Go to Mexico…. End of blog.
For most us who live in northern climes, especially those of us in coastal areas, we’re here for the season despite our most vibrant fantasies about Southern locations. Some of those who read my last blog, and are here for the winter, have enquired about the air exchanger which I built and installed to help keep old ‘Seafire’ drier.
This was once my business, I’ll try hard to not sound as if I’m trying to sell anyone anything. You can build one of these yourself very inexpensively if you are at all handy.
If you want one for your house, go to Home Hardware Online and type in “Humidex” or dehumidifier. If you have a tiny house, an Rv or a boat you may well have a problem with condensation, mould and /or bad odours. I am a mariner and so I’ll explain this with specific nautical considerations but the same physics apply whether in a picnic cooler or any size or type of home..
First, understand that a boat is designed to keep water out. That design also necessarily works quite well to keep moisture in. Next consider these simple principles:
Warm air rises.
Warm air holds more moisture.
Cooler air is heavier than warmer air and tends to sink.
Moist air is heavier than drier air and tends to sink.
These four facts are what creates all the complexities of global weather.
Within an enclosure, in this case a boat, moist stale air will settle into the lowest areas such as the bilge, lockers and cupboards; anywhere there is inadequate air movement. Soon there are copious amounts of water, mould and slime. Many people try to combat this by using heat sources and wrapping the vessel with plastic. It is the worst thing to do, warm air holds more moisture and drives cool, damp air down into non-ventilated areas. The plastic seals everything. If you walk the docks in wet weather you may notice older boats with hatches partially open. This is passive ventilation. Natural air flow definitely helps keep a boat drier.
I’ll mention the crystals marketed as a means of drying a boat and declare them to be snake oil. Yes, they fill with water extracted from the boat’s atmosphere and appear effective. However for every molecule of water absorbed, one more has been drawn into the already damp interior of the boat. If these desiccants are spilled, there is now a toxic, corrosive mess inside the vessel. Dehumidifiers are expensive, power-hungry and often require constant attention and servicing. The drawing below is from a brochure I designed in my business of building and selling air exchangers. It illustrates how air exchangers work. They are very simple, very effective and require no maintenance.
Here’s how you build one from pieces found in nearly any hardware store. The fan is the key piece and is what many folks call a muffin fan, or a computer fan. They are brushless and use miniscule amounts of power and may be 12 volt DC 120 volt AC as you prefer. Ideally choose one with an outer frame size of 5 or 6 inches. You can also find them quite affordably from several online sources. Now find a plastic box or make one of wood to set the fan inside and make one round opening four inches in diameter on either side. Install a round 4” collar into each opening. You will attach 4” flexible ventilation hose onto either piece of collar.
I acquired my box from the electrical department at Home Depot. The collars were 2- 4” abs pipe couplers which then were welded firmly to the edges of the holes I’d cut with abs pipe cement. Lead the two wires from the motor out through a small hole you’ve made in the side of the box and connect to a power source. Always use a fuse or circuit breaker. You can include a simple switch and /or a humidistatic switch (Often used with bathroom ceiling fans) to turn the unit on and off automatically at a specific humidity level setting.
Make sure the fan is extracting air through the flexible tube from a lowest possible point in the boat and that the fan is positioned as close as possible to the intake source. The fan discharge tube can be led to an existing ventilation cowl or ventilator or simply stick it through a port light. You’ll need a little imagination, but that is part of the fun and satisfaction. Folks often ask how these simple little machines work on a rainy day when the outdoor ambient humidity is very high. The answer is that by moving air into an enclosure it expands. The amount of moisture in the cubic mass does not and so the air becomes drier. You may want to provide a make-up air opening or grill to let the unit better pull the air down into the air exchanger but so long as there is negative pressure (or suction) the results of this little machine should be magic.
There need be only a gentle, quiet constant movement of air to make a noticeable difference. These small units work great in Rv’s as well. Have fun! I’m happy to answer questions.
Good old CBC Radio occasionally has an outstanding story. Last week, in the wake of Fidel Castro’s death, an interview with his sister, Juanita, was aired. She had joined him in the revolution but after it had succeeded she abandoned him and fled the country. She accused him of betraying the democratic ideals of the revolution and of founding a new dictatorship as cruel and insidious as that of Batista’s. Living in Florida she was also ostracized by her fellow Cuban refuges. She had not seen her brother in fifty-two years. For the last two days, CBC has been off-air; storm damaged we suppose.
Another tragic story, to me, came from Ocean Falls; a few miles up the inlet from here. This community is the site of a former company town built around a paper mill there. The entire location is abandoned with only a few fringe-characters clinging to life in this macabre setting. Two young cougars had been allowed to frequent the town site and after they’d killed a seal on a dock it was decided they had become too familiar with the small community to not be considered a hazard. Conservation officers were called and the beautiful cats were shot. I make no judgement on this story, I don’t know the details. It does seem interesting that almost invariably, when raw nature and civilization interface, the creatures which conservation officers are sworn to protect, will likely be shot.
I have written this blog while sitting in my room in the Bella Bella Hospital. The view is spectacular. It is easy to imagine that I’m in a grand hotel except for the tubes and wires. It’s more heart trouble and it ain’t no fun. I’m being shipped to Vancouver next week for treatment, another session of electrically stopping and restarting my heart. I should soon know how to do this myself by now. The staff here are wonderful and have helped ease me through a grim ordeal. As night began to fall and the few buildings on Denny Island which I could see began to light up, it was dramatic to realize what a wilderness we live in. Just miles and miles of miles and miles. So few people. Then the wind-driven sleet and rain slammed onto the window and shrieked under the eves. Isn’t it funny? I used to pass here regularly on the tugs. I once started a story called “how many shades of blue.” Now here I am, sitting in the biggest, bluest building in town watching tugs and barges go by.
Much later I’ve finally been allowed to go, with a pocket full of pills and instructions for a hospital in Vancouver next week. I stand alone on the sea bus dock waiting for the last boat back to Bella Bella. It is very dark and a penetrating wind tears into my no matter where I seek shelter. My wife is tending to family business on the other side of the planet. I have not felt so cold, bleak, hungry and alone in fifty years. Dark memories crowd into my head. Finally back on the boat I arrive to hear the gale alarm bleating. It certainly is an ugly night. Before dawn, two parked helicopters will be blown about and smashed into each other. I make a mug of tea and turn on the radio to sit and defrag a little. I learn that Andrew Sachs has just died. He was 86. He played Manuel on the BBC Series ‘Fawlty Towers.’ I smile as I remember him and his famous line.
“ The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”