Please tell me the advantages and disadvantages of winter wet storage. Will I harm the boat if I don't allow the hull to dry during the winter months?
Tom Wood responds:
I have never personally been a big fan of winter storage in the water. We laid one of our boats up that way in the fresh water of the Great Lakes over 25 years ago and even though we un-stepped the mast and put the boat in a covered slip, it turned into a real disaster.
The advantage in some areas is that it is lower in cost to store in-water. But this is sometimes offset by higher insurance premiums for not laying up on dry land, by the need to purchase heaters and bubblers to keep freezing possibilities at zero, and the electric bill to run those appliances all winter.
The boat still needs to be covered, and a cover is much more difficult to construct if the mast and rigging are up than if they are laying on deck. Putting the cover on in the water was another chore I remember. There was little to which lines could be tied as we couldn't thread them under the boat, and arranging chafing gear so that the cover lines wouldn't rub the gelcoat all winter was a real head-scratcher. Then we had to build a flap door arrangement so we could get into and out of the boat to check heaters and bilges. And stepping from an ice-coated dock to and ice-covered deck with the boat tied well out in its slip was also an interesting feat of aerobatics.
Even covered, I distinctly recall the extra work required in the spring to clean and wax the hull and deck. In fact, we ended up hauling the boat in the spring anyway since we had to paint the bottom and repair some minor ice damage to the boot top. So we didn't even end up saving the haul-out fee.
But what I recall most was the mental anguish and the trips down to the marina in the dark and knee-deep snow to protect our baby. Were the bubblers working? Did the heater malfunction and burn the boat down? Did the electricity go off and let the seacocks freeze, sinking the boat? Did the scuppers clog again, filling the cockpit with ice? Did that huge winter storm chafe a dock line through, allowing the boat to crash into the dock all night? The only way to get through the six months was to worry for 23 hours each day and trudge a well-worn path to the dock every night, flashlight in hand.
The following year, we stored her on terra firma, completely winterized, and with a full cover tied snuggly under her bottom. When spring came, all we had to do was some light cleaning and a fresh coat of bottom paint. But best of all, we were able to settle in for a long winter's nap.
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