Blue Tale came with a Fab-All-120 cabin diesel heater located in the main cabin that is the precursor of Sigma Marine-120 diesel heaters. It has worked very well in the last three years in owning the boat but we have had some problems with back drafts this summer and had to make a decision on whether we wanted to repair it or replace it with a newer model. When we spoke with the company, they suggested replacing the chimney with a longer pipe, as our short chimney might have been the problem. This was good news as this would save us some money and of course we also wanted to replace the chimney as it was made out of galvanized pipe. Galvanized pipe will release toxic fumes/vapours when heated to high temperatures, usually in wood burning stoves but this is not usually the case in diesel burning stoves, as the temperature is generally much lower – but we were still concerned!
After removing the stove, piping and crappy heat shield we took the opportunity to paint the area behind the heater and replace the heat shield with something fancier than a piece of sheet metal.
We decided to go with ceramic tiles as these would help reflect the heat as well as add some décor to the interior of the boat. We built a wooden backer using ½ inch plywood with vertical strips of wood glued/screwed to the back to promote air flow between the shield and bulkhead (wall). A metal frame was attached to the wooden backer to help support the tiles once in place. The tiles were arranged and re-arranged until we were happy with our design and then attached to the plywood using tile cement and the seams grouted. The project was pretty straightforward but the end result weighed a tonne. All of this work was done using the wood shop at the Cowichan Bay Wooden Boat Society-awesome facilities! Once everything was in place and attached to the bulkhead, we used a ceramic drill bit to drill holes through the tiles for the stove attachment, and the fuel/overflow lines.
To increase circulation of the heat in the cabin, Rob installed a 12V computer fan approximately 18” above the heater. Rob built a wooden box around the fan out of scrap African padauk wood, a beautiful light-dark orange wood. The installation of the fan took about ½ a day, the most complicated part being the rerouting and adding additional wire to the fan.
Once we had all the miscellaneous parts attached to bulkhead, the fun part began of re-installing the heater and attaching the new piping and cover on the coach roof (cabin top). To accommodate the angle of the coach roof and to ensure the deck fitting was level, Rob designed a round teak base that is angled on one side to take up the space and was glued to the coach roof using 3M 5200 glue. We had to drill holes through the coach roof to install the deck fitting and flue (this was not done with the original deck fittng). Once this was complete, the rest of the project was to attach the heater to the tile backing, line the fuel lines up, install the flue pipe, etc.
Overall, we are very happy with the results of the project. The pipe looks great, we have had no back drafts into the cabin and it heats the cabin nicely. The only tiny problem is that we occasionally get a leak through one of the holes but have not been able to track it down, yet! ~Sophia & Rob