal that I hope will burn through to the morning.

The difficulty is then opening or closing the air vents to control the fires pace, on a particularly cold night, like the one before last, it felt necessary to leaves the events quite wide open to keep the fire burning at a hot temperature, even though it also meant the fire would burn out quicker. This I learned was a mistake when I found myself hours later, but before sunrise, waking up to a very chilly boat and having to quickly dig out a few sticks to get the fire roaring again before stocking it up with plenty of coal!

Previously when I have lit the fire the weather has been far warmer in general and it has only been done in the evenings to "take the chill off", because of this I would go to bed with the fire vents almost completely closed so that the coal would slowly but steadily burn (to be honest I probably didn't need the fire lit at all but in my excitement to use it I would take any chance I could to get it going!). One those occasions I could find that the coal I had added late at night would still have some orange glowing remnants well into the following morning heading towards midday.

I have no doubt that I could keep this fire going for weeks at a time without it ever dying if I so wanted (and could deal with the amount of red hot ash!), however the real trick is to figure out how to do that, while heating the furthest point of the boat without making the living room too hot and without having to restock the fire at 4am!

...and that is why I love boat life!

This post turned into a far more meandering ramble than I had expected and I feel that I have somewhere lost the thread of my main topic which was going to be "Ooooh it is nice on a boat in the winter, with a fire flickering and crackling away!" So I think it is time to wrap this up!

As always, thank you very much for taking the time to visit the site and read this post, I am now back on a weekly post schedule here so check back every Wednesday!

If you like what I do then please feel free to Subscribe on YouTube and help me out by checking out my short books on amazon (kindle and paperback... and audio available!)

Until the next time,

Keep it boatworthy,

Keep it interesting,

Have a fantastic day, and farewell!

Dan... onboard Abel's Ark

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