The purpose of this project is to design and mass-produce kits for a floating tiny house that can sail. It combines high-tech modeling and fabrication and low-tech assembly that can be carried out DIY-style on a riverbank or a beach. This boat is a four-bedroom with a kitchen, a bathroom/sauna, a dining room and a living room. The deck is big enough to throw dance parties. It can be used as a river boat, a canal boat or even a beach house. It's rugged and stable enough to take out on the ocean. Kits will start at around $50k (USD). The design has been tested in simulation and prototype; full-scale production will begin next year.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Marine Russian Stove

During the decade or so we have spent living aboard, we went through a succession of methods to keep the cabin warm during the cold months. On our first journey south, we cast off from Boston in mid-October, the day before the marina would have kicked us out because we hadn’t signed a contract for winter dockage. We progressed south rather more slowly than we had expected, and made it as far as Charleston in early December. There we decided to overwinter, and proceeded further south three months later. When we first set off, all we had on board was an electric space heater, plus a propane heater powered by 1 lb. camp stove canisters. We went through a large pile of these. The electric space heater only worked when we were tied up at the dock and plugged in to shore power. While under way, we tried to keep warm by burning propane. But propane generates a lot of moisture as it burns, causing the entire cabin—the clothing, the bedding, everything—to become dank, robbing the body of heat, while the moisture in the air condensed on the underside of the cabin top, causing it to literally rain inside the cabin. (There are few things more disagreeable than an intermittent cold drip on your head as you are trying to sleep.) When we got to Baltimore, we tied up at a marina to which I had previously arranged to have shipped a propane-fired Cozy Cabin Heater. It was designed to be plumbed to a 20 lb. propane tank, and included a flue, thus solving the moisture problem. I installed it using the materials on hand and life got significantly better. Once in Charleston, where we overwintered, we used this heater along with the electric space heater, and the cabin stayed comfortable.

Eventually we got back to Boston, by which point the Cozy Cabin Heater died, as had the company that made it, and hunting down replacement parts for it turned out to be a nightmare. This is not at all unusual: most of the equipment manufactured for the recreational marine market is shoddy, overpriced and falls apart rather quickly. At that point, as part of a thorough refit, I replaced it with a Tiny Tot charcoal stove, made by a tiny company somewhere in Michigan. The heat it delivered was intense and very dry, and kept the cabin toasty all by itself on even the coldest nights with no condensation problems. But we had to get up every 2-3 hours to add 5-6 charcoal briquettes. Solid fuel stoves were forbidden at the marina where we stayed, but nobody noticed. Also as part of that refit I insulated the entire cabin with two layers of radiant barrier, ½ inches of Pink Panther foam insulation, another layer of radiant barrier and a layer of fancy 1/16-inch varnished cherry plywood with oak trim. This made a huge difference: there were no more condensation problems and the cabin felt warmer than one would have guessed by looking at the thermometer. The one remaining problem was the cabin sole: there was no way to insulate the bilge and it was still cold. In spite of putting down rugs everywhere possible, it was difficult to keep our feet warm.

We were about to set off sailing again when we became pregnant and had to “upgrade” to a larger boat. The reason “upgrade” is in quotes is because we sold a very good boat—Hogfish, the eminently serviceable, versatile and fun 32-foot sharpie custom-built by Chris Morejohn—and bought an unwieldy, boring maintenance nightmare that is the typical commercially built yacht—a 36.5-foot Pearson. Its only real selling point is that Pearson made a mistake and made the fiberglass of the hull ridiculously thick, thus making it fairly indestructible. Over the five years that I owned that Pearson I came to genuinely detest it. Rest assured that I will never buy another commercially built production boat again, having learned firsthand all the different ways in which they are crap. As far as I am concerned, it’s either going to be a Quidnon—or a nice homestead. But if all goes as we expect, I’ll have one of each.

The Pearson came with a very strange piece of equipment: a Newport evaporative diesel heater. It used a little electric pump to squirt diesel oil into a bowl, and it was your job to get it burning. This involved tossing in some tissue paper soaked in diesel, lighting it on fire, and using a little electric fan to vent the fumes and fan the flames until the bowl of oil heated up enough to start evaporating and burning on its own. When everything was working as it should, it produced a pretty-looking warm glow, much like a fireplace. The rest of the time it produced prodigious amounts of soot and made the cabin stink of diesel oil. And the once in a while—invariably on a cold and stormy night—it would blow out, and coat the walls of the cabin, and everything inside it, with a fine film of smelly, oily soot. We used that heater for one winter, then gave up on it and let it sit, unloved and unused. As far as the rest of the boat, we did get some use out of it. I moved it south one summer, single-handing all the way down the coast, then had my family fly down, and there it stayed, at the dock, until we sold it. I didn’t enjoy sailing it; it sailed like a pig, with a strange corkscrew motion and a jarring “stomping on the breaks” effect at every other wave as the Pearson buried its fat snout in it. Well, that’s what you get with a hull that’s shaped like an endive. Its best feature by far was the heads: it had a full-size shower stall. Its second-best feature was the galley—once I tore out and rebuilt half the cabinetry.


Another problem with an endive-shaped hull (and most production cruising sailboats are, unfortunately, shaped like that) is that is almost impossible to insulate. On Hogfish, the sides were made of flat plywood sheets, curved in a single direction, and this was easy to insulate by adding flat slabs of foam. This is also going to be the case with Quidnon. Also, on Hogfish the sides were accessible, while the Pearson the cabin was a mess of fiberglass forms, one wedged into another before the deck got screwed on. (Yes, the deck was screwed on, not bolted on, using sheet metal screws bedded in epoxy; the wonders of commercial boatbuilding never cease to amaze!) Clearly, the designer had spent zero minutes thinking about how this hull could ever be insulated. Thus, the Pearson stayed uninsulated, and the cabin felt cold no matter how many electric space heaters we had going. We used a thick rug in the salon and electric blankets under all the mattresses, and that helped. We also taped bubble wrap under all of the hatches and insulated the companionway hatch as best we could.

As an aside, the economics of unique, versatile, custom-built boats like Hogfish, and like Quidnon is going to be, and sloppy production boats like the Pearson are very different. When I put up Hogfish for sale it sold almost immediately, and I doubled my money on it. If I hadn’t accepted the first offer (which I did because the buyer matched my asking price) there would certainly have been a bidding war. The Pearson stayed on the market for six months and eventually sold for a miserably small amount of money, because there is a glut of very similar boats sitting on the market forever, unused and unloved. The closing date for the sale fell on my birthday, which I took to be a sign that Neptune had taken pity on me. This contrast hints at what the situation will probably be like with Quidnons, once there is some number of Quidnons floating about. There are likely to be bidding wars for any of them that come on the market, be they bare hulls or be they finished boats with all of the equipment and amenities installed.

Getting back to the question of how to heat the cabin, our plans for Quidnon is to make it very comfortable and cheap to heat. Last week, Chris Raine asked a profound question: “Will this houseboat also have a Русская печь?” This question, I thought, requires an equally profound response, so here it is. What follows is an excerpt from my book Shrinking the Technosphere.

The design of the Russian stove is several centuries old and seems to have emerged soon after the spread of firebrick, which is a formulation high in silica that is less susceptible to spalling when heated repeatedly. It is a massive masonry structure with its own foundation. At its center is a vault with an arched ceiling and a flat floor, often high enough for someone to squat inside. Fire is set inside the vault, far inside the stove. At the front of the stove is a flue, which includes a dogleg with a gate that is used for hanging meat and sh for smoking. Right back of the flue is a threshold that protrudes down from the top of the vault, holding hot combustion gases inside the innermost part of the vault, resulting in better heat transfer. The top of the vault is filled with solid fill and covered over with a layer of brick, forming a platform, and a straw-filled mattress, which is often big enough to serve as a bed for an entire family of five. Between October and May, when the stove is red twice a day, the temperature of the platform stays at a constant, comfortable 25–27ºC (76–80ºF). During the hot part of the summer, when the stove is not red because cooking is done at an outdoor hearth, the stove provides a cool place to sleep.

The outer wall of the stove has several niches. They improve heat conduction from the stove to the air in the room and are also used to dry clothes, herbs, mushrooms and berries, to keep food warm and to provide a place for the samovar, which boils water for tea. The firebox of the samovar, typically stoked using pine cones, exhausts into the flue of the stove. Under the stove is a space that is used to store firewood and can be a warm place for animals to sleep. The stove can also be used as a sauna—by sitting cross-legged inside the vault when it is relatively cool.

The Russian stove includes an entire dedicated set of utensils that are specific to it, each perfected over the centuries to have the largest possible set of functions. Food is cooked in clay pots and in cast iron skillets that lack a handle. The pots are placed inside the stove using stove forks, which come in three sizes and grab pots by the neck, while the bread and the skillets are moved about using a flat-bladed wooden spade, similar to the paddles used to handle pizza.

For the sake of comparison, let’s consider what you’d have to shop for if you didn’t happen to have a Russian stove. To heat the house, you’d need to buy a furnace and either install an oil tank or hook the house up to a gas main. Then you’d need to construct a way to distribute the heat, through either forced air or baseboard heating, and this involves installing lots of either ducts or pipes. You could also install a modern, energy-efficient wood stove, but then the bedrooms would be cold, so you’d probably run out and buy some electric space heaters and, to keep the beds warm, some electric blankets. To cook food, you’d need to buy a cooking stove with an oven, either gas or electric, a toaster and a microwave oven. You’d need a separate smoker for smoking fish and meat, plus some drying racks for drying things. Or you could just get rid of all this expensive, short-lived junk and render yourself naturelike by building yourself a Russian stove and using it in place of all of the above.

From Shrinking the Technosphere, p. 139-40

So, how does one adapt the Russian Stove concept to a boat? Obviously, placing a massive masonry structure on board is out of the question. But after giving the question some thought I found ways to provide for most of the rest of its uses, including all of the following, using a relatively lightweight structure made of sheet metal:

• Keeping the cabin warm and providing warm, dry places to sleep and sit
• Heating water for showering, bathing and washing and to keep water ballast tanks from freezing
• Cooking
• Making steam for sauna
• Generating electricity
• Drying things

There will be two identical stoves—one in the galley, one in the heads/sauna—that will burn wood, charcoal or propane (since some doing like having to stoke a stove, and some marinas forbid the use of solid fuel). To burn propane, the ash box is replaced with a propane burner; the firebox can then be repurposed as an oven and used for baking or broiling. But when cruising or overwintering along wooded shores propane may be hard to come by while firewood is likely to be plentiful and either cheap or free for the taking, and so the option to burn wood is very useful.


Above the firebox is a stack of three heat exchanger compartments. Flue gas from the firebox can be sent through any of them using diverter valves. Right above the firebox is the water heat exchanger; next is the air heat exchanger; and at the top is the hot plate used as a cooking surface. The flue gas is then discharged into an 10-foot smokestack that penetrates the deck and rises above it, to produce plenty of draft. The sides and the back of the stove are double-walled, with a layer of rock wool between the walls for insulation.


The back wall, which is in contact with the hot flue gas, is especially well insulated, with a layer of aluminum flashing sandwiched between two layers of rock wool to provide a radiant barrier. A patch of the back wall is left uninsulated; there, a thermoelectric generator module is attached directly to the steel plate that is contact with the hot flue gas. The cold side of the thermoelectric generator is cooled by circulating ballast water through a water jacket. The two thermoelectric generators will provide a total of 100W of DC current—50W on each stove—and also keep the ballast tanks from freezing.
In the heads the hot plate surface has a pile of sauna stones attached to it using a stainless steel mesh. Having a sauna on a smallish sailboat may seem like an extravagance, but the Finns, the Russians and many others would disagree. I am sure that anyone overwintering on a Quidnon would value having a sauna on board.

Since most people prefer to cook with propane rather than fire up the stove for that purpose, in the galley the hot plate will usually have a propane cooktop placed over it. Above it is an exhaust hood vented to the outside; in the relatively small space of the cabin, it is essential that cooking smells not be allowed to permeate the cabin.

Space heating is via warm air. A circulator fan takes a mixture of outside and inside air and pushes it through the air heat exchanger. The output is injected into a network of ducts and plenums under the cabin sole which distributes the heat evenly throughout the cabin.


The plenums can be adjusted for optimum heat distribution and to suit the preferences of the occupants of each cabin and berth. Some of the warm air is sent under all of the berths, to keep the bedding warm and dry. In addition, warm air can be sent into the cockpit lazarettes and the cockpit well, to keep the cockpit warm and to provide warm places to sit while sailing. To keep the heat in, the cockpit can be enclosed using sliding window panels along the sides and a transparent vinyl curtain across its aft end.

The water heat exchanger is used to heat up water in the hot water tank used for bathing, washing and showering. The hot water tank is fitted with an alarm: when the water temperature rises above 80ºC, an alarm sounds, informing the stoker that it is time to turn the diverter valve on the water heat exchanger to off and to turn off the hot water circulator pump.

There are several good reasons why there are two stoves instead of just one:

• When overwintering on a Quidnon in the far north, hauled out on ice or on shore, and temperatures drop below -20ºC, both stoves would need to be fired in order to to keep the cabin toasty.
• During the warm and hot months in the temperate latitudes, and in the tepid ones, people still want hot water to be available, but lighting the stove in the galley would make it uncomfortable to be in, but the stove in the heads can be used instead.
• Having a large wood-heated cooking surface is very useful when preparing large quantities of food—whether to feed large groups or to process and lay up supplies for the winter—but the one in the heads is occupied by a pile of sauna stones.
• Having a pile of hot sauna stones to throw water on is the excellent, traditional way to generate steam for a sauna.

Above deck, one more flue gas diverter and heat exchanger can be installed to supply heat to a hot box that can be used to dry various things: mushrooms, salted fish, herbs, fruits and berries, clothing and footwear, etc. The hot boxes—one for each stove—can be made in one of two ways: as an easily assembled temporary installation, or as a permanent fixture attached to the bulwarks. In either case, the hot boxes provide additional warm places to sit while out on deck.

Two things need to happen in order to make the Marine Russian Stove a reality. First, with your help, I hope to sanity-check the concept and see if I made any mistakes or omissions. Second, if the concept is sound, comes the step of doing the math and producing the mechanical drawings, and if any of you are knowledgeable about stoves and heating system design and have the interest, I would welcome your input.

65 comments:

  1. I would recommend looking into some of the rocket mass heater designs at permies.com. They have built a ton of them and the forums are a wealth of info. They have yet to design one for a boat so there would likely be a lot of excited feedback. Exciting project. We have decided on the homestead route here in Auburn Maine so we have a nice heavy russian stove. Good luck Dimitry.

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    1. I once welded up a rocket stove. It worked great for boiling water. But what's needed here is something with minimal mass (since it's on the boat) and a slow and steady burn rate (to maximize the service interval).

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    2. Not a rocket stove but a rocket mass heater. They have made small light ones using perlite and wooden benches to cover the stove pipe. May still not be something that helps you but there is a lot of info there on ratio's of burn chambers and a lot of pyromaniac stove builders that frequent the forums to awnser questions. One big advantage could be that they burn so hot the exhaust is essentially water(the places you are not supposed to burn would never even know) and the mass can be almost anything including things already a part of your quidnon plans like a seating bench.

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    3. Yes, that's all fun, but off-topic as far as this particular design is concerned. There are other forums for discussing rocket stoves and mass heaters.

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  2. Good morning, Dmitry...

    I am an engineering dunce, one might say, so please be gentle with me--LOL!

    I just had a question: could lightweight silicone ceramics be of any use at all in insulating any of the stove components?

    It's more of a "gee-whiz" question from me. I love your Qunindon-design related posts!

    Thank you!

    Cindy

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    1. I don't know anything about lightweight silicone ceramics. I've had good experience insulating stoves and flues using fiberglass cloth, and I understand that rock wool is a reasonable and inexpensive material for this purpose. What I imagine will cost the least is a stove made of mild steel sheet metal cut on a sheer and bent on a break, and bolted through punched holes using bolts, nuts and lock washers with a jacket made of rock wool and thin aluminum sheets riveted together with aluminum pop rivets, with a couple of coats of stove paint for the exposed steel. The heat exchangers will probably be made of aluminum for air and copper coil for the water. These are all materials that are cheap and available all over the world. Anything more exotic is sure to raise the cost.

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    2. Thank you, Dmitry. I had to look up rock wool... Makes absolute sense: flexible, corrosion-proof, inexpensive and durable. :) Learn something new here every week!

      Cindy

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    3. Also, sorry for misspelling Quidnon. I need Unspell!

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    4. Silicon Carbide – it is used for high end kiln shelves. Also it is on the surface of the space shuttle tips. One use for it in a heater, if you didn’t mind the high price, is for the floor of a black oven with a piece of soapstone on top. It needs to be free floating. While it can handle extreme temperatures, it will not handle too much weight. Especially since it is not expanding at the same rate as other materials.

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  3. 1 of 2 Dmitry, I have about 25 years of experience of stove-heating for my boat, and I've cycled through a series of designs - all home made. One thing you can rely on: a stove - with outside-venting flue - absolutely transforms the comfort and dryness of the boat. It's a must. But what design?

    One comment straight away: to cook effectively (and economically! aways an important practical consideration with wood) you need your hot plate not very far above the fire bed, and exposed to it directly, radiant heat and all. Just ducting hot flue gases to it indirectly through dog-legs, even with heavily-insulated ducting, will lose you too much heat to be able to do rapid boils or fast (stir-type) frying, I think. I've had that problem in one of my designs.

    It helps too to have a machined-flat hotplate in cast iron or thick stainless (with machined-bottom pans) which will lift off easily, so that you can sit your wok or pan directly in the flame-path, for really hot, quick, *fuel-economical* cooking. But then of course you'll have some sooting issues with the pan bottom, which needs to be thought about for practical use.

    I started with a simple box stove, uninsulated and unlined, in stainless steel, which worked brilliantly as a rapid and hot heater, and fairly well as a cook-top, even though that first stove didn't have a loose, machined cast-iron hot-plate till much later.

    It - like all my non-rockets - had to be able to tick-over throughout a Winter night; and it did with about 2/3 of a cubic foot of wood fuel, in just about any form from logs to sticks to dry saw-dust. But pretty tight in-going draft control is essential to achieve this. This box is still in use, after more than 20 years, in my partners landwards allotment dacha - with NO spalling (Sic! 3mm s-steel plate). Don't ask me why, after what everyone says. But it's a fact. Must be good-formula stainless.

    I've had a long diversion into rocket building. Of these, I've tried a couple of mini-versions of a J-tube RMH, but there just isn't the space or the load-carrying capacity on a 30' boat to get enough heavy, dense heat-store material in. They are indeed considerably more fuel-economical for the same heat output than a box stove, because of course - by design - they always burn at a high-efficiency, full wide-open air-blast; hence the rocket roar. But for cooking you must feed and monitor them constantly; and for long-period heating from a single short burn, you have to have the heat-collector mass.

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  4. 2 of 2 So eventually I came back to a simple box; an upgrade of my original super-simple cubic-foot box, which had one front door only, and one flue-collar at the back of the top, and no other wall piercings at all. My current box has a loading door 8"X 5", a variable-aperture ash-door/primary-air door 2"X 4" below that, and a variable secondary air feed that puts air through a pre-heating channel inside the fire box, then vents it into the box above the burning fuel. This box is a square foot on the floor, and a total of 24" tall. Takes more fuel than the first one, when necessary for a long slow burn. It has a cast iron hotplate sitting loose in a seating at the top of the box. The gases then go backwards through an off-set channel, to an exhaust chimney at the back. I also fitted a venturi just below the hot-plate, to concentrate and speed up the gas flow as it hits the cast-iron plate, directly out of the box. There'a no grate. The wood burns directly on a steel-protecting bed of ash, which can be raked out through the primary air door, whether the stove is burning or not. (I don't mind throwing out a percentage of burnable charcoals, as I'm into making biochar for my garden beds.) Again, no insulation or fire-clay liners. Just bare 3mm stainless steel. After the record of my first box, plus a thin-plate s-steel knock up try-out stove that I bodged together previously when I first moved aboard, I'm pretty confident that this one won't spall either. That's been my experience. The escape from spalling may well be due to concentrating the flue-gases at their hottest point to hit the cast-iron plate, after which the temperature - and the excess hot-oxygen - seems to be reduced enough by then not to cause burn-up of the steel. The venturi may spall, though. We shall see. But that's just a modest s-steel insert which can be treated as a consumable.

    I do all my Winter cooking on this stove, and round-the-clock heating in Winter too. That takes about 15 pounds of wood a day, which I glean from local, heavily-neglected woodlands 'belonging' to a multinational cement company. When in its - usual - tickover mode, drawing air only through the dry door-joints (no stove-rope or other gasket needed) it gives off a constant small trickle of blue smoke from the chimney, which of course is wasted fuel, and air pollution. Hence a bit less fuel-efficient. But it works a treat, exactly as I need it to do. Long, slow overnight burns reliably performed. Very easy to knock up too, from 3mm plate, with just an angle grinder and a rod-welder.

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  5. PS: Fibre-glass melts away from your fire-tube at rocket temperatures. No good as an insulator at such heat-levels. Even stainless spalls at those temperature. Larry Winiarski and the Aprovecho team, and also Ianto Evans with his version of the rockets, and Erica and Ernie Wisner with their 700+ RMHs installed, have done great work at making low-tech heat-resistant insulator tiles our of clay and sawdust, or clay and ground charcoal. These can handle the temperatures that you're bound to get in rockets. Entire burn-tubes can be constructed of these tiles. Wood-ash, vermiculite and perlite can also stand the heat as insulators; and vermiculite and perlite can make competent insulated fire-tubes, using castable refractory as the other ingredient; I believe ceramic wool can stand the temperatures; I haven't tried rockwool.

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    1. Thanks, Rhisiart. I don't think that rocket stove technology applies to this problem. I built just one rocket stove, welded out of mild steel, and it had no issues.

      For Quidnon, I am thinking of also using mild steel (cheaper than stainless and easier to work). Rockwool is classified as A1 for combustibility (as in, not combustible) and can withstand continuous working temperatures of around 1000ºC while wood burns at between 300ºC and 600ºC (unless there is a recirculator to boost the temperature, as in a rocket stove). Here, we want to heat water, to 80-90ºC at most, and to warm air to maybe 35ºC, so super-hot temperatures are definitely not required. But the sauna rocks have to be at least at 500ºC, so there isn't a lot of heat to lose between the firebox and the hotplate.

      It would be nice to put the hotplate directly on top of the firebox, but then where do we put the heat exchangers? We could (just thinking) build them into the flue collar... that's a thought, actually! Anyway, more head-scratching is definitely called for.

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  6. Great insights Rhisiart. I have tinkered with box stoves and rocket mass heaters quite a bit too, but not on boats. Probably should stay with the proven box stove concept. I agree that the cooking should occur right on top of the the firebox. How about placing the heat exchangers for warm air and hot water on either side of the box?
    Alternatively, for hot water, a thermosyphon could be used to send hot water to a small insulated tank... http://therma-coil.com/plumbing.htm

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  7. Dmitry
    I love your stove idea. My only concern is the high temps in the fire box. From my experience light weight sheet steel will spell and degrade at high enough temps in the presence of sufficient oxygen. Light weight insulating fire brick splits and light weight ceramic lining if the fire box would prevent that. The heat exchanger temps should be low enough not to be a concern.

    John Craig

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    1. I'll look into ceramic lining. It seems like a very good idea.

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  8. Just had a realization: the heat exchanger for hot water can be made very simply and cheaply by placing a copper coil inside an insulated flue pipe between the stove and the deck. Googled it; people have done it; it works. Instead of a diverter valve, the coil can simply be starved of water once the water gets hot enough and allowed to steam out until it's dry. Last bit of the puzzle is to build a flue gas-to-air heat exchanger into the flue collar that sits between the stove and the flue pipe.

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    1. Copper coil has some problems. In charging it with water it is common to get a steam induced vapor lock thing happening. There are way around this though. More importantly the copper tube quickly becomes coated with soot which insulates it from the heat, making it difficult to clean the flue which is very important to a well functioning stove.
      You could wrap the coil around the outside of the single wall flue then wrap with ceramic wool and a thin sheet of stainless, brass, or copper.

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    2. Alternately you can put a T sideways inline on your flue and have the in and out fittings mounted on a cap that fits snuggly over the opening. The copper coil configuration on the inside of the cap can then be easily removed for cleaning.

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  9. I ran a diesel drip heater for about 7 months of the year while living aboard for 3 years in Puget Sound, and have used solid fuel heaters aboard as well.

    I think your assessment of diesel heaters based upon the Dickinson Newport is not quite complete. It's definitely best to prime the diesel stoves with a squirt of alcohol, which is far more effective than the toilet tissue. The Newport is not a great stove; the square cross section leads to a "lazy" flame which encourages sooting, and it's also subject to going out when strong winds create a vacuum inside the boat.

    These problems were solved with the creation of the SigMar heater, which is round and uses a balanced draft. Sigmar has since been purchased by Dickinson, who still appears to produce the stove.

    I have not used a Refleks, but they seem similar, and are widely respected diesel drip stove. You're not likely to find much else aboard commercial vessels operating in cold climates, for a good reason imho.

    The problem as I see it with propane is one of tankage and btu density. If you heat with propane 24x7, you'll find yourself needing a new tank fill about twice a week in most boats, which would quickly become tiresome. Feeding a solid fuel stove is similar, and they are very messy, dumping ashes on the deck in my experience.

    I like the idea of more readily available fuels, but in all honesty a boat will cease to be maintainable when basics like diesel are no longer available.

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    1. "I like the idea of more readily available fuels, but in all honesty a boat will cease to be maintainable when basics like diesel are no longer available."

      Ah, you appear to be unaware of the fact that this is one of the problems we are solving.

      Probably the best commercially available boat heaters are diesel-burning hot air systems like Webasto, although they are expensive and require a functioning CO detector to keep the crew alive.

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    2. yes, true on the Webasto -- but they're far more complex. A liveaboard friend had his die in the middle of winter, and took two weeks before the parts were back from the factory. My Sigmar, whenever anything needed replacing (a rare occurence indeed) had parts available at the top of the dock, for a fraction of the price.

      One advantage of the webasto, however, would be the ability to put it on a timed thermostat, and thus save fuel. coming back to a cold boat in the middle of winter leads to massive condensation before it warms up again, which is why we always left our Sigmar running full time.

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    3. In the case of Quidnon, there is no reason to have diesel on board, since the engine will burn either gasoline or propane, but there is a reason to have propane on board, for cooking. So, to minimize the variety of fuels, we'll go with wood/charcoal and propane, but no diesel. In any case, I expect that diesel and other petroleum distillates will be a precious commodity, since so much non-optional equipment runs on it and nothing else, while the lighter fractions (propane, gasoline) will remain cheap, gasoline especially, since it's basically a waste product that's only useful for small engines like cars, chainsaws and outboards.

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  10. In the original post about the Cabin, you mentioned a camp chef 3-burner range/oven and a hot water heater. Will the heaters in this post replace those or be additional? I know when the weather is warm many people cook in the cockpit with a simple propane burner, but I would think, if you were in coastal South Carolina in July, you wouldn’t be inclined to heat the whole cabin to have hot water.

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    1. It should be relatively easy to add and subtract optional equipment, like electric hot water heaters, tankless propane water heaters, etc. It should also be easy to subtract optional equipment, like these stoves. But then when the lights go out and propane and shore power become unavailable, you are SOL.

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    2. I think it’s great how it can be customized. Regarding samovars, I don’t have any experience with them but it seems like the hot water tank basically qualifies as one if it has a spigot for easy access.

      I’ve done some reading about distillation, and I’d be interested to see how this system could be adapted to be used for making ethanol and distilled water. But I also mention that because many homemade stills use the heating component from a small water heater, which as I understand is similar to an electric stove plate. Its clearly within the realm of customization but I wonder if a component like that should be included for warm weather water heating when there’s shore power. Assuming you’d want something like 5-10 gallons of hot water for showering, and that would be heavy and above the waterline, I wonder if the coil system you describe could allow the water tank to be beneath the firebox.

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  11. Hello Dmitry, Thanks for this post, it's very interesting. I am a professional stovebuilder and I live in a small port town so this kind of idea comes up every so often with local shipwrights and boat owners. Although metal design and solutions are outside my field of expertise, I'd be happy to assist with your project re:sanity check/omissions part. I think you are off to a good start, especially identifying the need for two stoves.
    Thinking of colleagues, the first person that comes to mind whose input might be helpful, a stovebuilder who is also an expert metal stove designer, is James Larkin (https://www.facebook.com/JAMES-LARKIN-TECHNOLOGIES-179833198729018/) Norbert Senf would also be a great resource. Best regards, Jason

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  12. Echo Rhisiarts box wood heater. Worked well on our alaska based plywood box uninsulated boat. Previous owners had no problems getting all fuel off the beaches there. Easy to weld up a simpler box version. Nice write-up on a small, home made steel wood heater of square tubing at Duckworks by Alan Jones (recently built a triloboat). Rhisiarts sounds even better. Simple as can be.

    Sailor-author Jerome Fitzgerald installed propane jets in his box stove for easier lighting but side bennie of burning super foul, noxious crankcase oil whenever some yayhew anchored too close to him in a otherwise empty pac NW anchorage. On still nights apparently quite effective at laying down one stinky slick.

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  13. Can a samovar be added back into this setup? Perhaps a standardized western version such as the Kelly Kettle? The reason that I ask is because I bought an electric, countertop samovar about two years ago, and it's really changed how I deal with cold in winter. I don't think I want to go back.

    Also, I know of a trick to use with sauna rocks. When they are hot and you want a small pocket heater (say for those times that you have to be out on the deck during the cold for a bit) you can take a wool sock, stick your hand into the sock, grab your hot sauna rock and pull the sock off your arm and over the rock with your other hand, quarter twist the now socked rock, and shove your hand back through the sock again. Then let go and remove your hand. This has to be done in quick seccesion so that your hand doesn't get burnt, but in the end you will have a hot rock with two layers of wool sock around it. Put one like this in each hand pocket of your coat, or under the heavy winter quilt on your bed, whatever. The sock layers will slow the dissipation of heat to a useful level, and the rock will keep warm for about an hour in your coat pockets. When I learned about this trick, it was called a "happy rock". I have several small chunks of soapstone that live on my woodstove for this exact purpose. When my daughter was really small, I'd put a happy rock in her toddler bed to preheat it, because I considered it safer than using a hot water bottle for the same purpose. (what if it leaked? scalding hot water in the same bed as a sleeping toddler. I didn't consider that a good idea) I discovered quickly that if she got too hot, she would start kicking in her sleep, knocking off her blankets. She would also push away the happy rock without waking up. Worked out pretty well.

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    1. Good trick (didn't know the part about the twist & double). Ever try boiling a stone, wrapping it in a cloth, and putting that in the toe of a boot you're trying to dry? That way, it doesn't risk burning the boot or the cloth. You cover it with something to add to it.

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    2. You can add a samovar any time you like. We put ours out on the porch. On Quidnon, best place for it is in the cockpit, until it burns out, then it can be moved to the salon table. It needs to have a wide, heavy base, for stability. "Marine Samovar"?

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    3. Perhaps a locking base, secured onto a flat surface in the cockpit.

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  14. My question would be: Why did you stop in Charleston to overwinter? Should have made for the Yucatan!

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    1. We've been to the Yucatan plenty of times. Clearing in and out of Cancún is not all that pleasant. There are some cruising grounds around there, to be sure. But Charleston is quite beautiful and friendly (probably the second-best architectural ensemble in North America after Québec City) and we wanted to spend some time there before it finally disappears under the waves (which now happens at least once a year).

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  15. Give Michael Douglas of the Maine Primitive Skills School a call. I don't exactly remember how he explained it, but he heats some of the permanent "huts" at the school (even in a Maine winter) with an armload of wood- it seems there's potential to do the same thing & maybe the stone/clay that holds the heat would be good balast (or that there's some way to absorb/transfer heat that way with a similarly performing substance). This might give you some options in the design, but I'm not so well-versed in the overall subject to innovate that well.

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    1. I heat huts with wood too :) No need to summon a panel of experts on that topic. This is a specialty application.

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  16. Hi Dmitry,

    I've been following this project for a while now and I find it interesting to see how people respond to it. Every so often you will get a comment that goes roughly like this, "Have you thought about making a steel hulled version of Quidnon, with inboard diesel engines for extended ice breaking journeys across the arctic?"

    What I find interesting is that this project highlights the very real phenomenon of limits... in that one design choice limits another (Can't have a disco floor below decks and keep the beam narrow enough for Scottish canals, etc...).

    In short, Quidnon teaches how you cannot have your cake and eat it too, something that so many of us have a hard time understanding these days. Unlimited growth on finite planet sort of stuff...

    After spending the past several months thinking about what I'm going to do with my cake, I've decided to toss my hat into the Quidnon ring as well. Please consider me an interested person for building a Quidnon in Poland. Let me know if there is anything I need to do asides from continuing to follow the blog.

    Cheers,

    Greg
    Poland

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    1. Hi Greg,

      Happy to have you aboard. We already have some people who are interested in building Quidnons within the EU, and so it's all pretty much the same logic as far as where various parts can be sourced and how much import duty would need to be paid. We'll figure that out in due course. What you need to figure out is where to build it, how to register it, what licensing and insurance you will need, and where to keep it.

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    2. Great, I've been working on those details a bit, I'll keep at it. Looking forward to it.

      Cheers,

      Greg

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    3. On the subject of choices:
      I've done some reading on boat design and did live for 15 years in a travel trailer but have no practical experience of cruising or living aboard. As a singleton, one of my biggest complaints about production boats would be that the interiors are almost always designed to maximize bunk space. Seems to me that options such as a workbench, computer station, or larger standing shower might be more useful for a small crew, and while existing spaces can be repurposed, the original design of bulwarks and partitions naturally imposes limits.

      Except for the open deck and sauna, the Quidnon design seems to follow the usual priorities, being weighted towards sleeping space. Any thoughts or comments about this?

      Here's a boat design that strikes my fancy and has certain things in common with Quidnon:
      https://avoid.rocks/blog/i-may-have-found-what-ive-been-looking-for/

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  17. I believe I have mentioned it before but in a small, relatively well sealed space it is very important to draw most of the air for combustion from outside.

    There are many advantages to this in addition to not starving the living space of oxygen or creating cold drafts wherever outside air is being sucked in. It allows for ultimate control over the fire for long burns and for ramping up and down the heat quickly for cooking. It also makes sure the combustion air is fully oxygenated for efficient burn.

    This can be fabricated with flexible tube or hose in order to run it anywhere you want. Deck fitting can be easily found bulkhead fitting from plastic tank companies.

    On the stove, weld in a fitting with a 3/4" or 1" stainless female thread coupling on the inside at or near the top of the firebox and a 3/4" or 1" stainless male hose barb fitting on the outside. If your outside fitting is a 90 degree then use some kind of high temp hose for the first foot or so. Inside the firebox you can thread in a capped length of stainless pipe with lots of holes drilled in it.

    This will allow the combustible gasses that rise up off the fuel to ignite for a cleaner, more efficient burn. You can also put a T inline on the hose and have another inlet at the bottom of the stove. I usually mount a ball valve on the bulkhead somewhere near the stove, run hi -temp hose or copper tube from the stove to the valve and regular hose to the deck fitting. For increased efficiency run the intake air through copper pipe that touches the stove or flue for part of the length this heats up the oxygenated air for fast combustion.

    Sounds more complicated than it is. Its very simple to put together and maintain and the benefits are big. Just make cure you don't close off ALL air going into the firebox. If you have a tightly sealed stove I recommend the outside air line going to the top of the firebox and a separate fitting at the bottom of the stove that is always part way open. This also acts as a summer air intake and a winter air intake. For overnight burn close the bottom and crack the top air.

    Cheers!
    Jef

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    1. I am mulling over the notion of using a controllable mixture of inside and outside air to feed the hot air system to combine heating and ventilation, and to pipe a small, controllable fraction of the heated air into the combustion chamber.

      I like the idea of a perforated pipe to inject oxygen into the top of the combustion chamber. Placing it directly under the cooktop would probably produce the highest cooktop temperature.

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  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  19. Onleap are disreputable Indian spammers - do not buy from them.

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  20. Hi Dmitry,

    Here's some more pure brainstorming, so this may be a dumb idea:

    On the problem of being unable to carry a lot of thermal mass on a boat...

    You already intend to carry at least two large tanks of thermal mass, being your ballast water. Could you insulate the ballast tanks (the outside faces, at least), heat those and use that water to warm the cabins?

    Also, on cooking; I'm with Rhisiart that the flue-diverted heating for the cooktop won't deliver enough power for cooking for a family (or fast, for anyone).

    Matt.

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    1. Hi Matt,

      I did have the realization that excess heat should be used to heat the ballast water during the cold months. The way I thought of doing it is to circulate ballast water through the thermoelectric generators attached to the back wall of the stove, where flue gases are concentrated. But since the ballast tanks are also used as fresh water tanks (the fresh water is held in floating bladders) it doesn't make sense to make the ballast tanks too warm. People like hot and cold water, not hot and hot.

      I also agree with Rhisiart that the firebox should be right below the cooking surface, with a venturi plate between them. When the cooking surface is not in use, a slider can close off the venturi, redirecting the flue gas directly toward the heat exchangers. I am working on a revised design. Stay tuned.

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    2. Ah yes. I'd forgotten the fresh water supply shares tanks with the ballast. As you were. :-)

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    3. I'm not sure it would matter, the heat mass of both water tanks is pretty high compared to the potential heat output of Dmitry's little woodstove. And one has the ability to turn off the water flow from one side, and only allow the other side operate as a heat sink, if the potential of getting too warm exists. I don't have any data, but I'd say anytime that the woodstove is being used for space heating, diverting a little of that heat into a heat mass of water is likely a good thing. It might permit the hold to stay above outside ambient for longer. Not really comfortable, mind you, but probably above freezing.

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    4. Heating the water under a berth would be the deciding factor. As long as the water doesn't exceed about 80 degrees F, it would be a nice place to sleep in winter. The presence of 150 gallons of ballast water, with some portion of it being freshwater separated from salt, almost guarantees that the berth will not drop below freezing overnight, even with no fire in the woodstove, because the freshwater would start to freeze, and that is an exothermic event.

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  21. Dear Orlov,

    Have you ever read "Infinite Jest"?

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  22. You write: "As far as I am concerned, it’s either going to be a Quidnon—or a nice homestead. But if all goes as we expect, I’ll have one of each."

    May you have several of each. A winter home, a summer home, a small boat, a larger one. Humans have been seasonal migrants for a very long time. Tribal sharing and AirBnB can make these sorts of options easily affordable for the many. It is a good pattern, as I can personally attest.

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    1. I happen to believe that people only think that they own things; in fact, their possessions own them. I see possessions as a necessary evil, and try to have a minimal set of them. Limiting myself to a smallish boat, all that will comfortably fit aboard it, and a bicycle lashed to the lifelines was as close as I ever got to perfect Zen.

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  23. I tried to send this comment last week, but it went into the ether. I’ve had another week to think about it so my comment is really long.

    I've been studying masonry heaters for the last year (after first hearing of them in Shrinking the Technosphere). Recently I took a class and built a Russian double bell masonry heater and 10 years ago I helped build a wood fired catenary kiln and studied kiln design. Right now I'm saving money to build my masonry heater. I have some comments on your design from that perspective. I don't know much about boats so some ideas may be not possible.

    1. Cooktop – I agree with earlier commenters, in your design, the cooktop was much too far away from the firebox to work. The firebox needs to be directly next to the cooktop. It can be a smaller firebox. The cooktop can function as a second heater in another location or can share a chimney as long as the two fireboxes aren't being used at the same time. For an example, my masonry heater teacher had a client who wanted a cooktop where a heated bench would normally be in the Russian Bell design. So the cooktop was about 12 ft from the firebox. He tried to talk the client out of it, but he wanted it anyway as an experiment. That masonry heater design gets to about 1100*F but the cooktop was still too cool for cooking. They ended up adding a second firebox for the cooktop.

    2. Collecting wood along the coastline as you go – that won’t work because the wood needs to be completely dry. As I’ve read, it needs to be dried for 1 full year. My teacher said it should be cut by June, so a little less than a year is fine when to wood is cut a bit smaller (3-4” inner diameter split wood plus limbs or branches of the right length). If you burn wet wood you will waste much of the wood energy on heating water, it will not burn as hot, creating creosote which will pollute the cabin air, lead to chimney fires, and is corrosive.

    3. burning danger -- it seems dangerous in wavy conditions or if there are little kids, to have exposed metal that could give 3rd degree burns. Is there some way you could make a safety barrier that still lets the heat out?

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    1. Concerning #2; the drying of firewood is a function of the thickness of the piece. Bark is vaporproof, so if the wood is debarked it can be considered as half the thickness of a split with bark on one side. So small pieces 'weather' pretty quickly, and that is the kind of wood that you'd need for a tiny woodstove inside of a boat anyway. The idea of drying kiln on the system also rapidly accelerates drying to under 20% water weight. All that said, there is another risk with using driftwood as firewood inside a steel woodstove; if the wood has been 'salted' from exposure to the sea, the combustion of said driftwood will caustic gases that will accelerate the destruction of the firebox and flue system. It also has the *potential* of producing some amount of clorine gas, which is toxic.

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  24. 4. wood weight considerations -- if you are going on a 6 week journey in cold weather and you would use say 80 lbs of wood a day, that would be 3360 lbs. 80 lbs/day is probably underestimated based on your design which requires near continuous heat generation. If there's any way you can reduce the wood weight, it wood be worth it. I think increasing the mass of your heater and aiming for a quick burn at maximum temperatures would be the best way to reduce wood weight.

    If there is a sudden increase in fossil fuel prices, I believe there will be a wood shortage, especially in coastal regions.

    Plus, the cabin air would be cleaner. My teacher tested his masonry heater design for particulate matter emmisions and found that 2000 masonry heaters (with ideal air intake) emit as much PM as 1 conventional wood burner.

    Your stove design has almost no mass for heat storage, so almost all the heat is either rapidly leaving the metal surface or going to the sky. Heating air requires a near constant supply of heat since air can't retain heat. Forced air heating is an invention of the cheap energy era. Hot water radiators are a better choice. The coil might not get hot enough in your design, normally it is at the ceiling of the firebox. I heard it absorbs about 25% of the heat. But then it can never be empty or needs to be removable in case you are running low on fresh water.

    Personally, I think its too luxurious to have hot water running all day on a wood heated boat.
    A bathtub and sauna would be sufficient.

    Since you can't have full masonry on a boat, I've thought of a few compromise ideas.

    a. Soapstone or ceramic tiling surface. Soapstone is #1 for conduction and heat storage but may be expensive. As for ceramic tiles, you don't need special kachelofen tiles, you can use flat tiles with a latex Thinset and metal mesh backing. I imagine there would need to be something more stable (that is conductive) behind the metal mesh for support. Between the metal core and the tiles there should be a tiny expansion space, such as a layer of 1/4” soft fiberglass cloth. The added layers will be for heat storage, but also may reduce the length of time the surface is burning hot.

    b. Have a replaceable firebrick liner (could be cut thinner) inside your firebox. It's now standard to build the lining of the firebox so it can be removed and replaced without having to rebuild the whole heater since it takes the most wear and tear. Also it will insulate and help the fire to get hotter. Use plain clay as mortar (such as Goldart clay that can handle the high temperature) so it can easily be dismantled later, using medium duty firebrick (super duty has as expansion issue in a liner).

    c. Have a black oven above the firebox – some upward motion with turbulence increases the fire temperature. You can use the black oven for heating the sauna rocks, baking bread, and a slow cooker.

    5. Chimney at rear - it looks like the hottest part of the chimney is against a wall. I might be misunderstanding your diagram, but it looks like even when you open the extra chambers, the majority of the heat will be going up to the sky.

    Ideally the heater should be in the center of all the rooms. You could lay it out like the Russian cabin, perhaps even with a bed above the heater. If the heater must be against a wall, it would be better at heating the room if the chimney were on the side.

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    1. Thanks for the thoughts. Here's what I think.

      1. The cooktop/sauna stones have to sit directly on top of the firebox. I will change the design, and will include a round venturi with a slider to close it when the cooktop is not in use.

      2. What washes on shore is usually driftwood, and it's possible to find driftwood that has sat on shore long enough to lose its moisture. There will be drying boxes on deck, heated by the flue, which can be used to complete the drying process.

      3. The stove will be insulated with rock wool and aluminum everywhere except the cooktop to raise the burning temperature and ambient heat loss. The outside should be uncomfortably warm to the touch but not hot enough to burn.

      4. Your estimate for wood consumption is too high. I kept a 32-foot boat nice and toasty and went through 1 bag of hardwood charcoal a week even when it was freezing outside. Quidnon will burn 3 times that, but that's still nowhere near 80 lbs/day. Remember, the volume inside the boat is only around 2500 cubic feet, the area of the windows and hatches (double-glazed) is relatively small, and the hull will be very well insulated.

      None of the mass storage ideas would work because this is a kit boat, the stove is part of the kit, and has to pack flat and not weigh too much.

      A hot water heating system would cost too much because of the cost of pipe and radiators. Hot air just needs to be ducted to various volumes under the cabin sole with zone valves to control the flow, all very cheap.

      5. The only place for the stoves is in the heads and the galley.

      The flue has to be in the back of the stove to make the cooking surface accessible.


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    2. Warming up (pun, sorry) to the idea of some mass storage. Thanks for setting out the options.

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    3. That makes sense about the wood weight, I imagined the space being much bigger.

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  25. Have you looked at wood gasifiers? Those stoves are scalable to pretty much any size. I figured if North Koreans are still running wood gas trucks the technology must be sufficiently third-world friendly.
    I'm really curious where you land on this steady supply of heat vs. efficiency dilemma. Some kind of heat storage is inevitable.

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    1. One of the benefits of using a gasoline-powered outboard is that they can be retrofitted to run on carbon monoxide, which can be produced by a wood gasifier. It's easier to do with an older 2-stroke outboard that doesn't include any electronics or emissions controls. There are still enough of them around the world to make this an option for when gasoline becomes scarce.

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    1. Do not use CopyCat Upholstery. They are disreputable spammers.

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  27. I think that in a well-insulated boat, I would worry about carbon monoxide and/or carbon dioxide poisoning down in the hull. For this reason, I'd suggest that the stove should have its openings to the outside of the boat, not the inside. The firewall can still be inside, but insulated against any gas transfer.

    Likewise, you don't want to heat air, and send it up the flue, then pulling cold air from the surrounding area -- so the boat should have its air intake outside (not inside) as well. If you're going to do all that, then loading the stove should *also* be outside, not inside.

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  28. I can continue perusing this blog like until the end of time.
    best-wood-burning-stove

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