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…


  1. Awesome! Figures they'd figure this out in the PNW. We had a diesel stove on Skybird in Seattle (she was built for Sitka) and she was toasty warm all winter. Not much use in San Diego, but hey. Glad to hear you are keeping warm and eating good soup. Miss you!!

    1. Thanks Beth,

      Heh, you're right about the Pacific Northwest…they definitely need something to warm up to after all that rain.

      It looks like you guys have been having a lot of fun as well! I've been loving your photos!

  2. That is a great little stove. Does it consume much wood? What I mean is are you having to stoke it hourly or do you get good burn time. That is a great idea having multiple heating sources. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hey Lesander,

      On the website they say that it is 74% efficient. What that means for burn time I'm not exactly sure. At the moment we are getting our wood from a local carpenter who is letting us cart away his scraps. There are a lot of little pieces and it tends to be a softer wood that burns quickly. This means that I'm up several times an hour tending to the fire and adding more wood.

      It would be interested to see how a harder wood fairs in this stove. I know when I lived in Colorado, I would stoke the wood stove before I went to bed and would usually wake up with enough coals left to get a fire going again.

    2. Thank you for your reply. I follow your blog and travels with great interest. :)

    3. Hilarious. I, in fact, live in a tiny house, heated by wood stove, in Colorado. :) Quite surprising that Reykjavik is much more mild than the climate here at 8500ft (-20F)

      - Cloud

  3. I love the stove, I think it's a great idea! Wow I'm sure the ambiance is wonderfully toasty. Envy, envy, envy. LOL

    1. *grin* Thank you! I think it's one of my favourite additions to the boat!

  4. Awesome, thanks for the detailed blog on the stove, I've been waiting patiently to hear about it, I will be checking into the company. I hope to have one aboard someday :)

    Thanks Again, Dean

    1. Hi Dean,

      There were several contenders, but the Little Cod seemed to work best for us. I will say that if you decide their stoves are for you, be sure to order early and expect to wait for a bit. I believe they are stating that delivery times are approximately six months, but we waited just over a year to get our stove. Well worth the wait though!

  5. I've been looking at little stoves to heat my boat. I was looking at the Sardine or a Fatsco Tiny Tot stove. I would love to have boat time when it's colder. Unfortunately, I don't have a convenient place to put one

    It's good to know the one you got is working out for you and how nice it is that someone is helping you keep Paragon stocked with wood.

    1. Hi Dan,

      We also looked at the Fatsco Stoves. They had one called the 'Midget' (which I do not believe they make any longer) which interested us, and we were quite impressed with the general workmanship of their stoves.

      Ultimately we decided that we wanted a glass front stove in the salon for the ambience. However, Drake and I have been talking about installing the Tiny Tot in the aft cabin which would not only add warmth, but would also combat the horrible condensation problem back there.

      As for placement, we ended up demolishing a hanging locker to make room for the Little Cod. It's reduced storage space, but the end result was worth the loss of space.

    2. I have a Nor'sea 27 so not a lot of extra space. If I get a heater, placement will likely get creative.

    3. I would suggest you start playing tetris. :) Seriously, it can be a bit tricky, particularly to get the amount of buffer space that is needed, but I've heard of even smaller boats that have wood stoves. I wonder if there is a thread on one of the forums…or perhaps you could start one. It's always nice to see how someone else has done a modification.

    4. Hi there,
      sorry for my english..! I am writing you from Barcelona.

      probably I spent the same time and energy to find out what stove model would suit my boat. Little Cod was my choice. It's so obvious, it's got everything! But I think I was lucky that at the end I tought that probably it was going to be too warm for the Mediterranean sea. To keep my boat far from being overheated I would need to make such a small fire that it would be quite anoying to be attending it very often.
      But Fatsco Tiny Tot was definitly too small for my 44 footer cabin. But I wrote Fatsco and I felt very happy when they told me they were bringing 'Midget' stove back to manufacture. Midget fits perfect in my program. Warmer than Tiny tot, but less than Little Cod. I have it installed since one week ago and it has never stopped yet!
      I could have bought Sardine stove, but I had the feeling that charcoal stoves need less fire attending than wood stoves. After one week I think that's right. Tonight we had a ten hours low burning burn without attending the stove.
      But belive me, I am so jelous of you because Little Cod is the nicest boat stove ever!!!!
      I am happy I did a four inches piping installation, so maybe if some day I need a warmer heater I would go for a Shipmate Skippy if I still go for charcoal, or the dreamed Little Cod if I change to wood.
      One question please, I installed Dickinson piping, through deck and chemney parts. I was tempted to get the Marine Stove ones. Did you use their throgh deck fitting, the one that need to be water filled to keep it cold? If so, does it works well, is it very dangerouse if it gets dry?

      Congratulations for you trips! and thanks for sharing. I did my small blog www.narinan-nari.blogspot.com. I dream one day I'll go to the Pacific ocean with the boat. Maybe in four or five years time. I bought her, abandoned, three years ago, and still needs a lot of work to be done... in my free time ::)

      Congrats! and keep warm!


  6. had a wood stove in a cabin and it did a great job but i can see it'd be tough to split wood on a boat so i'm glad you found a good supply and hope it will be ongoing. looks like you can heat a pot on top as well. looking forward to your new vids. ken

    1. Hi Ken,

      Splitting wood on Paragon would be less than fun…wildly swinging a maul on board seems precarious! *grin* We do have a saw and hatchet to trim pieces, but it can be quite time consuming. We are definitely grateful to our new friend for letting us cart away his old scraps.

      You are right about the pot. We heat water in the kettle for tea. I've even toasted bread and tortillas in a pan and heated up leftovers. I seriously love having the stove on board. It's saving us both diesel AND propane!

    2. You might look into a small hydraulic splitter from Harbor freight. You can get a manual pump one or an electric. Then no more swinging dangerous tools.

  7. I FEEL HONORED to be added to the CIRCLE OF FRIENDS, thank you so much Drake and Monique. I am sure you will be just fine, keep that stove pretty much air tight and find some of the hardest wood you can when the going gets tough in mid winter.

    1. Thanks cosmic moxa. We go through the wood fairly quickly, but we are able to replenish our supplies several times a week. Even with the crazy winds today Paragon was snug and comfortable. It will be interesting to see how the winter progresses!

  8. Great article - thank you for sharing. How is your journey going? We are avid youtube watchers and have been watching all your posts as we prepare for our first "sailing sabbatical". However, we are headed for warmer seas! Details of our planned trip at www.midnightsunii.com

    We look forward to hearing your latest news and seeing more videos!

  9. I have been following videos and blog for several months. Interested iin how you guys are surviving the winter in Greenland?

    Kevin S.

  10. Hope you guys are surviving the winter OK - we would love to hear more from you. your videos and blogs have inspired us to set sail. We are presently Bahamas bound, heading down the FL east coast.

  11. So practical and I love the design and color. You might say I'm green with envy! Glad you guys are staying warm out there :)

  12. Are you guys still in Iceland?

    Greetings from Norway