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Old 02-24-2006
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Winter storage?

Was curious how important a cover is for the boat in a cold region for outdoor storage?

We have an older boat which does not currently have a cover on it and is exposed to freezing temperatures and snow.

I am guessing this might be a huge problem. It is an older boat (1978), should I run down and throw a tarp on it right now?
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Old 02-24-2006
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The greatest problem, as I know it, with keeping any boat uncovered during sub-freezing temps relates to water intrusion. The slightest gap between materials, or minute fiberglass cracks, will wick up moisture through capillary action. As this water freezes and expands, the gaps & cracks increase in size. Several freeze & thaw cycles could result in some serious damage, not to mention the risk of water entering finished spaces below.

I personally, would never leave my boat uncovered through winter storage, although many boat owners at my marina do. The teak decks of my boat are especially vulnerable. Even though there is solid fiberglass beneath, freezing water is a sure way of popping bungs or screws and delaminating planks.
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Would you suggest me running down to cover it asap? Or at this point will the damage be done?
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Old 02-24-2006
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If your boat has been left outdoors uncovered up to now, it may not be necessary to cover the boat now. But if you already have the tarp, I suppose it's still not too late.

That's really your decision, based upon how much winter is left in your area of the world. We were lucky this winter with only one snow storm & mild temps. But, there is still another month left of "official" winter in my area, with snow and lows in the teens forcasted for this weekend.
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Old 02-24-2006
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If it has been uncovered all winter, there's probably no need to hurry. I'd suggest you wait until the first nice day, in the next week or 10 days, and do it then. Before you cover it, you should check inside and sponge out any pooled water from the floor or bilge, and, if any cushions are wet, either move them to a place where they can dry out, or take them home to dry. If you can figure out where the water is getting in (often it's a leaky window), be sure to cover that area. If it's dry inside, count yourself lucky.
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This is not a straioght-forward decision in my opinion. I had always covered my boat (in Canada), but one has to be careful that the tarp/covering material doesn't chafe against the hull throughout the winter, causing damage, especially at the grommets. To avoid this, I had anchored the tarp about 6 feet away from each side of the boat. One end was anchored with a wooden sawhorse. To my dismay, we had a very windy (about 60 mph) day, and the wind got underneath the tarp through a small opening at the bow (for ventilation), and ballooned the tarp like a large spinnaker, which was strong enough to actually lift the sawhorse about three feet off the ground, and in the wind it started to smack against the hull--I ran out to fix that, and by the time I got out, the wind had ripped the tarp and it was flailing about every which way. Had I not been home, it would have caused significant damage to the boat. This year I decided not to cover it. I did rebed all the deck hardware two years ago, and annually use "Captain Tolley's creeping crack cure" as an extra prevention/precaution around all fittings, so I'm reasonably confident that I don't have leakage on the deck. So, in summary, I think one needs to think this through carefully, depending on the kind of cover to be used, wind/snow and other similar environmental considerations, ability to monitor the boat/cover, etc.
Let us know what you decide.
Frank.
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Old 02-24-2006
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If you do cover as has been suggested, most use shrink wrap. Kind of pricey to have it done.
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Old 02-24-2006
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I search covering boats at SailNet and found an interesting post from Paulk: Your boat will need covering EVERY winter until the keel falls off. Buying cheap blue poly tarps that disintegrate in the sun & wind, or going the shrink-plastic route mean continuous, and increasing payouts every year, besides the environmental costs. We purchased three heavy canvas tarps. One covers the bow to the mast, one does the mast/boom area, and the third is aft. The cost came out even with shrink wrapping after two seasons. After three seasons, we figured we''d come out ahead of using blue tarps (without having to re-rig blown-out tarps in February) . After seven seasons, I''m looking for a canvas guy to hem a couiple of frayed edges. Our frame is pvc piping with elbows, and it works ok. Conduit, with curves, might be better . But it may be another five years before we need to even consider a different frame. If you take your mast down each winter, you might easily be able to do something with arches, à la Conestoga wagon, with a couple of overlapping tarps tied together underneath.
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I fabricated a 7/8" OD, EMC (electrical/mechanical conduit) frame, using FrameMaker Clamps (Google). It goes together like an Erector Set and extends above the two booms (ketch rig) for full walking height throughout the decks.

The first season I covered the metal frame with shrinkwrap. Next season, I'm making a custom fabric enclosure, designed to accommodate the spars & rigging in place. I would highly recommend this to anyone who plans on keeping the boat for a while. My materials cost for frame & fabric, equals the expense of one season with shrinkwrap. The fabric cover should last at least 10 years.
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Old 02-24-2006
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Old boat owner in Wisconsin

I have owned older 3 different older boats since the mid 70's. I think one season uncovered will not cause great damage to your boat, and by now I would not bother with a cover - at least in my area - as I would be removing it in a month anyways. By now the most severe freezes should be over.

I beleive it is important to cover older boats more so than newer ones. Note that dealers do not cover their new models.

I have, for years, had very good results with the blue plastic tarps. I get at least three years out of each one. For my now gone Irwin 32, which I had for 12 years, that meant an outlay of about $50 every 3 years. I built a frame. When the cover wore through at spots I used duct tape. I carefully pad any grommets that might come in contact with the hull with duct tape. I pulled the tarp tight over the frame and tied it either to the cradle or to the other side under the boat. I use a lot of those tie down things that can be placed at any point on a tarp so that sensitive spots cannot fill with air. When leaving my mast up, I cut the tarp to go around shrouds and then duct taped the cuts closed.

Using this system for my Irwin for 12 Wisconsin winters I have only had to patch an occassional small hole during each storage season.

If you store with mast down, it becomes a piece of cake. Just by a big plastic tarp - build a frame - and pull it tight. Use a tarp big enough to cover the hull above the water line and you do not need to worry about the grommets and your hull will thank you.

Wisconsin winters are pretty harsh.
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