Newport Dickinson Heat Part 1


H Climate change, whether you believe, (or sadly) don’t believe is making itself known here in the PNW. I guess it could also just be winter, but who really cares, its cold! Cold weather + no heat + rain + gale force wind makes for some some less than ideal sailing. Being that we now have less than a year before departure, we are trying to take every advantage possible to get out there. Last year, Ava and I took advantage of some extended vacation in late December  to go on a two week sail through the Gulf Islands in Canada, it was unbelievable. A big reason why we managed to have a great time can be summed up in two words.

Warm. Dry.

When I began construction of the new cabin aboard Cinderella, I removed some items that wasted space. One of those items was the old diesel drip heater, a SigMarine 180. Being that we plan to circumnavigate the globe along the equator, we did not need a bulky SigMarine 180 taking up all that space aboard. It was great having all that space open this summer, but now that winter has kicked in we are less than enthused about taking extended sailing trips away from the dock and the wonder of electric heat.

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The Sig 180 provided dry heat that allowed us to live in comfort during our sail. it also managed to dry out all of our clothing as we sailed along from island to island. There has to be a way to keep the heat, but not waste all the space. After all, we are going to be shrinking our lives into a measly 35 feet for the next couple years, the more space we can keep the better. Enter the Newport Dickinson Heater.

Along the way in my boatly learning, I acquired an Ericson 27 which had a bulkhead mounted version of the very bulky, free standing behemoth I yanked from Cinderella. An afternoon and some very sooty hands later I had successfully salvaged the heater from Cinderella’s smaller sister ship.

Ava and I had planned another sailing trip over thanksgiving, so I had a deadline to get this new heater installed and working.

The first step was to clean what looked like 30 years of soot out of this old heater and prepare it for installation into Cinderella. I disassembled the heater as far as I was willing to go (pulling the valve assembly off and disassembling it) in the cold one afternoon and cleaned out all of the parts to prepare for re installation in the starboard bulkhead of Cinderella.

Time was ticking and I needed to prepare Cinderella for the addition of this new heater. I had two major modifications I needed to make.

  1. Cut hold in cabin top for chimney EEK!
  2. Cut stainless steel heat shield to fit on starboard bulkhead behind the heater.

Cutting a hole in the cabin top turned out to be quite a task for my Harbor Freight holesaw kit. I think I went through 4 battery charges on my drill before I was able to cut the 4″ hole required for the chimney. It did work though, and I am impressed with how much use I was able to get out of this cheap little “one time use” kit. Every time you put a hole in the cabin top of one of these fiberglass boats, you need to be aware of any possible leak points. Most fiberglass production boats have a sheet of either plywood of balsa sandwiched between the fiberglass layers to add rigidity to the boat. A hole in this fiberglass is a potential leak point which could rot the wood and destroy the rigidity of the cabin top. Not good. Fortunately I had mixed up some epoxy for another task below, so I was able to seal the balsa coring with the leftovers around the hole I drilled for the chimney.

Cutting the stainless steel heat shield turned out to be quite a PITA! I started with a cutoff wheel on my dremel, but in short order I was out of blades and with quite a bit left to cut. After looking over my saw options, I landed on good old fashioned horsepower, that’s right, a hacksaw. After about an hour of grunting and grumbling I had finally finished making the cut and Ava and I were able to install the heat shield and the stove.

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Fortunately, I had 3 pieces of chimney pipe to choose from after removing 2 heaters, so I was able to find a piece that looked the nicest and fit the location perfectly.

The only remaining task was to go topside and install the chimney top from above.

The chimney top would connect to the chimney coming from the heater and complete the stack.

My initial belief was that I would be able to bend the shroud around the chimney to fit the curvature of the cabin top – a novice move. I quickly realized that I would need to build up the cabin top to a level plane to meet the chimney top on the deck.

Level on a boat is… relative?  It was getting dark and cold, and I had run out of time if we still wanted to go cruising.

The deck was sealed, so my main worry had subsided. I did the only thing I could to attach the chimney top to the deck and get us ready to leave, marine silicone adhesive.

It looks pretty awful, but it will cover the majority of the hole, and allow us to use the heater on the short term until I can make a fiberglass platform for the chimney top to attach to.

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The next day rolled around and it was time to test the old, new heater! We screwed the day tank to the wall, filled it up and primed the burner. The directions say to set the valve to setting 1 and wait 5 minutes for approx a Tbsp of diesel to form in the burner pot. 10 minutes had gone by and I could hardly see diesel in the bottom pipe of the burner, something was wrong. “Well, maybe I need to give it extra time to fill the valve assembly. I’ll give it another 10 minutes,” I thought. 10 minutes later and I had a pool of diesel! Time to light this thing up and test it out!

Nothing.

The pool lit, but after a few minutes it would go out and no more diesel would flow into the burner pot. Something was clogged, but it was going to have to wait for another time. Thanksgiving was going to be a cold, wet sail.

And it was.

Follow along for Part 2 of the Dickinson Newport Diesel Heater Install.

 

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