Boat work is moving at warp speed. On the one hand, I have a short list of low-priority projects that I thought I had two months to complete and now need to be done as soon as possible. On the other hand I’m doing a weeks worth of projects every two days, now that I can devote myself to them full time.


Fiberglass Ice Box

I used my cordless drill and a grinding bit to remove strips of gelcoat from the sides of the fiberglass ice box. I then glassed in 1/2″ wood strips to create tracks for a removable separator.

I spent a good deal of time this winter pondering the problem of refrigeration on board the boat. I’m not opposed to going without, so if I was going to have it, the solution needed to be elegantly simple and inexpensive.

My icebox is a vertical, fiberglass tub common to boats made in the mid 80’s. It has a drain down to the bilge. It wouldn’t convert easily to additional storage so I figured I might as well keep it as-is. I also didn’t want to attempt to install a refrigeration unit into it. It’s small enough as it is, and in tight quarters. I also doubt my ability to service a refrigeration unit in the field.

Somewhere along the line I learned of the next-generation yuppie appliance: portable ice makers. Ostentatious in a home, I thought it just might provide a great deal of utility aboard my boat. I learned they consume less than 200 watts and can make a pound of ice per hour. Because of my bad-ass off-grid power system, I knew I could run it easily.

Ice Box Separator

The separator is just a piece of plastic board that slides in-between the tracks I glassed in. It keeps the ice separate from the food. This insulates the ice and makes it last longer. I also designed it to fit a block of ice if I need to buy ice while traveling.

I scooped up a Black Friday left-over from Walmart for a cool $100. While I don’t condone shopping at Walmart, the low price and ability to quickly return it if I didn’t like it won me over. I also picked up a three-year warranty, which I’m sure I’ll use due to the almost constant use I’ll subject it to when connected to shore power.

Long-story short: It worked really well and now I can have the advantages of a perpetually stocked ice box without having to pay for ice. This week I made another upgrade by glassing in a removable separator to keep the ice on one side and everything else on the other. It’s all fiberglass and plastic, so I shouldn’t ever have to worry about mold or rot. I constructed it the same way as all the other fiberglass tutorials I’ve written.


Propane Adapter

I can no quickly switch from a big, 20-lb tank to a disposable, 1-lb tank when the big tank runs out. Another adapter lets me fill the small tanks from the big tank.

When I installed my Cozy Cabin propane heater, I wasn’t sure where to mount the propane tank, so I temporarily mounted it in the cabin. This is convenient, but unsafe, as any leak of explosive gas is sure to end up in the cabin with me.

Now that my inboard engine has been removed, I have room in the engine compartment to mount the tank, as well as a working blower to vent the boat. As an added bonus, this week I got all the adapters needed to run the heater off of 1-lb disposable propane tanks. The kind used to power Colman stoves. If the big tank runs out on me, which it always does eventually, I can easily switch to a 1-lb tank to keep the heat going. I also have an adapter to refill the small tanks from the big tank.


In December I bought a gallon of EPDM liquid rubber and coated the bottom of the dingy with it. I then made the bonehead move of forgetting to tie up the dingy a couple weeks later. It spent two days scraping up against the rocks near the dock. I was lucky to get it back, but the new rubber was pretty shredded. Still, the raft hadn’t lost any air, so that was impressive.

This week I got some more liquid rubber from West Marine to touch it up. Word of advice: liquid rubber needs at least 55 degrees, and preferably 70, to cure. It also emits a strong, penetrating odor while curing. This makes applying it in winter very tricky. Luckily I have a friend who let me use his shop.

With a few projects wrapped up, I’m now sailing to Patos Island to celebrate. It’s the one marine state park in the San Juan Islands that I haven’t been to yet. Be sure to check my SPOT tracking map and track my progress.

Related posts:

Rosario Resort - A Honeymoon Destination!
My Last Hunt?
Sailing the Gulf Islands, Part 4
3 Responses to “Upgrades”
  1. dave says:

    how is your propane solution venting overboard by gravity? In the location of the old motor the tank is below the waterline. My initial assessment is please re- assess your choice of the propane tank location as it reads to be extremely unsafe.

    • Chris says:

      My new setup is certainly not ideal, and probably not coast guard approved, but it is a step up from where I was at. On second thought, I’ll probably run a line from the big tank in the engine compartment to the heater, instead of planning to run regularly off the 1-lb tanks. I’m planning to install a solenoid for shutoff and wiring a timer-control to the blower so that the blower automatically runs a few times each day. I’ll also be installing a propane-leak alarm in the engine compartment.

  2. dave says:

    please review –





    don’t rely on an electrical motor to move a heavy gas out of your bilge. you don’t know if that motor quit working! your plan, stated bluntly, is to make your boat a bomb.

    20 years ago my friend was almost killed by his boat neighbor. this neighbor did his own work on a propane system. it failed and filled the bilge with gas. a switch cycled and the boat blew up. my friend’s boat experienced significant damage hull & deck damge including ALL portlights and salon windows being blown out. she was in dry dock for two years conducting repairs. if my friend’s boat is wood and likely why it also wasn’t blow to bits (and older Grand Banks 42). my friend was on his boat 30 minutes before the explosion. if he was on board he likely would have been killed from the flying glass and the explosions concussion … like they person in the boat that blew up.

    BE SAFE. install a _safe_ propane system – not just for yourself but for the other boaters near you in harbor!

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