Monday, November 25, 2013


People sometimes ask me why I don't post more about being a liveaboard .... about life on a boat. Well, the answer generally is that, most days, my life doesn't look much different than yours -- even though I live it afloat.

But some things really are different when you live aboard, and I became painfully aware of one of those differences over the last few days while it's been cold outside.

You see, we don't have the same electrical power that you have in a house. From my limited understanding of the difference, I'll try to explain.... 

There are 15 amps in a standard '110 volt' outlet -- the kind that you all have a few dozen of in your homes. And you could plug something in to every single outlet in your house and be using all that electricity ... and probably never blow a breaker.

Here on our boat .... and in many marinas ... we have a total of 30 amps of power available to us at any time. Period.

Your average coffee pot, while perking, uses 6 - 9 amps. An electric heater of any sort generally uses about 13. A hot water tank uses about 15 amps. A TV and satellite system and computer and printer and cordless phone and fridge and a lamp to see them all with will use a total of about 15 amps.

Can you see how this could be a problem?

Right. In the summer, 30 amps is plenty of power for us ... we don't have heat on (and neither does any other boat in the marina), and our hot water tank is a 'mini' version so it only uses about 7 amps or so. So we can run our 'house' and never blow a breaker.

This time of year, however, we need heat ... and the other boats here, even though no one else lives aboard, still often have a little heater on board to stave off mildew. And we don't *each* have 30 amps; I'm not exactly sure how many amps we all have, but I do know that sometimes if I turn on the coffee pot at the moment that someone else's heater kicks in, the breaker to the whole dock blows.

And Michael then gets up from his recliner, puts his boots on, goes up the dock to the driveway, and flips the breaker.

But never mind the other boats. Just on this one, we sometimes have to 'juggle' our power requirements if we don't want to blow the breaker. Especially when it's cold enough that we'd like to have a heater on ... in the aft cabin (that would be our bedroom), for example, while we have the woodstove warming up the salon (that's the living-room, in boat talk).

So we do this dance, almost daily, in the winter months. Want to make coffee? Turn off the hot water heater for that 10 minutes (and don't forget to turn it back on so you have hot water for your shower in half an hour). Need to use the hair blower? Better turn off the heater for a few minutes so I can dry my hair.

Get the picture? Mostly, it's an accepted disadvantage of daily live-aboard life. But sometimes it's just really annoying!  

I did knit a hat today...
... so I'm happy about that!

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