Winter Comforts

Our first snow in the city was this weekend. Satori’s cabin is as comfortable as a winter ski hut. It’s calm, the diesel stove is keeping the air dry and the cabin warm. The heat is transferred into the hot water tank, where right now the water is at a constant one hundred twenty degrees, just the same as the electric element heating the water. A low voltage computer fan sits above the stove and moves the warm air across into the settee. It’s wired to a switch and shares the same power as the bluetooth speaker, which is playing tunes from my iPhone. Tea is on top of the stove, keeping warm until I fill up another mug of Hojicha to sip while working on the canvas weather cloths. I will probably clean out the mildew in one of the unused lockers or apply some teak oil to another part of the boat. It’s winter now but projects have not slowed down. There is more time to dedicate to making the interior comfortable, organized and livable. That’s why I’m here instead of living in a house. It’s peaceful, I can focus and learn how to live on Sarori comfortably.

Computer fan circulates warm air from the Dickinson Stove
Computer fan circulates warm air from the Dickinson Stove

Some other things on the infinite list I was able to complete recently were to swap out the fluorescent bulbs in the bathroom for LED replacements. I was able to find a flourescent tube replacement that uses the same mounts but is powered using the ballast switch. I should be able to recoup the cost in about two years and should also last about ten years. The lights take about half of the energy as the bulbs and seem about twice as bright. This is a major improvement to having to stock ten years worth of bulbs.

Starlights T8-18 18-Inch Fluorescent Tube
Starlights T8-18 18-Inch Fluorescent Tube

I also bought a couple of sets of RGB LED strips to install into the forward berth and settee. The adhesive strips and adjustable range of lighting makes this application perfect for boats. Depending on the level of intensity and color you choose, you can draw as little as .3 amps or as much as one amp. The package comes with a remote with a bunch of different options like strobe, color fade, etc. but also allows you to choose white, red, green, blue and different color variances but also the brightness. The mounting is pretty easy since the system is 12 volt with a 110 volt adapter. You just need to cut the cable and wire it to a 12 volt lighting outlet, peel the adhesive backing and place the strip in a non-invasive location. Somewhere that provides ambient lighting is better than somewhere that causes you to stare straight at the lights. They can be intense so it’s better to place them facing downward and around a perimeter than say facing outward and at eye level. Once the strip is mounted, you can cut any remaining length off. The previous light in the forward berth side above the bed was another small fluorescent light and ballast, which was prone to being in the way and making contact with my head on occasion. Mounting something that cleared the area overhead is a major improvement on comfort since I not only no longer hit my head on a sharp corner due to confined spaces but also have some cool lights to create different effects inside the cabin. I will mount another strip inside of the settee once I decide how to wire from the light panel and make sure they create the proper effect. Each set cost me $30, which would be the cheapest I could get a new fixture at a marine hardware store, made of plastic and probably using xenon bulbs. I’m pretty happy with this improvement.

 TaoTronics TT-SL001 Waterproof RGB LED Strip
TaoTronics TT-SL001 Waterproof RGB LED Strip
Forward berth LED light strip on low setting
Forward berth LED light strip on low setting
Forward berth LED light strip on high setting
Forward berth LED light strip on high setting

From my last post on the hot water coil and stove rebuild, I wanted to follow up and post some useful information about how things are going. When I decided to rebuild the stove and install the hot water coil to heat the hot water tank I had no idea what the system would produce. Would the water temperature be too great or would it never reach a suitable temperature for showering, washing dishes and providing warm air for the forced air heater in the forward berth? Well so far it has proven to be just about perfect. This correlated to a setting of #4 on the fuel regulator and also turning the fan on the stove to #2 for the maximum temperature setting. I wouldn’t usually run it this hot but I needed to see the results of a lean system. The cabin temperature reached 84 degrees Fahrenheit, the hot water tank reached 160 degrees and the glycol in the loop to heat the hot water tank has reached 200 degrees. Last night I decided to tone it down a bit and set the stove to about twenty degrees cooler, which is still plenty warm. The cabin was 75 degrees when I woke up, with an outside temperature in the low 40’s. The glycol loop was 190 degrees and the hot water tank was 170 degrees. The great part of this system is how easy it is to cool down the tank and glycol, by simply turning on the circulation loop for the hot water and turning on the forced air heater in the forward berth. Within ten minutes the hot water temperature dropped to 140 degrees and warmed up the forward berth to dry it out from sleeping in it overnight. The humidity inside of the cabin averaged about 35%, which is plenty dry for a boat in the water moored in the Pacific Northwest. The stove seems to work much more efficiently and so far the only issue I need to resolve is when I shut down the stove, the fuel regulator will be shut off but will also allow some flow of fuel into the pot over several hours. It’s not really an issue because I have a ball valve in the fuel line that will prevent any flow from reaching the regulator but this also means having to shut off the supply instead of simply turning off the regulator. Otherwise, I am really pleased with how the rebuild has made life much more comfortable while living aboard during the winter.

A few weeks ago I had part of the settee table break on me so I decided to glue it back together and add some reinforcement using a chainplate. I suspect gluing it back together will only last so long until it breaks at the seam again and I love the table setup. It’s solid wood and when oiled is a great surface to work and eat on. Not only did I fix the support but I also fixed a hinge that will add more strength to the folding leaf and prevent any risk from accidentally breaking the table again. Just another thing to fix to prevent more wear and tear on the original components that were made to fit.

Table leaf support with reinforcement
Table leaf support with reinforcement

Beginning in a couple of weeks I will be removing the staysail boom and adding a roller furling system for the headsail and tracks for the staysail. A new staysail plan has been finalized and construction began today. The new foresail will start construction in January after the furling system is installed. I also hope to install a new battery bank and raw water pump for the engine so by March I can start sailing again. Until then Satori will stay at her dock and out of commission. These upgrades will be major improvements for cruising around the Salish and then the final projects will hopefully be completed in time to take Satori offshore in August. It’s a tentative plan and only budget and my available time will be the deciding factors of hitting the mark. The final offshore components are really expensive but also vital components that cannot be left behind. If I need to postpone another year then so be it. I don’t have a sufficient battery bank and renewable charging system, no liferaft, no storm equipment, no SSB, no radar and no cruising kitty yet. The mast should be taken down, rewired and new lights and wind anemometer installed before leaving land. I also need to do some hull repair and replace some seacocks so I have more access to strained raw water for spraying down the topsides, using it for doing dishes, for making freshwater once the water maker is installed and finally to ensure that the engine is getting enough flow to cool itself down. These are the major upgrades and once they are completed I can finally release the dock lines. Now that I’m looking at this list, it does not seem nearly as impossible as it did in December last year. Satori has already had some major upgrades and so there is an end in sight.

Dickinson Pacific rebuild

This project has been on my list since the day I discovered that Satori was setup to circulate hot water through the stove to heat up the hot water tank. I have pondered the way a new system would work and what components I would use to make sure it is working with as much efficiency and durability as possible. This is a way to harness the heat from the flame in the stove to move it using glycol into the hot water tank to heat up the freshwater. I’ve spoken with several experts on Dickinson stoves and spent countless hours on the internet trying to design a dependable system without spending money on a new stove. So instead of replacing the stove, I have elected to rebuild the existing one and add the coil myself. Along with rebuilding the stove, I have a chance to clean and rebuild other parts of the system so it works as best as I can make it. So a list of components was built:

  • Mixer valve for preventing hot water scalding
  • Sharkbite fittings for copper connections to hot water tank
  • Temperature gauge
  • Propylene glycol for hot liquid inside of loop to tank
  • Stainless steel compression fittings to fit the copper flare fittings
  • Various hose barbs with flare attachments
  • 2 gpm, high-temp water pump, wiring and switch
  • 1 gallon alloy expansion tank and radiator cap
  • Replacement stainless bolts and screws
  • Hybond Cement for sealing cracks and top of stove
  • Two-turn hot water coil
  • Fire brick
  • Stove top clip fittings
  • 1/4″ Trident fuel hose
  • 3/8″ hose for blow-off valve on expansion tank
  • Hose clamps
  • CLR for cleaning existing copper lines and fittings
  • Stove pot superheater
Satori's galley with the Dickinson Pacific stove
Satori’s galley with the Dickinson Pacific stove

Most of the parts were ordered via mail order or through Sure Marine, just a mile down the road. They specialize in closed heating systems, LPG stoves, heaters and are a parts dealer for Dickinson. A couple of the employees have rebuilt stoves and also has installed hydronic systems so they have been a great resource for this project. Most of the stove parts and compression fittings came from their store. The first part of the project was to drill out the existing screws from the top of the stove. Because the stove is alloy (an indifferent metal to the screws) and heats up quite a bit, the screws cannot handle the extremes so they rust and the screw heads are heavily corroded. It took about an hour and a half plus two drill batteries to get them out. At this point I think most people would give up.

Drilling the old screws to remove the top of the stove
Drilling the old screws to remove the top of the stove

Once the stove top was off I was able to begin scraping and cleaning out the firebox. The cement inside wasn’t entirely brittle so I decided to reuse much of the existing cement and then seal it with hybond cement. The fittings on the back of the stove took most of my physical strength and energy to pull them apart. Once I was able to get the individual fittings apart I could bathe them in a mild acid to remove the calcium deposits that come from fresh hot water getting super heated. I also wanted to replace all of the fuel lines so I bought hose barb fittings that fit the fuel regulator. I also disassembled it to clean any nasty fuel deposits and cleaned it up a little. Once I was able to remove all of the copper fittings, I built a drain at the lowest point using shark bite fittings. I cleaned out the lines by running CLR through them to help eliminate any calcium, lime and copper residue and it helped considerably to clear them and prep for the glycol liquid. A few flushes cleaned the lines up well enough for a good flow without restriction. There is still a small amount of calcium in the lines but it seems okay to leave since there is still sufficient flow. I was considering using pex if the lines were too clogged but I that presented several issues. Mainly I just wanted to be able to run the stove straight to the copper tubes so I didn’t have to run the pump just to use the stove. The old coil and copper pipe used thermosiphoning to circulate the water by heat convection so being able to do this was critical, but without the copper pipe would have been impossible without risking burning the pex tubing when the pump is not running.

Stove top removed showing the broken cement and fire brick
Stove top removed showing the broken cement and fire brick

Once I had the stove out of the way I could clean up the flashing and the stove itself. Decades worth of liquids oozing down the side of the stove cleaned away easily. The flashing and stove cleaned up nicely. I bought new cement thinking that I would just add new cement to replace the old stuff but the existing cement was in pretty good shape, minus some cracks. Once I cleaned up the cement, removed the fire brick and cleaned out the firepot I prepped the stove for sealing. Much of the old cement was put back into place and then the Hybond cement filled in any existing cracks and spaces, plus sealed the cement parts together. I also used a wire brush on the top of the stove to get rid of the old sealer and remove any buildup of soot or other materials. On the top of the stove I used a vibrating sander to remove the old surface material so I can season the top with something that will seal the alloy. I am planning on using flax seed oil since this is my seasoning for cast iron cooking pans. I also removed the stovepipe flange, cleaned it up, attached and sealed it back to the stove with Hybond.

Nasty flashing and hull space. Nice to clean things up a bit.
Nasty flashing and hull space. Nice to clean things up a bit.

The new hot water system uses a low flow pump to circulate hot water so I installed a toggle switch at the stove so I can turn the pump on when operating the draft assist fan. The fan motor was replaced a month ago after trying to troubleshoot the noise. It turned out to just be an imbalanced fan and once I figured it out the fan was considerably quieter. I also replaced the wiring back to the electrical panel so everything would last another thirty years. Once I added the hot water mixer I began to have issues with the existing water circulation and so I removed it and relocated it to the bathroom faucet. This way the water can be raised to above scalding temperature and circulated through the cabin but if I take a shower or use the sink water, there will be no risk of accidental burns. The first circulation pump was also defective so I ordered a new one and tested the circulation before connecting the stove to the copper fittings.

IMG_2647
Nice and shiny stove again

One tough engineering problem I had was with the compression fittings that came with the stove. They were ninety degree compression fittings on both ends. Not only was the angle incorrect but they did not connect directly to the copper flare female fittings. This could not be solved by anything that Sure Marine had in stock so I decided to give Motion and Flow Control Products a try. They not only solved the issue but also suggested that I switch to stainless steel compression fittings. This solved the link between compression and flared attachment but also provided a better material for the connection. Stainless pipe to stainless compression to copper flare is much better than stainless pipe to brass compression to copper. It’s a very unique issue and MFCP did an excellent job helping me solve it. They also provided excellent advice on the circulation pump and lines.

Stove top ready to attach with hybond cement sealer
Stove top ready to attach with hybond cement sealer

This project has been a great engineering challenge for me and the only other project of this scale was the new plumbing installation and the bathroom rebuild. Not only have I managed to unplug the water heater while operating the stove but I have also given new life to something that may be several decades old. The cabin has been uncomfortable while this project was underway and littered with debris from drilling and cleaning. The tools took every inch of space and the stove took some physical energy to get apart and back together again. Without the highly specialized people at my disposal the project might not have ever been completed the way I wanted it. This is one reason why I decided to take this project on now, while it is useful to have water heated as a byproduct of the stove heating the cabin. During the summer the solar panels can practically run everything but in the winter I become dependent on shore power for heat and to keep the batteries topped off. With a diesel stove running for twelve hours a day I can heat the water, the cabin, cook from the stovetop and almost completely eliminate the need for electricity, except to top off the batteries. Now that this project has been ticked off, I can now focus on the engine’s water pump, prevent any additional corrosion and prolong the life of the engine. Once I have used the hot water heating system enough to know it’s quirks, I will make sure to update the blog with any discoveries.

Th

Hot water coil and new superheater. Much better!
Hot water coil and new superheater. Much better!