Winter Sailing

First, a quick update… After returning to the Gulf Islands, we secured moorage for the boat on Salt Spring Island for a few months. Taking advantage of our medium-term home base, we traveled east to Ottawa to visit family and friends for the first time since before the pandemic. It was long overdue and wonderful to catch up with everyone before the business of the holidays.

Before leaving for Ottawa, we started setting up the boat for winter sailing. We have an ITR Hurricane Zephyr heater on board – it was one of the key upgrades we made last year during the refit. Not only does it keep us warm, it also provides on demand hot water for dishes and showers. It runs either by burning (well, sipping) diesel, or on electricity when we’re plugged into shore power, and it has kept us comfortable even as the weather dips below freezing.

The big challenge on the boat in the winter isn’t actually heat, but humidity. With the hatches buttoned up to keep the heat in, our cooking and cleaning (and breathing!) add humidity to the air inside. Combine this with the cold outside, and you get condensation building up on the inside of the hull and hatches. Too much humidity and condensation can lead to mold. No fun.

One of our key purchases before heading east was a powerful dehumidifier. It’s been fantastic since we brought it on board, keeping us nice and dry (and condensation-free). Unfortunately, it also needs about 300 watts of power, and runs pretty much continuously. With the short days and little sun at this time of year, that power draw is too much for our batteries when we’re at anchor. Could we go a night or two without the dehumidifier? Sure, but there are marina options around where we can plug in, and not much competition for dock space from other cruisers at this time of year.

When we returned to Salt Spring in early December, we quickly made preparations to take the boat back to Vancouver for some repairs and modifications to our canvas enclosure. Waking up to snow on the decks (and some quick shoveling with a dust pan), we left Salt Spring early to take advantage of a decent weather window. After a night in Silva Bay, we crossed the Georgia Strait to Bowen Island for a couple of nights before proceeding into North Van.

The crossing was highlighted by a few minutes of dolphin escorts (why don’t they do that in the summer?), and some moments of stress dodging a tideline filled with logs… weaving through like we were in a slalom course. The cockpit enclosure again proved its worth in the damp conditions, keeping us comfortable the whole way.

The payoff was some gorgeous views of Howe Sound from Bowen, a nice hike, the awesome warm showers at the Union Steamship Company Marina, and some beautiful light displays on the boats in the marina.