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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. This provides the first line of defence against the elements:

  • • 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.

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

This may be addressed 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

Thoroughly clean your boat inside and out, then cover 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.

Interior ventilation, however, is an absolute must when covering a vessel for an extended period to prevent mould. The winter oversheets have to be kept off the deck to enable a ventilating airflow to enter the craft and the cover must be raised. The cover must be made absolutely secure otherwise it will be swept away by the first winter storm. No section must be able to flap as this itself will cause wear and tear.
Please note

You will probably not get a say in where you boat is stored in the boatyard but if by chance you have the choice, pick one with reduced wind exposure and that is less subject to falling leaves.

After you have covered up and winterised down below, make certain to check on it 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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