Dry Storing a Boat for Hurricane Season in the South, Part III of III
By Capt. Ron Butler
Mold and Mildew
Storing a boat in Florida—and much of the South—over the hot, humid, and rainy summer means that you need to protect the boat against mold and mildew. The best way would be to seal up the boat completely and then pressurize it with an inert gas, say nitrogen. Okay, okay—not practical. Not only is it not practical, but you can’t even seal out the rain. Rainwater will find its way into your boat no matter what, and at Indiantown, all manner of bugs and small green frogs will, too.
If you have a leaking port or two, it won’t hurt to duct-tape them over. You’ll have a gummy mess to clean up later though. Some folks duct-tape plastic sheeting over their ports; others wrap the whole boat in one kind of sheeting or another. I can’t say how well this works.
We have had success by putting one small Nicro solar-powered vent into one of our dorades and then setting several Styrofoam dishes out with some paraformaldehyde crystals. By several, I mean five or six dishes distributed throughout the interior. This stuff slowly dissipates into the cabin air and makes it impossible for mold and mildew to grow. It also makes it impossible to breathe inside without thorough ventilation. The small solar vent admits enough outside air to keep the crystals evaporating.
We wipe down the inside woodwork with a rag soaked in vinegar. Oil-based varnishes and teak oil provide an ideal medium for the growth of green stuff. The vinegar has worked so far. In the past we have had success wiping everything down with a weak Clorox solution, and that works, too, but the fumes are wicked to work with. We leave all of our interior doors open including cabinet doors, bilge boards and settee hatches.
Some boats stored at Indiantown pay extra for a storage spot with electrical service. Some of these boats run a dehumidifier inside the boat while it’s stored. That limits the growth of mold and mildew, too.
We also keep powdered borax sprinkled liberally in all the dark corners of the boat. This keeps the ants and roaches from taking up permanent residence.
Interior cushions can become traps for moisture, mold and mildew. It is best to remove them to dry storage, but you can try bagging them. On Kismet, we simply tilt the cushions up to provide air circulation around them, and our formaldehyde gas seems to keep away the mildew. Other cruisers duct-tape their cushions into large trash bags and enclose dryer sheets with them. That seems to work also.
We also bag up books, charts, foul weather gear and anything else that might attract mold and mildew using a variety of Zip-Loc and plastic bags, all with those fabric softener dryer sheets inside. Zip-Loc and vacuum seal bags now come in very large sizes that make it easy to seal up mold-prone items.
Water in the bilges can be a problem, too. Too much water in the boat and its weight could collapse the jack stands. That plus a little sloshing in a bad storm could accelerate the knock- over process—not to mention making a mess of your beautifully varnished teak and holly sole.
Since we leave our batteries in place and operational, we rely on our bilge pumps, but you can have a passive system by drilling a hole in the bottom of your boat. Most yards recommend this method, but I’ve got enough holes in my boat. The hole is drilled through the hull in the garboard strake. (For those of us with fiberglass boats, this means the lowest part of the bilge.) The hole is left open to drain water while the boat is on the hard. A bronze pipe plug is fit to close the hole when the boat is launched.
Alternatively, you could just drill the hole and then fiberglass over it before launching. That’ll work, too. If you do this, be sure to stuff the hole full of fiberglass cloth soaked in epoxy such that it forms a small mushroom head on the inside. Some people even paste fiberglass over the garboard drain plug just to keep it from falling out at a bad time, as when the boat’s in the water.
Another alternative might be better yet. If you can remove your knot meter impeller, then this would provide a low enough hole for most of the water to escape the bilge.
The problem with these holes in the boat is that it provides access for all manner of creepy crawlies to get inside. For that matter, so do all the other holes in your hull. Bees have been known to nest in a thru-hull fitting. To prevent this, we stuff all of our thru-hulls with screening. Other folks use cut up bits of ScotchBrite pads.(You can buy this material in thicker sizes at hardware stores.) Another alternative is those mesh scrubby pads used for dishwashing. They’re about the size of a Brillo pad and fit the larger thru-hulls snuggly. The important idea here is to prevent insects from building a home in there while letting the water out, especially where deck or cockpit drains are concerned. For thru-hulls that will be closed anyway, any sort of plug will work just to keep bugs from making a home in there. Remember if you pull out the drive shaft or rudder post to plug those holes, too. We also stuff our boom ends with rags. We’ve had experience with birds and mud dauber wasps building nests inside the boom.
The Boat in Storage: Periodic Checkups
While you can just put away your boat for the season, pay up your insurance and forget it, we prefer to make periodic trips to make sure everything is secure. If nothing else, we can check on the progress of work that we’ve ordered for the off-season.
In some yards, like Indiantown, there are also services available that will do these periodic checks for you. They will also place the paraformaldehyde crystals, check the adjustment of jack stands and do whatever you’re willing to pay them to do. We used a service one year and then decided we could do it ourselves.
Some of our friends don’t check at all.
Hurricane Final Prep
We do rig a rain/sun tarp over the main cabin supported by the boom. It provides a little shade and keeps direct rain from hitting the main hatch boards. However, if a storm threatens, it needs to be removed. Ours is secured with parachute cord so it can be cut away in minutes if need be. We’ll make that one last trip to the boat just before a storm.
Provided you’ve done all these things, then all that’s left if a storm approaches is to recheck those jack stands one last time and then get yourself out of harm’s way.
We were able to negotiate with our underwriter to get a reduced rate for parking Kismet on the hard during hurricane season. It is in the insurance company’s best interest to do so. Many companies now pay you to haul out or move your boat in anticipation of a storm so why not pay once for the season. In addition, the insurance company gets reduced exposure since you’re not out there on the water crashing into things. Try to talk directly with your underwriter about these issues.
You should also have a complete inventory of everything on board. Not just for hurricane season but for any event that may require an insurance claim. We have many digital pictures of the interior and exterior of the boat stored on our PC to serve as an inventory. It provides digital image evidence of how things were when we left the boat and even reminds us of what equipment was on board. Video imagery would work as well. Narrations could add information about the pictures if your camera is so equipped.
Recommissioning is basically undoing everything you did to put the boat away. You also finish up the maintenance and repair jobs such as final painting of the bottom, or in our case, installing the shaft and prop.
Don’t forget the oil-soaked rag in the engine intake and the fuel valve if you have one. I can remember one time when I forgot the fuel shut-off, and the fuel pump sucked until the fuel filter caved in. Likewise, pull all the screening or stuffing from the thru-hull fittings, boom ends and vents. A checklist can help in this process.
The one thing you need to do once the boat is in the water again is to check every thru-hull hole for leaks.
I prefer not to load too much stuff on the boat until this final leak check is completed. That way I don’t have to move stuff around just to see the base of a thru-hull.
Don’t forget to open the engine cooling water thru-hull. Sometimes, however, it is best to hold off opening the raw water intake until the engine starts. If you have a lot of cranking to do to bleed air out of the fuel system, you could crank the engine long enough to back-flood a cylinder with water. That would definitely fall into the “UH-OH” category.
We’ll load the dinghy once the boat is in the water and begin the provisioning process.
See you in George Town!