Maximizing Outdoor Time

We prefer to eat our meals, read and generally relax outdoors as much as possible. In the cool and sometimes rainy Pacific Northwest, this at times can be a challenge. But we’re motivated to make it work. On our previous boat, the covered aft deck allowed us to be outside even when rain was falling, so long as the temperature was into the 50s and winds were moderate. Installing canvas around the open rails would have given us better wind protection, but it also would have reduced rearward visibility and somewhat darkened the boat. We also could have enclosed the entire area, but we weren’t keen on the windage that would add, or the hassle of having panels to open or remove when wanted to be “really” outside or if big storms were forecast.

Instead, we had installed a propane heater behind our table on the aft deck. If little wind was blowing, we could be warm and comfortable outside in 50-degree weather. The heater ran off the same tank as the barbecue and produced between 8,000 and 42,000 BTUs per hour. (Ours was a Mr. Heater model MH42T with 3 burners.)

If the temperature was warm enough, but the winds were too strong to be on the back deck, we’d set up a table in the cockpit. Wind protection was good, although space was a little tight.

The current boat has a spacious covered cockpit with solid walls that provides much better wind protection. We missed having a heater out there though–often the temperature isn’t quite warm enough to be outside when we wanted to be. We considered installing a propane heater, but we’d been rather enjoying the reduced propane load of an electric oven and no propane heater. Diesel is the fuel we have in greatest quantity, so it made sense to leverage that somehow. We looked at various portable diesel heaters, but all would require space to store, be a hassle to get out and put way, and we’d need to plumb into the diesel system somehow to fill it. In the end, we decided to make use of the diesel heater we already had–an Olympia diesel boiler from Sure Marine–and plumbed two outlets into the cockpit that feed under the table. The output isn’t as hot as the propane heater was, but this does take the bite off the temperature in cold weather, so we can be outside when we’d otherwise be too cold.

We loved having the outdoor heat on our trip to Prince William Sound last year, but rain still was a problem. The boat deck ends about two feet short of completely sheltering the cockpit and heavy rains would soak the the furniture. We’re pretty stubborn though–and would find a way if the temperature worked. In the bottom left picture below, we stuck an large rain umbrella in the table to deflect the rain, and in the bottom left the furniture is drenched and I’m sitting on a rag and a pillow to keep dry.

We recently solved the rain problem with an eyebrow bimini. Canvas Supply Company, who did all our canvas and floor covering, built the sturdy canopy. The fabric portion can easily be removed if we are concerned about taking on big waves on the stern. Now, even if heavy rains are falling, the cockpit and furniture stay dry. That first weekend after it was installed we were slightly disappointed not get get any rain to test out the bimini–the weather was warm and sunny with no precipitation. But with the weather this past week, we’ve had several good rain tests.



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7 comments on “Maximizing Outdoor Time
  1. PAE is happy to make many changes and, as you know, Dirona is full of them. But, they like the styling of the shorter boat deck and are not willing to extend the deck beyond the 52 design point which is 2′ longer than the 47. Both the boat deck and cockpit are extended over the 47 but the boat deck stylistically is kept roughly 2′ short of the transom.

    Basically it wasn’t an option.


    • Steven Coleman says:

      Evidently consumer demand must have changed their minds.

      • Yes the longer boat deck and bigger house are both big improvements to the 52. Our “new” boat is now 8 years old!

        • Steven Coleman says:

          Do you think the extended saloon option would take away too much area from the fantail of the boat? You two seem to enjoy spending a lot of time there, and quite frankly if I had a boat I probably would too.

          • The N47s cockpits are 5′ shorter than our N52 and I do find that too small. We love the size of the cockpit but I think we would be OK with giving up 2″ in the cockpit in return for a larger salon. Neither are a problem on Dirona but I think the new dimensions are a bit better.

  2. Yair says:

    Hi Guys,
    Great solution – although I find it hilarious that you wanted rain. The PNW surely supplies. Just wondering whether in retrospect you would order the Nordy with an extended boat deck completely covering the cockpit? Cheers,

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