Maintenance Q&A with Warren

Published in the September 2019 Issue September 2019 Multimedia Warren Childers

Question: I would like to attach anchor line to the top deck so I can dock my little boat alongside the houseboat by going under the anchor line. I am thinking of something like an aluminum post that would top out around 3 feet or so above the rear portion of my top deck and extend down through the roof and my rear deck area to ultimately attach at the bottom to cross members at the hull. While I'm at it, I am considering using something that sailors would call a sheet winch on top of the aluminum post to allow me to better tighten the anchor lines. Do you have any experience with anything like this? What are your suggestions? Submitted by Vince Parker from St. George, Utah

Warren: We have had several people ask about this very thing. I am not a fan of this because of the leverage that would be exerted at the top of the post during a storm, for example. The roofs over the rear deck on houseboats are not designed to take lateral stress and could be damaged in high winds. That said, I have seen people do this. My advice to them is to make sure to move the lines down to the hull level during a storm or threat of a storm, and at night when they are asleep. As far as using capstan style winches, these can be very handy. I have seen them set up on the corners of houseboats several times on both an electric and manual configuration.


Question: I have a 47-foot houseboat and the dock power is sometimes flaky at my marina. How can you tell when the power has gone out and come back on later while you were gone? The reason I am asking is because I have a freezer stocked with food and I want to know if the freezer thaws and refreezes while I am away. I was thinking of freezing a vial that was half full of clear water. Then after it’s frozen I could fill it the rest of the way with red food dyed water and freeze it again. If I come back to a frozen vile with mixed clear and colored water, I’ll know the freezer has thawed. Do you know of any easier ways to tell? What are your recommendations? Submitted by Rachel Stoves from Brentwood, Tenn.

Warren: This is a good question. I was once docked at a marina that had a lot of power issues. They actually make a monitor for your refrigerator and freezer. The monitor will record the highest and lowest temperatures and some will show how long the temperature was high. Nest even makes one you can log into with your smart phone and check from home. Your idea of freezing water with dye would also work.


Question: Are there many houseboats with geothermal heat pump systems? It seems to me that it would be a good choice for marine use. Our lake water never gets below 48 degrees all winter and a heat pump would work great at that temperature. In the summer, the water is always cooler than the air. I know geo-units are more expensive for home installation, but a large part of that cost is drilling the wells in the ground. They would also eliminate the bulky, noisy compressor unit that takes up space either on the roof or rear deck. I am just curious. Do you know of geothermal on houseboats? Is there a big downside that I am missing? Submitted by Matthew Winfrey from Gainesville, Ga.

Warren: We have installed several open loop geothermal HVAC systems on houseboats over the years. They are perfect systems for boats in milder climates where the water does not freeze. Most houseboat manufacturers keep a supply of standard pipes so that retrofitting an open loop geothermal system in most cases could easily be completed as an upgrade. One of the really nice things I like about these systems is that they are almost totally silent. You do not have the condenser noise on the aft deck while you are trying to sleep. One downside is that it can be harder to find someone to do maintenance on them. 


If you have a question about houseboating, shoot Warren an email at

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