Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sailboat/Yacht Laying Up for Wintering or Extended Periods

Hard on the heels of our last post for voyage planning, this one looks at going about 'laying up' your yacht or sailboat for the winter. Whilst she is languishing there you are going to carry on your busy life for the next five to six months, with probably hardly a visit to your prized possession, returning in the spring for the new season of sailing. Therefore, proper laying up of your home or second home is critical. 

This takes on even greater significance if you are leaving her to her own devices in some foreign port far away where some boatyard who promises to keep an eye on things, stroll past her every day with hardly ever a glance in her direction.  

Unfortunately, the old expression 'You lose it if you don't use it' never rings more true when it comes to laid up boats and sadly all manner of things can and do happen in foreign boat yards.

I shall never forget my horror at the condition of my boat an arriving in St. Lucia to prepare for the second half of my voyage on through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific to New Zealand. 

It was the hurricane season and in preparation of one on track to hit St. Lucia (it did), some kind soul in the yard had removed all the canvas covers from my boat. The teak deck covers (custom designed to shade the total teak area), hatch and binnacle covers along with the dodgers and sprayhood, all removed. This was fine and the hurricane passed without too much damage in the yard. 

The problem was, in typical Caribbean fashion, nobody remembered to put the canvas back in place! So in a 'phone call to check that everything was ok I was assured that it was and my boat was absolutely fine - no real time cctv surveillance back then!

Two months later on my arrival, she looked very sad indeed. On the hard, propped up on her jacks stands she did look fine, but on climbing the ladder and looking into the cockpit the realisation of what I was looking at flooded over me and almost made me dizzy enough to loosen my grip on the rungs.

She was covered from bow to stern with what looked like and inch of yellow dust, blown up from the yard during the hurricane - I felt sick. This is another story which I can cover in another post sometime, but suffice to say it cost us two weeks in lost time cleaning up, plus quite a bit of caulking of the teak and the purchase of a brand new compass as the cover had been left open (or blown open) and the direct sun had burned through and drained all the fluid.


Clarke family xmas card
 Turning to the main item of this post then is the meticulous laying up preparation of my friend Mark Clarke with his 53ft ketch Bear in Ardrossen on the west coast of Scotland just over the water from Kintyre. Mark, with his wife Ingrid and two daughters, Maya and Jenefer crossed the Atlantic in May 2011 and since then have cruised the waters of Ireland and Scotland.

They will be returning to 'Bear' in May of this year to continue their voyage in Northern waters. Here then is their laying up procedure: 

'Leaving S/V Bear September 2011 in Ardrossan, Scotland on the Irish Sea:

Having your boat located 4,000 miles away in Scotland from our home in Florida for seven months of a cold and very wet winter can put your brain into overdrive. Here are a few suggestions on how we get it done aboard “Bear”; our 53’ steel hulled Bruce Roberts Ketch. We sailed “Bear” from Florida to Ireland last May, 2011 and hauled out in Scotland September 2011.

1. Remove sails. We try to do this on a dry day, (the Scottish say there are days when you think it’s not raining, but this is not the case, they just call it a dry rain that does not get you wet!!) We use parachute cord for the messengers in the masts. We use about 400ft or so. We haul our boat on a 50 ton travel lift, making sure there foam or plastic beneath each of the four lifting straps and where the straps make contact. Always be around when ever your boat is hauled. You should supply the operator of the lift with a profile drawing of the boat. Sling marks are also a good idea.

Bear in Slings
2. Take photos of every corner of the vessel on the hard, making sure the jack stands are in place, a pad placed on the ground for the stand, and the chains are fastened together. Some yards have strapping post for tying the boat to the ground. In Ardrossan, Scotland we are stored on two steel cradles that we inspect before our boat is placed on them. I also photo the bottom of the boat, hull sides and deck. I shoot about 20-25 pix. I have a good reference of how we left things before we left “Bear” for hibernation.

3. Strip deck of all gear and stow below decks. It does not seem like much, but on a cruising boat it adds up. We get a room at a nearby B&B for a few nights while stowing Bear and making her ready for hibernation. 

4. Check the bilge. Drain out any standing water.

5. We remove the steering wheel on Bear. There is hydraulic steering on bear, so all we can do is an exterior inspection of the pumps and hoses. 

6. The engine is my main concern. We have no generator on Bear. We charge our 650 amps of rolls gold wet cell batteries with four solar panels and a wind generator. The solar panels stay on line over the winter. I dilute two gallons of anti freeze to the open cooling side of the engine. I take the hose off the sea cock and into a five gallon bucket. My assistant starts the engine and another looks for the green or red antifreeze tell tale signs the system is full by observing the exhaust through hull fitting for color change. I remover all four injectors and use about 20-25cc of Marvel Mystery oil in each of the Perkins 4-236 engine. I then replace the injectors and roll the engine over about two revolutions to coat the cylinder wall of the engine. I have four fuel tanks on Bear; they are steel and integral to the hull. There is a polishing system onboard so I can filter with 2 micron between the tanks. I was told by a Cummins Rep to leave the fuel tanks as empty as possible. The theory being less fuel means less algae growth. I don’t thing algae growth is less of a problem in Northern Climates. 

7. The fresh water system and tanks are drained then I add RV style “Red pop” anti freeze rated for fresh water systems.

Bear 'on the hard'
8. The watermaker membranes can be expensive. Before leaving the States, we bought two new for our older PUR 2 gph unit. Our works off 12 volts. We followed the manual and it stated that you should pickle normally, if freeze does occur, let the membranes warm and then restart the unit as per guidelines (slowly). We were also told by a watermaker service Tech to use Vodka as a pickling solution; however we found no supportive documentation and besides all our vodka are used for other important means aboard Bear!

9. Make sure batteries are topped off with distilled water; make sure the connections are corrosion free. We leave our solar panels “on”to add a trickle charge to them; this seems to work well for extended periods.

Gearbox winterising
10. We lift our cushions and put them on their side if possible.

11. We re-check every hatch dog and portlight.

12. We close our sea cocks, and put bronze wool in the thru hull fittings outside the boat.

13. Our wind Generator is being replaced, so we did not worry about taking off the blades and wrapping the body in plastic.

14. We wash all our bedding and laundry and keep it in the bag.

15. We wipe down the interior with a mild solution of vinegar and water.

16. We try to wipe down the interior wood with light furniture oil.

17. We leave two heater tubes and a dehumidifier on timers. We have the yard check these every 2-3 months or so. The dehumidifier is put on top of our galley sink, so there is no way the hose to the drain can fail, since there is none. It’s a gravity feed left to our only open seacock. We set the unit at 6 on a scale of 1-10. If too dry, the interior wood can dry rot.

Rudder stabilising
18. Most areas of the world’s weather can be looked up on the internet or on an I phone app. We can see what weather our boat is having. Some marinas also offer web cams. I can watch the weather as often as I would like.

19. Look how your neighbor’s boats are stored and photo the boats around yours. Flying debris can be a big concern.

20. We store our two dinghies ashore along with our winterized engines inside the boatyards storage shed and cover all with a dinghy cover.

21. Make a good list of spares and items not easily acquired and make sure they don’t weigh over 50 lbs for the airplane trip back.

22. I think it is important to be off the boat, but in the area for 24-48 hours to make sure everything is thought of.'

Talking to Mark, everything appears to have gone smoothly during this time and they as a family are all looking forward with excitement to getting back to 'Bear', recommissioning her and continueing their voyage. So, in a month or two we shall hear how successful their laying up steps have been when 'Bear' comes out of hibernation - we wish them good luck.

You can read more about vessel laying up and other general preservation techniques in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website www.sailboat2adventure.com 



Michele Nykoluk said...

Hello! I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful write up you did on "Bear". My father, Perry Smith, is the one who built that boat (initially named after my mother, Linda Marie), so I have many memories of her. As I read every line, I could picture her in my mind and recall the dedication my father put into every aspect of her construction. It is wonderful to know that she has seen so much of the world and is still going strong. My parents live in Florida, and will be thrilled to know that she is docked there.

Kind regards,
Michele (Smith) Nykoluk

sailboat2adventure said...

Michelle, I have forwarded on your comment to Mark, the current owner of 'Bear', who will be thrilled to read what you have to say.
Please email me your email address as so I can contact you directly

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