You know it’s real love when you sigh–rather than groan–about a boat’s shortcomings. The S/V Libby, gorgeous and fast though she may be, lacks something highly necessary: a heater. This really isn’t so much of a problem right now, while I’m docked, rocking an abundance of electricity, feeding a small ceramic electric heater. But when “spring” finally arrives and I’m out of the juice, it will be an issue.

As I talked about in my previous post, the money is all dried up. Since I have a highly active imagination, I can at least fantasize about what my life will be like when May rolls around: somehow in the next five months I’m suddenly flush. I’d like to think that my novel skyrocketed, or maybe I was hired by an amazing design firm…anyway, one of the things Future Courtney has purchased is a wood burning stove by Navigator.

marine wood burning stove
I'd have to have it in red, just like this one.

I used to want a Newport Dickinson, but then I considered cost and my location. There’s wood freaking everywhere here, I could just pick it up off the ground! Why should I pay $4 a gallon for diesel? The “Sardine” model, featured at left with the curly blonde haired girl, especially in that rich red, would look fabulous inside Libby. That color red always makes me happy. The size is perfect, tiny even. It’s a little 12 inch cube of heat, and could even cook something on its surface: a real bonus for my French pressing ways.

The question would be, is it the right size for me and Libby? A 30 foot boat (10 foot beam) is a small one, but I have no idea how to calculate my space to determine how many BTUs I need to heat the inside. And I want it HOT in here, like the tropics, or the desert, around the temperature the devil finds comfortable. Hellish. Being cold is miserable (yes, I know, then why did I move onto a boat or relocate to the Northwest? blah, blah, blah), and I’d love to not be miserable. Having numb toes is the worst. Last “summer” it was cold until August. I’m not exaggerating. I need to figure out how big the stove should be, so Future Courtney can still feel all of her digits and drink her coffee in relative comfort. That way, when it’s still cold, gray, and wet come July 16th, I won’t be as bitchy and cranky.

Do you have any experience with a wood burning stove like this? Have any idea how many BTUs I need?


  1. Pingback: Form and Functional Beauty in a Marine Stove | True Northe

  2. Pingback: Wood Burning Beauty | Courtney Kirchoff

  3. Jaye December 21, 2011 at 9:35 am

    That stove is darn cute! Of course your heat needs depend on the water temp where you are, and your hull thickness, as well as boat size and your preference for snuggly-warm. We have a 2000 watt / 7000 BTU heater on our 33 and have never turned it up more than halfway. (Like you, we’re either at a dock with electricity for the winter, or somewhere south, so we’re not talking about a heater that gets us through being ice-locked.) Anyway, one thing to try is go to a marine heater website – I used Webasto – and click on product advisor. Put in your details and it will tell you how many watts of heat you need, then convert that to BTU. (I’ve had trouble sending you links in blog comments, I think the software thinks I’m spamming you and blocks it, so if you can’t find the website(s) let me know and I’ll send via email.)

    1. Courtney December 21, 2011 at 3:34 pm

      Hey Jaye! Thanks for the Webasto info. I did as you recommended and plugged in my information. Their handy-dandy calculator estimated I’d need about 9,600 BTU. I have no idea if that’s right or not, but it’s mostly cold here, and I don’t see myself sailing down to San Diego for winter aboard my little Islander. This Sardine stove should do the trick, as it can put out about 20,000 BTU if needed. That would put me in a bikini in the middle of winter and should also help with my condensation issue. I can’t wait until I’m able to afford this cut little stove!

  4. Tim Lemon December 21, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    I had one on a Southern Cross 31 and loved it. Yes it can make your boat HOT without overfiring. Most of the time I kept a few hatchboards out and the stove damped down. If cost is an issue consider the plain iron stove (the one I bought). Andrew at Navigator said if plain didn’t work you could come back and have it enameled later. Once again the best wood marine stove/heater I have ever owned.

  5. s/v Eolian January 5, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Courtney, you already know how many BTU’s it takes to heat your boat – you are heating with an electric heater… How many BTU’s does it deliver?

    Conversion: 1 kWh = 3412.14163312794 BTU

    So, for every hour your heater runs, it is delivering 3412 BTU, if it is a 1 kw heater (about 9 amps).

    s/v Eolian

    1. Courtney January 5, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      Oh Bob. I’m flattered that you think I’m good with numbers and conversions, but I’m gooder with words. Thanks for the formula, I’ll see what my two heaters are cranking out.

  6. Sophi Swaim January 19, 2012 at 8:08 am

    We have a propane Cozy Cabin heater (which was installed when we bought the boat, otherwise we would have gone with diesel!) that is 10,000 BTU. It is sufficient, but we love having our little electric space heaters in the winter. In the summer time, even on chilly days, it puts out PLENTY of heat (and our boat’s interior volume appears to be close to yours, Seabird is 32′ on deck and has 11′ of beam).

    My suggestion would be to look for something besides wood or other solid fuel for heat. The heat they make is extremely romantic and nice in theory, but in practice with such a small stove, you have to re-fill it every two hours or so (can’t just sleep through the night). Then again, I don’t leave my propane heater running when I’m asleep, so maybe it makes no difference. If I had unlimited resources, I would install a hot water duct system with blowers, like an Espar or a Hurricane. So expensive, but safe and warm and efficient!

    Anyways, good luck with your heater search.


  7. Gary Flory March 23, 2012 at 10:24 am

    I seen on a website that they make a solid fuel stove that hangs on the wall like a deisel fuel stove, with a little fire box and they used presto logs and just broke them up to use in it. Then used small low watt fans to push the air around.