Dry Storing a Boat for Hurricane Season in the South, Part II of III
By Capt. Ron Butler
Task List for Storage
Storing the boat for the season is also an ideal time to take care of maintenance that needs to be done out of the water, such as bottom work, propeller or shaft work. We will do Kismet’s bottom this year along with a new drive shaft, and cutlass bearing. Last time we stored out of the water, we had her bottom professionally stripped and then let her hull dry out for six months before repainting.
Some work is better performed before storage, and other work probably is best done just before launch. Painting the bottom is probably best done just before launch.
Remember, too, that if you’re doing this work yourself, to make reservations in the work area.
|BOAT STORAGE TASK LIST||CHECK-OFF|
|Make yard reservations|
|Call insurance company (rebate for dry storage?)|
|Mail in test sample of engine oil|
|Chlorine in water tanks|
|Remove spray shields|
|Remove VHF masthead antenna|
|Remove wind bird|
|Prep bottom for paint|
|Clean anchor rodes/chain|
|Pressure wash decks|
|Oil rag in engine air intake|
|Rags in boom ends|
|Remove mainsail cover|
|Remove and stow genoa|
|Exchange and plastic-bag books|
|Bag foulies and PFDs|
|Dinghy on trailer|
|Remove fuel/water/gas cans|
|Remove cockpit GPS|
|Screen in thru hulls|
|Shut off engine fuel valve|
|Shut off propane tank|
|Pack up computer/printer/scanner|
|Remove manuals and documents|
|Remove prop shaft|
|Remove cutlass bearings|
|Install Nicro vent|
|Remove SS dorade vents|
|Clean grill and stow|
|Stow all deck lines, winch handles, boat hooks and tackles|
Mast up or down?
Should you store your boat mast up or down? Well, I suppose it depends. We’ve always left our mast up and so far have not experienced any problems. Your boat will have considerably less windage with the mast down and so might be safer in a severe storm but what about the mast itself? Will it be safer, too?
You have to consider mast storage if the mast is down. It probably would be best to store the mast on racks designed for the purpose and secured with tie-downs. One boater reported damage to his mast when high water ruined electrical components on the stored mast. While the water wasn’t high enough to damage the boat, it did get the mast-mounted radar while the mast was down and stored separately (see sidebar).
Taking the mast down has other drawbacks, too. On Kismet our mast is keel-stepped, and taking it down is a major project requiring lots of disconnecting, not to mention disturbing the mast partner Spar-Tite system. A deck-stepped mast would be far easier. Consider, too, the added cost. You’ll have to pay extra to have the mast removed and stepped again. Some yards, like Indiantown, also charge extra for mast storage.
Consider, too, that a lot of the damage from hurricane Wilma to boats at Indiantown was caused by one boat toppling over and into nearby boats, causing a small chain reaction of damage. Often this damage was because rigging fell into other rigging. I classify storing the mast down as a toss-up; pick your poison.
Diesel engines in storage for up to a year don’t really need all that much in terms of maintenance. On Kismet (for six months) we top off fuel tanks and put in fuel additives to help prevent organic growth and to help keep the fuel stable until we run it again. Keeping the tank full limits the amount of water that can accumulate in the tank from moist air condensing on the tank walls.
However, other folks take the opposite approach and for good reasons, too. One friend keeps his fuel tank empty and then drains it of water before refilling with fresh fuel at launch. This also prevents organic growth and has the advantage that if the fuel tank develops a leak while the boat is stored, he doesn’t have a huge clean-up problem. Plus his first tank of fuel at launch will be fresh.
We used to stuff an oil-soaked rag into the air intake. This will keep bugs or frogs from crawling up in there, and the oil should inhibit moisture intrusion. Just this year, we installed an oil-soaked K&N air filter on the engine air intake that should serve the same purpose. I’m not convinced of the effectiveness of engine-fogging compounds for diesels. Fuel residues on pistons, valves and cylinder walls should protect against rust forming. That said, storage periods longer than a year may need extra protection, and foggers may help.
We also have a fuel shut-off at the fuel filter. We close this when we shut down the engine for the last time. That way the fuel lines and filter stay full and don’t require as much priming and bleeding when we restart the engine.
Finally, we change our engine oil and send samples off to our testing lab, hoping to anticipate problems.
When we recommission in the fall, we’ll check water pump impellers, fan belts, change fuel filters, check the engine/shaft alignment and other routine maintenance chores.
(Note: Since we’re storing in Florida, we don’t have to worry about antifreeze. Ah, the benefits of the heat.)
We store Kismet with more or less full water tanks. We do add a considerable amount of Clorox to her plastic tanks before storage, and we have a filter system that does a good job of removing the chlorine taste in the fall. I don’t recommend this if you have metal tanks, however. Chlorine will attack the welds of stainless steel or Monel tanks, and it is corrosive to aluminum tanks.
Holding tanks should be empty and dosed with your favorite chemical such as “Odorlos” according to the product instructions.
Remove the dinghy. It’s probably best to just take your dinghy home with you and stow it in the garage. If you must, you can lash it down to the foredeck, but it is extra windage, and it will stay exposed to the sun over the season. Indiantown Marina prohibits leaving your dinghy under the boat as some folks did in the past. We trailer ours home since we need to clean it up and service the motor anyway.
Sails and Canvas
All of your sails should be removed. Take down your roller furling jib and your mainsail. You can store them inside the boat if need be. This is a good time to truck them over to your sailmaker for repairs or replacement, too.
Some folks remove their main boom and jib booms as well. We leave our main boom up. Removing the boom would help reduce windage, but it’s not easily removed and would add many hours to our recommissioning schedule. Securing the boom with lines to cleats or winches is a good idea to minimize any movement.
Topping lifts and halyards can be rigged to serve as back-up mast support. The tails of halyards and sheets should be secured. Jib sheets should be removed entirely. Likewise, your Bimini top and dodger should be removed. Don’t forget the spray curtains on the lifelines.
Note too that some yards (Indiantown for one) prohibit raising sails when the boat is on the hard. They may also prohibit going up the mast with the boat out of the water. Removing masthead antennas and roller-furling jibs/genoas must be done before haul-out.
We leave our batteries “on” and our solar panel in place, but we live close enough that if a storm becomes a serious threat, we can run down to the boat and remove the solar panel. If you’re leaving the area and won’t be able to do final storm prep on a “just-in-time” basis, then remove the panel and maybe the batteries. The batteries need to be kept on a maintenance charger, so if you’re in a yard that provides electric to your stored boat, you just plug in. Otherwise, you need to provide for charging. Some folks use a small trickle solar panel, secured to the deck. I have one that I use on our stored camper ($12 from a discount tool store). Works great. No regulator required.
We remove our masthead antennas mainly because it gets us under the 55-foot limitation of passing through the St Lucie River, but it does reduce weight and windage aloft some, too. Probably doesn’t hurt to remove them. You should also disconnect the antennas and electrical power from radios and other electronics like GPSs, radars, etc. We usually bring that stuff home with us for the season, but this year we left it on board. Disconnecting everything may not protect against lightning damage, however. Transient power spikes can zap circuit boards even if you stow them inside a Faraday cage. It just doesn’t take much.
We remove all deck gear. We clean and stow the gas grill, remove winch handles, dock lines, boat hooks, MOB gear and anything else loose for storage down below. The fenders we lash over the side between our boat and the next. Slim chance that it will do any good, but they can’t help at all if they’re stowed in a lazarette.
Hauling and Blocking: Jack Stands, Plywood and Tie-Downs
Marinas have their own rules and procedures for blocking and placing boats in their yards. You may not get much choice in the matter. However, there are some things you may be able to do.
If your insurance policy specifies certain procedures or methods, you should discuss those with the yard manager to make sure you will be in compliance. For example, your policy may specify that plywood be placed under jack stands. Not all marinas will do this. Plywood under the jack stands prevents the base of the stand from sinking into soft ground. Generally, these plywood triangles or squares should be smaller than the feet of the stand. This allows the feet to sink into the ground by a couple of inches, but the plywood, positioned under the cross braces, will prevent it sinking more. The feet digging into the ground help to prevent the stand from slipping away from the hull. Other yards have paved parking pads. Here you won’t need plywood under the jack stands, but chaining and strapping are still a good idea.
Jack stands need to be chained together perpendicular to the axis of the boat or athwartships. At least two pairs, and preferably more, should be tightly chained together under the boat. One witness to boats that toppled over at Indiantown during Wilma told me that even though the jack stands were chained, the rocking action of the boat in high winds wobbled the stands out from under the boat. He suggested that the tops of the stands just under the pads be connected pair wise also. His idea was to use ratcheting cargo straps between the top of the posts just under the pads. With the bottoms chained together and the tops strapped, the poppets have a better chance of staying put.
I haven’t been to Glades boat storage, but I understand that they use a different method. There they have steel rails or frames secured to the ground, and they weld the jack stands in place under the boat. That sounds pretty secure to me.
If you can, have the jack stands placed under the hull where interior bulkheads support the hull. If you don’t place them in line with bulkheads, then you risk poking one through the hull as happened to several boats during Wilma. Whatever works, but the main reason boats fall over is that the jack stands wiggle out from under the boat with the boat’s motion in strong wind.
Another thing to watch for is good jack stands. One boater had his boat tip over because the jack stands were old and rusted. They were found collapsed and just fell apart.
You may get to specify the attitude of the boat on the hard, too. I always ask that mine be placed level, as she would be in the water. But if you have a problem with decks or cockpit draining, you may want to specify a slightly bow-up or bow-down orientation. I wouldn’t go for anything extreme here. Keep her level athwartships and maybe a slight bow angle.
You may also have some flexibility with exactly where in the yard they put you. I prefer to have Kismet placed near boats of her own size. Placing a boat between two larger boats may offer some sideways wind protection. You may also get to specify how many poppets are used. Usually extra stands involve extra charges, but sometimes a single extra stand under the bow makes all the difference.
Tie-downs need to be very substantial. On Kismet, we used straps that we purchased from the yard. They are 4-inch-wide cargo straps rated at 3,300 pounds each with big lever action ratchets. These were sold by the marina at $20 each, which isn’t much more than what you would pay at a retail store. You can also ask for additional tie-downs if you think the ones provided may not be sufficient. Again, you may be charged for extra anchors and straps. Rope simply won’t do.
I think you should have four tie-down straps. Two on each side of the boat. One pair should be about even with the mast or a little forward of that. The other pair near the stern, perhaps a little forward of the rudderpost. Our aft pair use the primary winches as a base, but the straps could be connected and run all the way across the boat. The forward straps are secured to the main shroud bases, but they could wrap around the mast base. They should be snubbed up quite tight.
The strap anchors should be the big, heavy five- or six-foot-long screw type that they use to support telephone poles, not the garden-store kind used to tie down lawn sheds. They should be screwed in at least two-thirds of their length. Paved yards may have their anchors embedded in the concrete. I’d find that to be acceptable, too, provided they’re in good shape. Boats on the hard may share anchors. I find this practice acceptable because when the strain is on, it will be from the same side on both adjacent boats. It’s unlikely that two adjacent boats would put strain on the same anchor at the same time. I don’t think the angle of pull matters all that much if the anchor is screwed in far enough.
Boatyards on Florida’s east coast—that successfully survived Hurricanes Francis and Jeanne—secure their straps to anchors (like Redheads ®) drilled in the concrete. These come in various sizes depending on the strength needed. These yards experienced no failure with these anchors.
An alternative method that we don’t see much down here is to dig a pit, then set the boat keel-deep into the pit and backfill the hole. Some hull supports are still used in the form of sideways bracing. Now that would be hard aground! Sometimes with deep rudders, it may be necessary to dig a small hole to accommodate it in order to keep the boat on the proper angle. Of course, if you have a custom-made cradle or trailer for your hull, by all means use it. Just be sure to tie the whole rig down.
Note from Editor
Damage From Storing the Mast on the Ground
By Steve Morrell, Editor
The boater referred to in this article who had radar damage was me. I had purchased a boat that was on the hard in a yard in North Carolina. It was being worked on in preparation to eventually being moved to Florida, where I was living. The deck-stepped mast was removed and sitting on eight-inch wooden blocks on the ground next to the boat. The radar was left attached to the mast and was lying on its side on the ground itself. A tropical storm came through and the yard flooded. It happened so quickly that preparations were made for the boat, but the radar unit was overlooked. (I was in Florida when it happened.) The radar unit was flooded, and sand and salt destroyed it. (The rest of the mast and wiring were unharmed except a deck light.)
There was a fairly happy ending to this story, though. After the boat arrived in Florida, I wanted to get the radar fixed, as every other part of it, including the receiving display unit, was in good condition. The unit was not very old, but it was not made anymore. I went to e-Bay and started searching. I found a radar sending unit that was never used for sale, but they wanted $1200. I kept searching and found someone who had the unit, but the array (the part that spins around) was bent, and the dome top was destroyed. The guts, though, in the photo appeared in good condition. I had an array that was good and a dome top. I took a chance and purchased it for $175 plus a small amount for shipping. I found a local servicing company that would fix the array and put it all together and test it for $150. When I installed the unit, it worked perfectly.
Next month, in the third and final part of this series, we will discuss humidity concerns, insurance, checking on the boat while stored and recommissioning.