How to Survive a Winter on the Coast without Heat: Year in Review, Part IV
We were back in Portland by October. It didn't take long before the rain came. And then it never stopped. The bus windows were constantly opaque with moisture. We would wipe down the walls and windows with towels every morning, and wring out all the water as the rain fell. Our clothes were damp as we dressed in the morning, and fresh mold would grow overnight.
And it got colder. I bought 10 tubes of silicone to seal the outside seams, and fill the gaps in the windows, but still the water streamed in. I duct taped garbage bags over the leaking windows. To combat the moisture, I purchased a dehumidifier that was described as effective for larger spaces. I had it over-nighted, as we were constantly sick and fatigued.
Returning home with the package, I was prepared for an immediate fix. Surely this will de-humidify. There is plenty of moisture in the air to be had! I plugged in the unit, and was delighted to see that it ran at a low wattage. I would be able to run it all night, and don dry clothes in the morning.
Waking up, the windows were fully occluded. I crawled out of bed, put on my Selk-Bag sleeping bag suit and peered into the water trap. A piddly 1/4 cup of water sat in the bottom of the collection tray. Why hadn't it worked?! I pulled the DampRid containers down from the overhead storage, and discovered the same disappointing results. But, why?!
Temperature. We had entered winter. And just like summer, it would not be easily mastered. The luxuries of modern man exist in a state of temperature regulation, which was currently beyond our capacity. Dehumidifiers, both chemical and electric, require a minimum temperature in order to function. Also known as dew point. Our environment would stay wet, as long as it stayed cold.
Ongoing theme: old thinking in a new environment. I was accustomed to relying on technology. I was accustomed to buying a product in order to improve my lifestyle. Hence the trauma when it failed. We did not have a means to warm our environment - short of a several thousand dollar investment in a larger battery generator, and additional solar panels.
Gas generator, you say? Sure, if it would be water protected, and operate below the decibels required on city streets. The models we were looking at certainly did not. And, I personally did not want to encourage additional interactions with either police officers, security guards, or pedestrians. If we were in a RV park, no problem. But, we weren't. And thus would need to fly under the radar, which is something that a cheap, noisy, stinky gas generator just would not allow.
In an act of desperation, I called several RV parks to get estimates about staying through the winter. Our rig did not fit within the guidelines required. In fact, we were even told that our rig (a 1998 Ford) was too old. So, even our back up plan was out of the question. That night, I curled up in our wet bed sheets, and helplessly sobbed.
Cocooned, I thought about the summer. I thought about the late nights in the heat, desperate for a breeze. I thought about how much I fought it. How much I spent trying to make it work. I tried to envision myself there, and see if I couldn't feel the heat on my skin again, as I wiggled and kicked to force blood into my numb feet. If only I could design a reverse spray bottle that would suck the water from the air.
I needed to accept the cold, as I had with the heat. We needed air flow of any kind. The cold we could manage, but the moisture would soon kill us. I envisioned us bloated with black and grey mold growing out of our mouths, discovered months later, like the betta fish I had won from the county fair as a kid. The weather generously gave me two dry days to try again.
I tore everything out in a Target parking lot. With gloves and a mask, I bleached the floors, walls, and cracks to kill all the mold. I bought cans of liquid sealant, and more silicone. I sprayed and layered for hours. Accept the cold, welcome it in. I bought a window cover, to prevent the rain from pouring in as we aired out the bus, and installed it above the kitchen. It would be a freezing day, but that window would remain wide open.
After two days, I sat on the floor as the rain poured down, watching my seams for any reflective movement. I darted between the three trouble spots, just waiting for water, and it never came. We were water tight! We remained without heat, but our moisture problem improved dramatically.
That is, until I began cooking each night. I would lift the pot lid, and begin frantically waving the moisture out, as I watched it slowly creep up into our overhead storage, adding to the existing moisture collection. I ordered a Vent Fan in February, but after the dehumidifier failure, I didn't instill much hope in the product. It would remain uninstalled until April. Only then did we realize how much of a mistake that was.