Posted by: Cap'n Fuzzy | February 24, 2016

How I Fell in Love…

With Dickinson Diesel stoves, that is!  Digging through photos to find something showing the Bristol in place in HC27.

Isn’t there a song, “One step forward and two steps back…”?? So now the Wayback Machine (from Rocky the Flying Squirrel, not the internet derivation) will take us to an even more distant time, 1977 I believe.

It looks like this will turn into at least one blog post just to briefly tell the story of the voyage of S/V Ungaluk from Vancouver to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. I really need to track down some of the other crew and recover some pictures. The trip was supposed to be chronicled by National Geographic magazine but something more interesting came up for them so it is a story that has never been told. We travelled from Prince Rupert, BC to Juneau, Alaska along with another boat; so many stories….

But back to just a wee anecdote about how that trip cemented my feelings for simple, reliable heat sources for a warm, dry boat interior and cooking.

The other boat was a wooden hulled, 37 ft displacement cruiser, the name of which I cannot recall. The owners, Dave and Randy, were headed to Alaska and had spent the previous year rebuilding the boat in Seattle with cold weather in mind. The Dickinson stove has a hot water loop! Dave had set up an unpressurized thermal siphon heating system so that even with the stove barely burning on it’s lowest setting, it continuously heated water stored in a relatively small electric hot water tank. The boat had either one or two inboard diesel engines with ac generating capability so that even in hot weather, all 3-4 days of it each year, they could heat water with generated or shore power if they were not running the stove.

Ungaluk, the sailboat I was on, in contrast, seeemed a much more slapdash affair. The boat had spent it’s previous life in Florida, a floating patio for cocktails at the dock. The new owner, Bob McKenzie, grew up and lived in the Canadian Arctic. The west coast was nearly tropical, from his perspective, and I assumed he saw no need for additional heat, even though the plan was to sail it back to the Beaufort Sea and keep it there. The boat had a centre cockpit and the large main cabin aft housed the galley with, yup, a propane RV cooktop, no oven. So no real heat there.

In the forward midsection of the boat there was a laughable little cast iron heater built into the bulkhead in the passageway. It burned charcoal BBQ briquettes. I know this because we purchased a couple of bags of briquettes in Prince Rupert and I burned them in said heater. No heat from this device was detectable more than 3 feet away in any direction. I know that because 4 feet further forward was the entrance to the foc’sle, my own little space in boating heaven, where my perpetually soggy port bunk awaited me each night. No heat there.

Never, ever, under any circumstances, take a down sleeping bag to sea! I grew up on the prairies, camping in the foothills and mountains where the 10 inch annual rainfall verged on desert conditions. I had never been near a rainforest! The average rainfall in Ocean Falls, BC, on the mainland, just north of the north tip of Vancouver Island is something like 200-300cm/yr (**check this**). In a salt air environment, once the down is wet, it takes forever, or at least most of a BC summer to dry it out. At the time new artificial insulation like polyester fibre fill types were just becoming common. Reputedly, it will dry out, even when wet, just from body heat.

So the clincher for me was the absolute cosmic joy of having a hot shower on Dave and Randy’s boat after a week of crawling into a cold, wet nylon covered down filled sleeping bag in the unheated foc’sle of Ungaluk. Warm is good!

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