Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A little cod to keep me warm

Listening to "Left Me In A Hole" by Yonder Mountain String Band

It is almost freezing outside, with snow predicted later in the week, but I'm curled up in the salon with a cup of tea and feeling toasty warm.  We aren't hooked up to shore power and blasting the electric heater, nor are we running the diesel boiler heater and burning through fuel.  No.  The cabin is filled with a warm, dry, and quiet heat due to a little green marvel softly simmering in the corner...our wood burning stove.

When Drake was renovating Paragon in North Carolina, one major concern was warmth.  We were going to be taking the boat further north than she had ever been before, and she was ill prepared to keep us cozy in frigid temperatures.  Insulation was installed in every conceivable area, but there was also much talk about heaters.  We wanted multiple heat sources to give us a certain amount of flexibility, but also so that our backups had backups.  In the end Drake decided that a wood burning stove was an absolute must as one of the heaters.  He felt that it would not only be a good heat source, but loved the ambience it would add as well.

Now, a fire on a boat is usually one of the worst things imaginable...in fact, several people have done double takes when we inform them that we have a wood burning stove on a boat.  However, there is a long tradition of wood stoves on boats and with good reason.  Boats can be damp, bone chilling dens of condensation, but the naturally dry heat of a wood stove counteracts the dampness and replaces it with a wonderful warmth.  Add the fact that it's the perfect place to dry wet clothing and I was sold!

We were prepared for what we imagined would be a taxing installation, but had no idea that the most difficult part would be to find an appropriate stove.  With the explosion of the tiny house movement there were quite a few stoves built for small spaces, but many of them failed to take into account the special needs of a boat.  Not only did it need to fit into an extremely specific space, but it also has to be thoroughly secure in the worst storm conditions.  A fifty-five pound cast iron stove flying through the cabin was the stuff of nightmares and drove us to do as much research as possible.  

What followed was much like the story of Goldilocks, but instead of three bears it felt like there were forty.  Each stove we found had some little aspect that rendered it inoperable for our purposes.  If they fit the space, then the door was on the wrong side.  If the door was on the right side, then the legs were too delicate to adequately secure the weight.  If the legs were sturdy enough then stove wasn't recommended for marine environments.  It was enough to drive us mad until...

The little cod.  

We chose the green porcelain enamel

The little cod is a little marvel made by Navigator Stove Works, Inc. in Washington State.  As stated on their website it is "An old favorite along the Canadian coast.  Built for hard usage in boats and small cabins.  Styled to reflect the traditions of life at sea."  They have several stoves whose cute names belie their durable construction, including the Sardine and the Halibut, but the Little Cod checked all of our boxes.  It fit our space perfectly, the short legs could be firmly attached to a base and also kept the center of balance low, the door could be on either side, a porcelain enamel coating was offered to protect the stove from rust, and there was even an optional glass front so the fire could be seen.  

The legs are sturdy and can be secured

Stainless steel "sea rail"
Over a year after installing the wood stove, we find ourselves unexpectedly spending the winter in Iceland and this is the Little Cod's time to shine.  She keeps us warm on these increasingly cold nights and, as an unexpected bonus, helps us to meet people.  

Drake and I have taken to spending time at a local cafe, Café Retro, that is a stone's throw from Paragon.  The couple who own it are extremely nice, former boat owners themselves, and happen to make some of the best soup I have ever tasted.  Ever.

Carrot Curry Soup with homemade bread
In the course of our conversations, heating came up and we mentioned that we had a wood burning stove.  Several days later, while sitting in a corner table at the cafe, a man came up to us and asked if we needed some wood for our stove.  Grinning at our looks of surprise, he told us that he is a carpenter with a wood shop within walking distance of Paragon.  The owners of Café Retro had told him that we were in need of wood and he mentioned that he had a dumpster full of untreated scraps that he would be happy to let us take.  

The next day we gathered our large duffels and headed down to the shop  The carpenter was not there, but his coworker let us in and could not have been nicer.  We went into the back room, under the watchful eyes of the office dogs, and found more wood than we could possibly carry.  We chatted with the gentleman as he helped us fill our bags and marveled at our good fortune.

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The wood, mostly cut up, and waiting to be brought down below
Now, with the wood locker full to the brim, Paragon has become our toasty warm oasis in the dark Icelandic winter night…

Thursday, October 3, 2013

There be gods here

Listening to "Walking On A Dream" by Empire Of The Sun

The voyage has stopped...at least for the moment.  Drake and I find ourselves in Reykjavík, Iceland where we will *possibly* be staying for the winter.  The first two weeks here were tumultuous to say the least.  We had planned for Iceland to be a pit stop on our way to Ireland and, therefore, were poised to take off as soon as the first weather window presented itself.  The first couple of days everyone was simply recovering from the beating we received on the journey over from Greenland.  Fierce winds and big seas plagued us, and making landfall had never been so sweet. 

Stormy days

However, as the days passed with no good window in sight, we began to wonder if we had simply stayed north a bit too long.  When does a risk become too risky?  One afternoon we suddenly realized that we were talking about sailing off into the remnants of a hurricane...and stopped.  We unclenched our guts and admitted that leaving Iceland at this particular time of year meant sailing off into weather that posed an unacceptable risk to us.  How many people tried to keep to a schedule and ended up instead courting disaster?  So, despite our best intentions of reaching Ireland this year, we have decided to stay in Iceland.  

We have moved from Brokey yacht club where we first landed and are now staying in an extremely protected corner of the Reykjavík harbour just off of the maritime museum.  Besides being in a spot that is extremely sheltered we also have an auspicious neighbour, the Coast Guard Vessel Óðinn.  It was involved in all three of the Cod Wars with Britain, towed almost 200 ships to safety, and is credited with saving countless crews from sinking or grounded ships.  Every day we look out and see its magnificent hull to our port side.

Our neighbour Ódinn

We've also begun to explore our new neighbourhood.  Just down the street, to our initial delight (and my thighs horror), is an amazing homemade ice cream shop.  Within walking distance of Paragon.  And open late.  Every. single. night.  (this could be bad…)

The library with free, if slow, wifi is ten minutes away, as are numerous grocery stores.  A wonderful internet cafe, with fresh baked bread and FAST wifi, is five minutes away.  I've also discovered the coolest resale/antique store ever which may occupy many a rainy afternoon.

The library

Frida Frænka Antiques

There are more galleries than I could explore in a year, not to mention amazing street art and sculptures.  

Things are not completely settled here.  Drake and I will be heading over to Immigration on Monday to see if we are able to extend our initial entry visa and stay the winter.  We are hoping they will understand that we intended to leave, but were waylaid by the weather.  We have no intention of becoming one of those cautionary tales you read so often on the forums or various news channels.  Could we have left and made it to Ireland?  Perhaps yes, but the alternative was not a risk we were willing to take.  I'd rather live to tell the tale...

So now I sit in a cafe, pet the dog who has meandered over (this is one of the reasons I LOVE Europe!!!), and look forward to exploring my new home.  

Home for now and ready to explore!

p.s.  While we were traveling in Greenland I was having a lot of trouble gaining access to my blog.  I have a back log of posts that I will begin to upload, but I will most likely mix in more recent posts from Reykjavík as well!