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Baby, It’s Relatively Cold Outside!

“Hey Krabby, what do you think about writing something seasonal for your December column?” asked my Editor.


“What did you have in mind? It’s hard to get into the holiday sailing spirit when we just sailed Hot Rum #1 in shorts and t-shirts.” I answered, while hanging the made-up mainsheet to dry on Sally’s boom.


“Here’s a tray of appetizers for the crew” said the East Coaster from below handing up the snacks, “your cup is empty Krabby what do you want? I think it’s a little warm for hot rum drinks” she continued.


“I agree, as I was just was saying – it’s hard to talk about fall and winter boating when it’s so nice and warm out, but that’s San Diego...guess I’d better start with the usual - rum and tonic.” I replied with my request for my favorite refreshment.


“You are right about sailing in Southern California, my Dad put his boat on the hard a month ago back in New York, I’m glad we can enjoy the water all year long. Though, I’ll admit, it is starting to get chilly at night, in a relative sense, of course.” said the East Coaster with a shiver. It’s nice to light the fireplace and warm up down below when there is a chill in the air.

“Then maybe for round two, we should switch to hot rum. I get what you’re saying about our on-the-water lifestyle between December and March. It’s hard to beat being warm, dry, and enjoying hot drinks down below when it’s cold out.” I agreed.


“Alright – that’s the topic. We can call it ‘Baby, It’s Relatively Cold Outside!’” chimed in the Editor with a long laugh. “Alright, seriously though – for December, let’s talk about all the little things that make life afloat most comfortable, even in the-season-we-dare-call-Winter here in Southern California” said the Editor, still chucking at her own jokes.


“Ha ha, I get it. Even the oh-so-subtle change of the season here is enough chill for us to need a little heat down below, hot drinks (naturally) and perhaps a dodger for the cockpit. With just a few additional creature comforts we can race and cruise year-round. Well…” I took a deep breath, and looked around at what keeps Sally cozy even on the blustery days – however few and far between they may be…


”The galley stove is one of the first pieces of equipment that gets a work out when the seasons change. We’ve talked about the different kinds of stoves in the past, but now is the time to make sure it is in safe working order. If the galley stove is not enough to warm things up down below, you might have a gas, oil, or wood-burning heater, but it’s important to know that with these heaters you must inspect the exhaust system. Fumes leaking into living spaces are deadly.


Lighting is another overlooked item. Cabin lights have come a long way since the dome light with an incandescent bulb. The new LED lighting systems provide a number of options and draw very little electricity. That said, I am partial to oil lamps and I know this is a favorite of the Editor’s too.


Oil lamps have kind of been forgotten about, but they are a great source of dry heat and light on a cool fall evening. One of the little-known benefits of a oil lamps is that they consumes moisture while they burn taking away the dampness below deck after the sun sets. Another bonus is that the light from the flame won’t blind your night-watch crew. Even the best dimmable LED lights can’t hold a candle to a properly tuned oil lamp. They provide the warmest lighting and are easily adjustable. Its takes a little practice but if you give a couple oil lamps a trial down below, you’ll be hooked.


Oil lamp maintenance is pretty easy, just remember that the wick should be below the burner and the glass chimney should be kept clean. If soot is building up on the glass, turn the wick down so it is below the burner. It will seem like it’s going out, but then it will start to burn brighter and cleaner.


Some people make use of electric stoves or heaters on board, it’s worth discussing a few pre-cautions with these. These appliances use a lot of energy and the shore connection can be a weak link. Check your shore power connection to make sure both dock and boat ends are clean, dry, and are able to twist and lock in place securely. Look to see if there is any evidence of burnt connections - if so there is a problem that needs to be addressed. It could be as simple as a loose connection at the outlet due to wear and tear, or an indication of a more serious issue, such as an overloaded circuit.


Even if everything looks great with your connections - don’t just assume that you can turn everything on your boats AC system on at once. That’s a lot of energy to flow through a little yellow cord. If notice your shore power cord has steam coming from it on a cool fall evening - you are likely pushing the limit of your shore power system.” I said, coming up for air from my barrage of information.


“Wow - I can’t believe you have gone this long without your drink, I think I see steam coming from you!” joked the East Coaster passing over my refreshment, “That is interesting about the shore power connections, isn’t true that electrical fires are one of the largest marine casualties in the fall and winter? I can understand why, if the typical shore power is 120 volts at 30 amp hours, that’s 3.6 kilowatts or about 5 horsepower. It’s no surprise that there are fires from trying to force all that energy though the ‘little yellow cord’, as you called it.” she continued.


“I have a question, East Coaster, when you said 5 horsepower is that the same as the 5 horsepower outboard on that dinghy over there?“ inquired the Editor.


“That’s right - it equates to the same amount of energy whether you are pushing a dinghy or cooking dinner,” responded the East Coaster.


“That is exactly why you must take care with the electrical systems on a boat – it’s a lot of energy crammed into a small package and if everything is not just right, there can be serious consequences.” I explained


“This is great information, I know that a good number of our members are experts here around SDYC - present company included - but I bet there are plenty of new-ish boat owners that are not aware of what it takes to keep a yacht comfortable and safe, especially in the Winter.” The editor said.


With all you’ve told us, it sounds like oil lamps are a great way to go, but you already know they are one of my favorite on-board comforts. I have wondered though – isn’t it a bit of a hazard having an open flame?” asked the Editor


“Of course, every skipper and crew worth their weight in salt already knows to take extra caution with an open flame. That being said, oil lamps have been around for some time and with some common sense they are safe. You need a bit of ventilation and the lamp must be mounted with proper clearance from flammable materials. As I said, they do take a little effort to light and adjust but it is well worth it for the warmth and glow that they provide.” I explained.


“Speaking of lights, it is getting dark already – let’s go below, and light the stove and the oil lamps after all that talk!” suggested the East Coaster.


“I’m in for a hot rum….cause baby, it’s relatively cold outside...say lend me a coat…” sang the Editor, trying to make her adapted lyrics work…”hey, Krabby can you play this number on your trumpet?”


“Just get me the sheet music, we’ll make it work…is it time for hot rum drinks already? Alright, sounds good - I’m on my way with the matches.


Happy Holidays SDYC! Tis the season for San Diegan’s to keep on sailing. I hope everyone puts some of these ideas to use and enjoys a warmer, relatively cold season on the water this “winter”.

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