Winter Storage

Hello all! 

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It is getting to be that time of year again....winter.  For those of you not heading south for the colder months, it is nearing the time for winter storage and the debate continues on the best methods for winter yacht treatments.  Do you haul out or stay in the water?  Canvas cover, shrink wrap or no cover at all?  What is most effective?

These are all matters of personal preference, of course, but let's add some economics to the discussion.  First, let us consider that Annapolis, and many surrounding coastal areas in the mid-Atlantic region usually do not get a heavy freeze with inches of ice overtop our waterways like New England.  Even when the bay's creeks do freeze over, they are usually thin amounts that leave rings of open water around objects (boats, docks, pilings, buoys, etc).   

So is it cost effective to haul out every year if you are not getting iced in?

 The short answer: no.  Taking into account haul-out fees, the fees you pay for your slip that you have a 12-month contract for, detailing, bottom paint, winterization of systems, and possibly shrink-wrap, it ends up being most cost effective for you to haul out every other year.  For a 43ft. boat, hauling out every year costs about $3,555 while a two-year plan would cost an annual $2,322 and a three-year haul plan would cost about $2,380. 

Next question: to shrink wrap, canvas cover or leave bare?  It is great to get your boat out of the sun and elements but this is actually a tricky process.  Too often, Dave and I show boats in the winter that have been shrink wrapped too tightly without enough ventilation.  This creates a major moisture problem.  It is kind of like leaving an empty water bottle out in the sun.  It may be mostly dry, but little bits of moisture are there and trying to evaporate, but the bottle can't breath so moisture condenses all over the top of the bottle.  A boat works the same way.  Shrink wrap can be like a greenhouse, causing a significant temperature difference between the boat and the outside environment.  This can lead to condensation.  When the boat and shrink wrap are not properly ventilated, this moisture gets trapped in the boat and cause significant damage (de-lamination of woodwork, cloudy wood finishes, mold and mildew on upholstery, and that oh-so unpleasant wet smell that is so tough to get rid of).  If you are shrink wrapping your yacht, on the hard or in the water, make sure you ask for plenty of vents!  

A canvas cover can breath much better but its one downfall is the cost.  Shrink wrap is much cheaper in the short term because custom canvas covers can put a five-digit dent in your bank account.  The argument that can be made for canvas covers is that when properly maintained and fit for a longer life, the cost of a canvas cover can be less than paying for shrink wrap application and removal each season.  If you are really tight on a budget and don't pay much mind to appearances in the yard, you can even rig up some overized tarps (about $60 from your local Home Depot).

Are you leaving your boat bare?  That's ok, too!  Because it is winter, your sun exposure will not be nearly as harsh as the summer months so covering really isn't that crucial.  Just be sure and take off your very sun-sensitive items like sunbrella canvas and sails.

What do you do when you leave your boat in the water?  Winterize your systems!  Because we are not a super-cold region and do not often dip down into truly freezing temperatures, you can cut some costs by cutting your antifreeze solutions.  Rather than use 100% solution, add in some water to your mix so your antifreeze goes further. 

Our personal opinion:  We do not like shrink wrap.  So often it isn't done well and does more harm than good.  On top of that, it is not environmentally friendly!  While boat yards say they recycle, trash dumpster after trash dumpster fills with the old plastic wads in the spring.  We do not live in Florida with the harsh sun or up north with the huge amounts of snow.  It just isn't necessary.  We haul out every other year and throw on an extra coat of bottom paint while we are out.  We also hire a diver for about one hour at $100/hr. each non-haulout year to check on the bottom and prop.  Hauling out every year just leaves you with added costs because your marina has you pay through the winter months for your slip as well as land storage and as long as you stay up to date on your bottom paint, zincs, and maintenance, there really is no need for hauling out every year.

Food for thought!  Until next time!

Dave and Erin