Reviewed by Captain Mike Schoonveld

Compared to the often Arctic-like climate in place over much of the Great Lakes, my home ports at the south end of Lake Michigan are in Banana Zone. Even here, however, weather statistics for my area put the average frost-free date in the spring is May 5th and the average first frost date in autumn is October 5th. Those are averages. I’ve seen plenty of September frosts as well as crispy cold mornings in late May.

There’s a lot of good fishing before and after frost free dates and boat owners, especially those with inboard or inboard/outboard motors, know a dip in the thermometer below the freezing mark can do nasty things inside an engine, bilge or livewell if there is any water present.

Some boats are easier than others to drain dry and freeze proof. Most of the boats I’ve owned over the years weren’t all that easy.
I relied on a heat source placed in the engine compartment to keep my motor and pumps ice free between early or late season fishing trips. Until now, none of my methods were particularly safe or totally worry free.

A common 60 to 100 watt incandescent bulb, will put out enough heat to keep an engine compartment a few degrees warmer than the outside air. I’ve stuck a mechanic’s trouble light inside the engine compartment on nights when the air temperature is predicted to slide only a few degrees sub-freezing. Then I worried all night about the bulb burning out or the temperature to drop just enough the lightbulb didn’t put out enough heat.

On colder nights I’ve put a ceramic space heater in the engine compartment. Often called milk-house heaters they are designed to heat a space much larger than an engine compartment – like a milk house, however big they are. When I use it, I turn the power setting on low (800W) and adjust the thermostat to a minimal setting. Then I crack the engine compartment open to allow some of the heat to escape. Using it I lose sleep worrying as much about meltdown as freeze up.

The Pali 400W Engine Compartment Heater is designed specifically for the job and carries safety certifications from the U.S. Coast Guard and Underwriters Laboratories. There are no power or thermostat settings to adjust. Just set it inside the engine compartment, close the hatch, plug it in and sleep soundly. It has an internal ceramic core heater rated at 400 Watts and a pre-set thermostat which clicks on at 40 degrees and off at 60.
Available at West Marine and other dealers. WWW. caframo.com/marine.

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