SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Heat Pal Alcohol Heater

January 25, 2016

Winter has finally arrived in south Florida, and we find ourselves in need of those once-a-decade implements for fighting off hypothermia that we once questioned the necessity of. And once again, we are thankful for two things we have continued to make room for, despite their so infrequent use.

In the winter of 2000, Dave was in the middle of a refit of our new-to-us Creekmore. He was fulfilling a promise he'd made me about a completely new galley: replacing the countertop with stainless steel, eliminating a drawer to make room for a second, deep sink, plumbing both a new saltwater hand pump and a new freshwater foot pump, installing our new stove, and so on. What he was learning, however, was that the amount of time that he could spend working on the boat was directly proportional to ambient temperature. Therefore, to lengthen his work day, he bought an Origo Heat Pal alcohol heater. [Very similar to this Contoure, but surprisingly more expensive.] At that point, it seemed like a necessary extravagance: a heater we wouldn't need in a few months when it warmed up and that we certainly wouldn't be taking with us. Who needs a heater in the Caribbean?

Along with our down coats that we had owned since our North Dakota days (long story), the Heat Pal sat in the "not going, but what do we do with it" pile as we unloaded a house and moved onto a 34-foot boat with three boys. Once we finally took a break in the craziness that was our lives those few months, we had a serious discussion about our "keep warm" pile.
"Why would we try to find a place to store that stuff on such a little boat? We aren't going to need it where we're going."
"Yes, but it will take us part of the winter to get down to where it's warm enough to be sure not to need winter coats and a heater. Besides, it gets cold offshore, even in the summer sometimes."
I was hard to convince, slow to shatter my "I'll never be cold again" dream, but the deciding factor was in the multiple uses of both the heater and the coats. In the event that we couldn't get propane (which actually happened a decade later in Guadeloupe), we could cook on our alcohol heater as if it were a one-burner stove. (Many mornings that month we were stuck in Guadeloupe I thanked Dave for insisting that we keep the Heat Pal, as I sipped my fresh coffee.) As for the coats, well, they were actually two coats: a down insert that zipped to a windbreaker. We could always use the windbreaker, even if we never had a need for the whole ensemble. But, just as Dave predicted, we have worn our down coats at least once on every offshore passage (except a 9-day beautiful jaunt from St. Croix to Bermuda in June). Again, I was thankful he was practical enough to insist that we find a corner to stuff with down coats.


Our cat likes the Heat Pal, too.

Now, once again, my feet are being warmed by the 16-year-old Heat Pal that I just extracted from the lockers under the V-berth. We bought a gallon of alcohol from the hardware store for $10. The heater burns for 3 hours on high on a pint of fuel, raising the inside temperature this morning from 48 degrees to a more reasonable 70 degrees while the outside temperature ranged from 37 to 59. (Be sure to buy quality fuel or the alcohol fumes will burn your eyes.) When we finally get off this continent and to more reasonable climes, we won't even consider getting rid of our Heat Pal. Instead, we'll pack it back up until the next unfortunate incident forces us to be thankful we're still hauling it around.

MONDAY we'll talk about the practical considerations of anchoring in order NOT to drag.

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