It’s been roughly 10 days since I returned to Beetle after visiting Arizona and California, and it was high time to finish up the Webasto heater replacement – it can get chilly up this way in the San Juan Islands and it would be a good thing to have an operational heater should that happen. The original Webasto DBW2010 hydronic heater had worked well for 17 years, but unfortunately it died when the coolant fluid turned acidic and ate the internal aluminum double-boiler parts of the heater.
The heater has worked wonderfully for quite a while, particularly when in San Francisco, and once I figured out the damage was terminal I wanted to replace it. Don’t order a German-built bus heater in August – everybody in Germany seems to be on vacation at that time. I didn’t receive the heater until October, and upon further inspection decided it was a good idea to replace the stainless steel exhaust line as well – that took another four weeks to sort through and obtain (kudos to National Marine Exhaust for coming up with a solid, flexible corrugated stainless steel line with custom-welded end fittings – Scott is a is a good guy to work with).
I also decided to rotate the heater installation 180 degrees to facilitate inspecting the interior of the heater when the burner-head is opened up and I can peer inside. That decision meant building a new soundproofing box; a day with the table saw at the barn and I was able to use up some leftover baltic birch marine plywood, glue it together with resin and then it was off on my holiday excursions; heater would have to wait.
I got back mid-January, immediately picked up where I left off and tabbed together the box with 10 oz. fiberglass and epoxy, sanded the result smooth, and got back to the boat in Friday Harbor (the work was happening over on Orcas Island, which is a totally different place).
It took another four days to sort through the exhaust line run (have to keep hot metal exhaust tubing away from fiberglass hull bits), wrap the line with 2″ glass exhaust wrap (a thermal blanket material), re-build the first couple feet of coolant hose due to the change in heater orientation, cut and install the 1-1/2″ sound proofing material in the box, bolt everything together, and hook up the electrical circuits – only SureMarine had forgotten to send one particular wire, which was an important bit as this wire goes from the Webasto control box to the coolant pump and without it the pump doesn’t run and you don’t get heat… I had the wire from the old heater back at the barn on Orcas and that was another day run-around to fetch.
Got it all working Sunday afternoon. Sunday night everything froze in Friday Harbor, I was super lucky to get the system up and running just in time. A significant Low pressure system moved through the area, some rain, lots of wind, and immediately behind the Low the N and NE breeze filled in, bringing nice chilled air from our pals up north in Canada – they have cold air and apparently decided to share some with us less fortunate folks to the south. And then it started to alternate light snow and light hail for several hours – the snow was fun, the hail not so much. Temperatures dropped to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the water started to freeze – now I have an idea of what it means when the weatherfax calls for ‘Heavy Freezing Spray’ – not fun at all.
The USCG came in off the water and tied up their 90′ cutter on the outside of the breakwater (I’m on the inside) and proceeded to get thumped against the dock all night long while the wind cranked up to 35 gusting 40 knots, salt spray going clear across the dock and over Beetle. In the morning the cutter tried to leave and found their dock lines were frozen solid and had to be broken up to become flexible enough to snake through the hawse pipes.
Here is a short bit of video from the companionway come morning; the sun is up, the grey clouds are gone, no rain, what you can’t tell from the picture is the temperature is below freezing at 25F and the wind is 25 gusting 30. The short chop is kicking up spray going over the boat, but not as often as it was during the night. And that’s 1/2″ thick saltwater ice on the concrete dock.
By afternoon the backed way off, and the following morning there was lots of ice hanging out and it’s still below freezing. I went for a walk around the marina and there was very little damage to the facilities but a lot of ice hanging about.
I’m very happy to have the big Webasto heater going while here in Friday Harbor. The DBW 2010 is a 42,000 BTU heater; a 1500 watt electric plug-in heater produces 5000 BTU, running the Webasto is the same as having eight electric heaters all going at once. Keeps the toes toasty when it’s extra cold outside.
Weather should be good (but chilly) for a couple of days, and then the next Low pressure plays through. Meanwhile Seattle has lots of snow on the ground, something we didn’t get up here.
– rob & Beetle
[Note: a video embedded in a post is something I haven’t tried out before, therefore I do not know what the best mechanism is – I just hope this isn’t trying to run in Adobe Flash for starters… something to experiment with over time]