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Hello, I have a 60ft narrowboat which is stuck in a marina on tha Avon and due to the strong currents and flooding cannot get to a pumpout or diesel pump. I would normally drain the waste tank and fill the fuel tank but in the circumstances would 2 x 150 watt wardrobe heaters and a de-humidifier (conneted to shore mains)be sufficient to prevent pipes freezing or other damake if temperatures drop. The engine has anti-freeze and an insulating blanker. Should I drain the water tank? I will be going to stay on the boat one or two nights a week. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Asked by: Alan Denney  | 1.11pm, Monday 26 November

WW says:

Generally, if the temperature is just dropping a few degrees below freezing overnight, you don't need to drain the main water tank (usually they are under the water line, and so take some time to freeze). However, try not to have them filled to the brim, so there is room to expand, should they actually freeze.
You might want to consider isolating the water supply (a stopcock near the water tank) and then run the water pump dry. Also, draining, or partly draining a calorifier is quite useful, if the temperature plummets well below zero. However, large bodies of water, in a well-insulated calorifier, do take a long time to freeze. The water pump is the only item likely to succumb to frosts- and the heaters will probably stop that happening.
The 150W heaters, if spaced out in the b oat, plus dehumidifer, should easily stop the interior from dropping below zero in all but the very coldest weather and should protect the interior of the boat without any special actions. however, be prepared that you might need to be warned by the boatyard if they lose electrical power for any length of time- some shorepower lines and circuits are unreliable- if they trip, an no one notices, your boat will be unprotected. Can one of your boaty neighbours check that all is OK? One way to do this is to put a small 230V table lamp (with a low-energy bulb) switched on permanently in the cabin nearest the mooring- so your neighbours can immediately tell if the power has failed in your boats by the light going out!
Don't worry about not filling the diesel tank- any water can be drained off in the srping, from the bottom drain and the fuel/water seperators.
If the engine bilge is dry, that will also help keep the engine bay protected- a good spray of WD40 over the engine (avoiding the alternator belt(s)!) and electrical connections will help keep moisture at bay. Be aware that an insulating blanket, unless it allows moisture through, can trap condensation and create local corrosion potential.
If you are staying on the boat one or two nights a week, you should be able to keep the boat in a "ready to go" condition quite easily. if you run the engine, try and do so for a couple of hours, if possible under load, so that it really heats up- avoid short running period, where the sump does not have the chance to come up to temperature (even though the engine temp gauge may show it warm!).
Any other questions, please do let us know. Hope that helps.

Mark Langley  | 2.24PM, Monday 26 November

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