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Protecting the external appearance and reducing spring recovery of a wintered boat

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What is the issue?
Time off can be especially hard on a yacht. Hardstanding boats being stowed for winter have to endure the full force of the winter elements. Left unchecked, corrosion will spread, moisture can intrude and freeze, lubrication can congeal and neglect can take root over the long, cold months. The extended period of inactivity can accelerate wear and tear and contribute to a large-scale rejuvenation effort the next season.

In addition, boatyards are typically stored in industrial areas or near towns. This causes a deposit of grime and pollutants from the nearby businesses. Even if you are lucky to store the vessel in a rural coastal setting the birds tend to enjoy the benefit of the rigging as a perch. The resulting droppings can bond with the gel coat over the course of the winter making them difficult to remove.

Why address this?
These elements and build up will degrade the vessel and result in many miserable spring days of arduous recovery work. This is particularly the case with boats that have extensive amounts of brightwork such as exposed brass or bronze and varnished woodworking.

How to address this?
The spring work and deterioration can be dramatically reduced by covering the boat up. A cover will provide the boat with the first line of defence against the harsh elements of winter:

  • • The best option, and the most expensive one, will always be to store your boat in an enclosed, climate-controlled facility. However, this is not practical and in almost all cases will require the mast to be unstepped.

  • • Second to this is to have the vessel professionally shrink-wrapped that creates a tight seal against the elements, but this is expensive.

  • • Have a top quality, custom-fitted cover made up with supports used to prop up the cover to prevent water from pooling in low spots. This is again expensive, but it can be amortised over many years.

All of these coverage options can be expensive but you can make your own cover for very little.

Heavy plastic tarpaulins are ridiculously inexpensive these days and when used as a cover will dramatically reduce winter degradation and the spring clean up. The winter oversheets must be raised off the deck to enable a ventilating airflow to enter the craft. This is an absolute must when covering a vessel with a tarpaulin to prevent mould, mildew and unpleasant odours.

Using a framework of domestic waste pipes to lift winter sheets
Photo: Tony Gibson

Both of these objectives may be achieved by utilising plastic domestic waste pipes to construct a framework as shown above. The pipes may be stood on the side decks and securely attached to the stanchions by cable ties and hooped across the boat as presented below. Domestic waste pipes do not rot and can be used year after year once the frame is built.

Hooped waste pipe frame
Photo: Tony Gibson

Best winter storage results, in all methods of storage, will be achieved by thoroughly cleaning your boat inside and out first and then covering the body with wax. The wax will create a protective layer to corrosion of your boat’s body and is particularly important if you plan on storing your boat outside. A boat that starts its winter holiday clean, will help keep dirt and corrosion from getting a foothold and will be much quicker to get ready in spring.

The cover then must be made absolutely secure otherwise it will be swept away by the first winter storm. It is advisable to hang fenders over the side and tie the cover or tarpaulin down over them. This will help hold the tarpaulin slightly away from the hull and provide side ventilation, without leaving the cover dangerously loose. Run the securing line through all the available grommets and add some additional grommets if you can. Then tighten it down securely so that no section is able to flap as this itself will cause wear and tear.

Tarpaulins also have a tendency to rub and chafe against the boat causing sharp corners to cut through and/or the tarpaulin causing damage by its flapping or rubbing movement. To prevent this pad any sharp joints and stress areas with foam pads, old clothes or folded towels.

Add dehumidifying devices and thermostatically controlled heaters below decks as set out in winterising 'checklist' Experience or extra ventilation as suggested in 'checklist' for hardstanding without power Experience.

Make certain to check on the vessel as often as possible. Keep the cover clean and free of debris and water, especially after storms, and after checking underneath to make sure everything is OK, tighten everything down.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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