The Top 5 “Wintering Aboard in Maine” Questions We Get Asked (Portland, Maine)

Winter live aboards in Portland, Maine

1. What about heat?

This is definitely the #1 question we get asked, and rightly so — it was the number one question I had before this winter, too!!

Heating the boat with a diesel heater in the winter in Maine

The short answer is “with electricity”. The longer answer is “we have an oil-filled heater that’s always on, a small ceramic blower that we turn on in the morning, and a diesel heater that we turn on when we want to play ‘tropical paradise‘ and lounge around in t-shirts.”

Funnily enough, heating the boat has been (relatively) easy, for a few reasons:

  • Our boat is approximately the size of your bathroom. Maybe your bedroom, if you live in an older house with a super duper small closet-style bathroom. But literally we’re heating about 180 sq. ft of space, so one oil-filled heater goes a long ways.
  • We insulated as much of the boat as we possibly could (using 3/4″ foam against the hull, in the backs of our cupboards, etc).
  • We have a giant (amazing) shrinkwrap bubble that captures the sun’s heat on any non-snowy days.
  • We were so grumpy about paying $300+/month to freeze in our rental house last winter, that being WARM (for an average of $100/month) is just downright amazing.
  • We are also big fans of wool socks, silk long underwear, fleece pyjamas, heated sheets, slippers and lots of coffee.Looking backwards from the vberth

Note that I took the picture above from the very front of the boat looking back… there’s just not that much space that needs to be heated!!
A beautiful winter day in Portland, Maine

2. Are there other people living aboard?

I guess people are curious if there are others that are as weird as we are, but I swear this is the second most frequently asked question. And the answer is yes! We’re not the only ones down here, and we’re not the only ones with shrinkwrapped bubbles!

DiMillo's marina in the winter

My (very professional) guesstimate is that there are about a dozen full-time liveaboards, and maybe another 10-20 boats that are being winter wet-stored (ie they’re still in the water). The nice part about winter is that we actually *know* almost everyone who is living here, so there’s a fun sense of community.

DiMillo's marina in the winter

3. Do you have a door?

Door into shrinkwrap bubble sailboat in Maine winter

We do! If you’ve come to visit us in our bubble, you’ve probably exclaimed about how much you like our door. And I don’t blame you 🙂 It’s awesome.

Awesome door in the shrinkwrap bubble

After enduring a hobbit-sized zipper entrance last year (when we weren’t living on the boat), we knew we wanted a FULL SIZE DOOR to our bubble. I told Jon it could be 5’6 tall, but he splurged for the extra 6″ so it’s even man-height 🙂

Leah in the bubble on a freezing-rain day on the boat

4. Where do you shower?

A blizzard on the boat in winter

We’re super thankful that DiMillo’s marina has two amazing shower/bathroom facilities (as well as laundry). Somehow the idea of showering in the cockpit with a 2L pop bottle is just not as appealing as it used to be… So the only tough part is making the short trek up to the shower facilities.

5. Aren’t you driving each other crazy?

Jon and Leah in Saratoga Springs

I guess this falls back in the “are you sane” category, but honestly we get along super well and manage to give each other ‘mental’ space even when we can’t give each other physical breathing room!

Jon and Leah on the Casco Bay Bridge

To be fair, there have been many more conversations along the lines of “Do we need a bigger boat?”, “What will Brio II look like?”, “How long do you think it would take to add 10′ to the middle of Brio?”, “Do you think Chuck Burns wants to design us a Nor’West 43′?”… but these are (mostly) in jest.

Morning shenanigans

And the most asked question onboard Brio? “When can we take the bubble off and go sailing?!?”

…Apparently not today; it currently looks like this inside the bubble:

Shrink wrap really works for sailboats

– – LMK 🙂

Welcoming Winter? (in Portland, Maine)

I’m leaving the ‘?’ because we’ve really only had a handful of “winter” feeling days, so I’m not sure if we’re welcoming him or not. And yes, winter feels like a man. Summer feels like a lady. I don’t know why.

Anyways, I’ve got a month’s worth of photos to randomly update about, so here we go in chronological order…

“What’s the most inexpensive and satisfying boat project you’ve ever done?” asked no one. Since you asked, here it is:

New sailboat cushion upholstery

We reupholstered our upper cushions, FOREVER ELIMINATING the dreadful droopy velcro awfulness. I don’t know what it is about cushions that won’t STAY IN THEIR DAMN PLACE, but I swear those droopy cushions bothered me more than most boat-related tribulations 🙂 The new ones cost approximately $18 to construct and they don’t fall down, forever placing them in my “favourite boat project” category.


“How’s the jewelry going Leah?”, you might wonder… to which I would respond “AMAZINGLY WELL” and “PLEASE CAN WE PLAY SHOW & TELL?!?”

(apologies to all my friends who actually did have to play show and tell with me… you are all the best)

Bright Beyond Belief - Smoky Quartz Ring

Bright Beyond Belief - Red Garnet Ring

Bright Beyond Belief - White Sapphire and Silver Necklace

Bright Beyond Belief - Golden Citrine Earrings

Jess and I upped the jewelry game, taking it from a side hobby to a real, live, 4-day (!!!) craft fair. Where we rocked matching shirts and gorgeous gems, of course 🙂

Kruger girls rocking the craft fair

Kruger girls rocking the craft fair

(When I visit my sister in Vancouver I try to make up for the lack of sister-hugs by stealing the love every chance I get)

Kruger sister love

“What else did you do in Vancouver, Leah?”

So glad you asked! I found snow (which had – up to that point – been missing in Maine)…

First snow was in Vancouver

And hiked up a mountain to chop down a tree with my dad and Poppa… this year we managed to NOT choose an 18′ tree, much to my Grandma’s relief 🙂

Cutting down the Christmas tree with dad and Poppa

And I even dragged dad out cross-country skiing… where he promptly left me in the dust (powder?) as I huffed and puffed my way up the hills behind him…

Skiing with dad

Skiing with dad in Silverstar

“How’s the weather been in Maine, Leah?”

Oh my new favourite topic! Or favorite, I guess, since we’re now talking about Maine 😉

Well up until yesterday it had been downright balmy! Necessitating UHAUL parking lot selfies (we’re not moving, we just fill our baby boat propane tanks here)

Still sunny in Maine!

Christmas on the boat was very sweet…

Christmas aboard - simple gifts

Christmas aboard - a baby lavender tree

With great blue skies…

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And short-sleeve selfies…

2015-12-25 11.42.57

A dozen crabs…

2015-12-25 13.13.17

A half-dozen lobsters…

2015-12-26 11.25.22

And more ridiculous blue skies!!

2015-12-26 14.16.27

But then the cold came…

2015-12-28 11.22.20

And then the snow came 🙂

2015-12-29 08.01.40

Now we get to *really* find out if our bubble does its job or not…

2015-12-29 08.28.08

2015-12-29 08.58.38

SO FAR, so good 🙂

2015-12-29 09.00.13

2015-12-29 17.46.09

2015-12-29 17.46.30

2015-12-29 17.54.48

And the blizzard didn’t keep us from walking to the cheap theatres for $5 Tuesdays, so I can’t complain 🙂

2015-12-29 20.07.23

So winter, you’re welcome for now, but don’t stay for too long, k?


We Live in a Bubble: Shrink-wrapping a Sailboat in the Water with the Mast Up (in Portland, Maine)

Yes I know that’s a long title. But if you knew how many times I googled “how to shrinkwrap a sailboat in the water with the mast up” you’d understand… with the mast UP and in the WATER are key complicating factors to this fun little boat job 😉

We now live in a giant bubble. We’re lovingly referring to it as “the bubble” because “giant contraption covered in somewhat opaque plastic” just doesn’t have the same ring to it and I’m already worried about how long it’ll be until we hate the bubble… 🙂

Shrinkwrapping a sailboat in the water with the mast up

But for now — for now — the bubble is AMAZING. We built our frame hoops out of two sections of electrical conduit zap-strapped to the stanchions, and that made for the most beautiful amount of headroom you can imagine.

Shrinkwrapping a sailboat in the water with the mast up

We also have a “full size” door on this baby; last year we shrinkwrapped Brio (on land, with the mast down) and we unintentionally made it so that you had to snake-like belly-wiggle to get from the door to the cockpit #nofun. Since we’re committed to trying this whole living-aboard-in-a-Maine-winter thing, we knew we needed a better entry system 🙂

Shrinkwrapping a sailboat in the water with the mast up

It took a full day to construct the web (frame) for the shrinkwrap, and here’s what the whole mess looked like when we were done…

Shrinkwrapping a sailboat in the water with the mast up

At this point there were a few hurriedly whispered “is this too big?”, “are we crazy?”, “is the marina going to kick us out over this contraption??” conversations, but we decided our windage is really no more than the average power boat, and we want HEAD ROOM goshdarnit. So full steam ahead 🙂

Shrinkwrapping a sailboat in the water with the mast up

I’d like to mention that we chose maybe the NICEST two days ever to shrinkwrap… it was 50 degrees, flat calm and crystal clear blue skies. The kind of day you should probably be out sailing actually 🙂

But last year we waited until after the first snow (oops) and had to spend the first half of a day scraping icy bits out of boat crevices (and boats have a lot of crevices, it turns out) so we are trying to learn from our mistakes.

Shrinkwrapping a sailboat in the water with the mast up

Thank goodness Jon found another boater’s post about shrink-wrapping that mentioned doing the plastic part in two pieces. “DUH” in hindsight, but “OF COURSE” in the moment.

I shudder to think about what a 40′ x 32′ piece of shrink wrap flapping in the wind while we tried to cut a slot for the mast might have looked like…

Shrinkwrapping a sailboat in the water with the mast up

As it was we still made one pretty big boo-boo… when we cut the slit for the backstay, we then proceeded to shrinkwrap the bottom, back and front before remembering to seal that slit at the top.

It’s REALLY hard to get to the top of the bubble once it’s been shrinkwrapped (it’s 10′ in the air!) so we had to do a bit of a hack tape-and-pray job. That should work, right?? 😉

Shrinkwrapping a sailboat in the water with the mast up

Last year Jon (and our great friend Bill, who saved our clueless butts) did all of the shrink-wrapping while I “assisted” (aka: took pictures and made hot drinks). This year I wanted to get in on the action, so I made sure Jon documented my contribution too 😉 do

In fact, he even got a little video of the patented “heat and pat” motion… in case you’re interested! I’m working on sealing the two pieces together in this:

All in all, it took us a half-day-ish to build the frame and strap it all down to the boat, and a very real full day (with two people working the whole time) to do the plastic cutting and shrinking part. So not too bad.

Shrinkwrapping a sailboat in the water with the mast up

The very cool part is that when the sun is shining it’s *literally* summer-like inside the bubble. We’ve been hanging out on deck in t-shirts and there’s talk of some sand and a blow up palm tree. We’re classy like that, you know?

Shrinkwrapping a sailboat in the water with the mast up

We haven’t built our door yet (just the frame) so that will be interesting, and we still need to add a few more vents. We’re mostly heating with electric heaters but when we run the diesel heater we’ll need to figure out a very good venting system (I don’t want to croak inside a giant bubble).

We did wake up to frost on the inside of the bubble this morning, so that’s an interesting (condensation-related) problem to consider… and I’m sure we have all sorts of other learning ahead of us!

But for now, I’m pretty happy to drink a glass of wine on deck and pretend I’m cruising in the tropics again…

Shrinkwrapping a sailboat in the water with the mast up

– LMK 🙂

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