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On my never ending list of subjects to write about, I’ve had a note to update my post on boat storage for months now. Sometimes it takes a special push to get me to work on a subject though, and our friends making ready to store their boat was apparently just the inspiration that I needed. Compared to cruisers who store their boats every year for hurricane season, our experience on this subject is limited. On the few times that we have stored our boats, back in Canada, in Grenada, and in Trinidad, we’ve made out OK though, so I believe my thoughts on boat storage are somewhat credible. You can decide for yourself.

The list below is from my 2013 post, which was originally stolen (with attribution) from our friend George. The comments in italics are my thoughts from today.

2013 storage suggestions, plus what we recommend:

  • Mark the chain plates on the hull so you can tell the yard staff where to set the stands.

A good idea. We never really got around to doing this.

  • Make sure your boat is leveled and not leaning more to one side than the other.

Another good idea. Water will pool in the cockpit if this is not done. Having a bucket of water on hand to check this is not a bad idea. Don’t let the yard crew leave your boat if you’re not satisfied. Unfortunately, our boat ended up being moved several times after we left, so any efforts we put into this was for naught.

  • Fill water tanks to full, add a capful of bleach to every 30 gallon tank.

This we never did. Instead we completely emptied the tank. When we returned to the boat, we flushed it with fresh water before refilling it.

  • Fill the fuel tank and add biocide.

For diesel, I think this is the right thing to do, but for gasoline it is not. We left gas in our PDQ and that was a mistake. We ultimately ended up having to drain the tank and dispose of the old fuel. 

  • Strap the boat down.

The yard crew should do this.

  • Chain the screw jacks together.

A monohull thing, but again, the yard crew should do this. 

  • Put upside down cones on the straps to make it difficult for rodents to climb them.

Didn’t bother, but not a bad idea, I suppose.

  • Remove all the canvas: sails, bimini, and dodger, etc.

Definitely. In fact, remove everything that can be removed (grills, lifeslings, etc.), and store it inside the boat! Some yards may require you to remove the sails even before you haul the boat. We actually went a step further and removed the trampoline, and all running rigging. The first year we left the halyards on the boat, but the second year, we removed them too, running messenger lines in their place. Given how easy the job was, I wish we had done that in the first place. Leaving the lines on board, unmoving, exposes them to the sun and elements. You might argue that they would be similarly exposed to the elements if you were using the boat, but why spend 30-60 minutes to increase their lifespan, and keep them clean? 

  • Put all electronics away in sealed containers or zip lock bags. If any of the electronics have batteries, remove them and put them in a sealed box.

Good idea. We did this.

  • Put blankets, pillows, books, and anything that can grow mold in large sealed space bags.

Yes. We also propped up all mattresses and cushions so that airflow underneath them was possible.

  • Apply a layer of oil on the vinyl cushions so they don’t crack.

We didn’t have vinyl cushions so can’t comment.

  • Clean and dry the bilge.

Our cat had dry bilges but we did clean them, and wipe them down with a vinegar solution. The monohull has an impossibly-deep bilge so it was emptied but not cleaned. 

  • Put a spoon full of vegetable oil in the head so it keeps the seals lubricated.

This may or may not be the best solution. Rubber seals certainly do suffer from lack of use though.

  • Run the inboard and outboard with fresh water for a few minutes.

We did do this. Follow the instructions in your service manuals. 

  • Change the oil, fuel filter, and oil filters, etc.

Yes. For outboard engines we also changed the gear oil. I would also recommend, if not cleaning it completely, at least draining all the gas out of the carb too.

  • Spray protective anti corrosion wax on the engine parts such as hose clamps, battery terminals, and anything else that can corrode.

Yes.

  • Turn battery switch off, but leave the bilge pump on. Keep some kind of trickle charge so batteries are topped off!

This may be different for different boats. More comments below.

  • Tie down the boom. Tie and secure all the halyards and lines on deck. Be sure to have no loose lines on deck!

Yes. See comments above about halyards and running rigging. 

  • Get rid of any flammables, dinghy gas, lighter fluid and so forth.

Yes. We even removed emergency flares as we knew that they would be out of date by the time we returned. 

  • Close all sea cocks and cover them from below. Don’t cover the cockpit drainage!

Yes. By cover them from below, it means to plug the holes from below the boat so that bugs, etc. can not crawl inside them.

  • Cover hatches and windows with canvas. Put aluminum foil on the windows from inside to avoid UV damage and heat inside the cabin.

Yes. We covered all hatches from inside with aluminum foil, using blue painter’s tape to affix it.

  • Spray all locks with anti corrosion.

Yes.

  • Pickle your watermaker if you have one.

Yes. Follow instructions in manual.

  • Cover or apply a layer of varnish on the exterior wood trims. On the interior wood trims apply some kind of wood oil.

Yes.

  • Seal places that might leak, such as stanchions, tow rail, hatches, anchor carrier, and so forth.

Hopefully this has been looked after before hand. 

  • Put some kind of moisture product, humidifier in the cabin to prevent mold.

When we stored ZTC for the winter in Canada, we put a marine moisture product in each hull, following the directions on the container. Knowing that we were going to be leaving our cat for an extended period, and that those products have a finite-lifespan, in 2013 we tried the following instead. We set up a 5-gallon plastic bucket in each hull, on top of which we placed a kitchen colander. We filled each colander with a large amount of moisture absorbing material. You can either use the marine stuff, or silica cat litter as we did. As the material absorbs moisture from the air, the water fell into the bucket. When we returned to the boat, there was still plenty of the silica material remaining. 

  • Do not leave any food on the boat.

Get rid of it!

  • Put rat poison in various hidden places.

We did this. Although we found no dead rats, we did find a couple of small lizards who obviously chose the wrong place to hang out. Yes, they were dead. How they got on board, I have no idea!

  • Right before you leave the boat put a bug bomb in the cabin.

We set off a bug bomb in each hull just before leaving and locking the door, and then affixed a sign to the companionway stating that the boat was full of poison. We did this both to remind ourselves, or anyone else who we authorized to enter the boat, but also, for whatever it was worth, as a theft deterrent.

ZTC, then named Katana, stored on the hard in Kingston, Ontario, sans mast.

Storing your boat in the winter? Here are some more tips!

Not mentioned above:

  • We (this means Rebecca) wiped down every interior surface with a vinegar-water solution. In no case, even after leaving ZTC for 2 years, did we return to find mold or live bugs on the boat.
  • As for batteries, if yours are wet-cell, I’d recommend designating someone to check on them monthly to ensure that they are topped up with water. We also deactivated a portion of our solar array so that only a smaller amount of charging was taking place in our absence. Unfortunately, I really don’t know what the best solution for this is.
  • Most people remove all the anchor chain from the locker and flake it across a sawhorse, or something similar, so that it doesn’t rust into a large knot inside the boat.
  • How you store your dinghy will also require some consideration. What you choose to do with yours will depend upon white type it is (hard, RIB, soft-bottom) and what type of boat you have (cat, mono, tri).
  • Anything left outside the boat (outboard engine stored on the rail) should be locked. Remember to lubricate the lock as noted above. We also removed the props so that they wouldn’t accidentally “go missing!”
  • Leave a key with the boatyard. Additionally, leave one with a trusted friend, or someone that you are paying to check up on your boat. Be sure to leave instructions with the boatyard that your friend/employee has your permission to board your boat.

Have comments or suggestions? Please share below so that others can benefit.

5 Comments

  1. I’d look into a good additive like star-tron for gasoline storage. Even if you drain your tanks your still asking for laquer in the carbs.
    I would suggest adding star-tron and running some through, then re-topping tanks.
    Really depends on how long yo are storing though. More than two years i would drain and just plan to clean the carbs.

    • My opinion, get rid of all gasoline. Even having it sit for a few moths will degrade it, additive or not. Given past experience, I would remove the carb and clean it fully. In the absence of that, I would attempt to drain the carb and lines after running it dry. As for additives, our friend Drew on Sail Delmarva did a study on them, and I’m pretty sure he was NOT sold on Star Tron. The only stuff I use presently is Seafoam, but using it does not change any of what I have said though. I would get rid of ALL gas!

  2. Gasoline and fuel can last a VERY long time–years–if moisture and air are eliminated. The simplest way is to duct tape a plastic sheet (with some belly in the middle, to allow for breathing) over the vent. The sheet will move, like a balloon, but the air will not exchange. Also, and additive, like Biobor EB (gasoline) or Startron + Biobor (diesel). Tested for Practical Sailor Mag, not a guess–there is a LOT of snake oil out there.

    Startron actually did well on diesel, just not gas. Yeah, Seafoam is another favorite.

    I’ve been really happy with the silica gel vent filters for gas and diesel. They reduce breathing, eliminate water, and go 4-5 years without service. Perfect for boats that are going to be stored for the season, and probably enough for years. I pulled my carbs after 5 years on Biobor EB + vent filters, just to see since they run fine, and they were shiny like mirrors inside. No sludge, no varnish, no corrosion. And that is on e-10.

    I wonder if I would just pitch the batteries, rather that worry about them. Assuming they were not new, they’ll be really old a few years later. It would depend.

  3. You make a couple of really good points on preparing to store your boat. I think that I will print out this article and turn it into a checklist so that I never have a problem. The one that I liked the most is the on to make sure to put the cloth items in bags so that they do not mold.

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