Win­ter LAYUP TIPS and Tricks

Thor­ough win­ter­iz­ing keeps your boat in good con­di­tion so it’ll be ready to sail in the spring.

Cruising World - - Front Page - BY ELLEN MASSEY LEONARD

While full-time year­round cruis­ing is the goal for some sailors, part-time voy­ag­ing is of­ten more re­al­is­tic, or even pre­ferred. For the past few years, my hus­band, Seth, and I have been lucky enough to be part-time voy­agers, work­ing ashore for nine months at a time and sail­ing for three. It’s made for a per­fect bal­ance be­tween ev­ery­thing we love about shore life and feed­ing our need for the open ocean, draw­ing can­vas (well, Dacron) and new land­falls.

Part-time voy­agers, whether sail­ing for six months or one, face an im­por­tant process at the end of each sea­son: lay­ing up the boat. If we do it well, we re­turn to our boat, Ce­leste, in much the same con­di­tion as when we left it, which means we can quickly get out on the wa­ter in­stead of do­ing re­pairs.

De­pend­ing on your lo­ca­tion, the boat can ei­ther be hauled out of the wa­ter or left in a se­cure ma­rina. There are pros and cons to both sce­nar­ios. Haul­ing elim­i­nates growth on the hull and al­lows work to be done, such as paint­ing the bot­tom, chang­ing an­odes and ser­vic­ing sea­cocks. When cou­pled with in­door stor­age — as is com­mon in Maine, for ex­am­ple, where heavy snow on the decks can be a real prob­lem — it’s an ideal win­ter­ing so­lu­tion. Out­door stor­age on the hard is gen­er­ally cheaper and more read­ily avail­able. In some places, in-the-wa­ter stor­age can be a bet­ter op­tion, and some­times it’s the only op­tion.

We have left Ce­leste in wet stor­age sev­eral times. The first time was dur­ing our cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion, when we left her in a ma­rina out­side Cairns, Aus­tralia, for the cy­clone sea­son while we re­turned to the United States to work. The other times have been in Dutch Har­bor, Alaska, the port in the Aleu­tian Is­lands made fa­mous by the TV se­ries Dead­li­est Catch. De­spite the very dif­fer­ent cli­mates and

lo­ca­tions of Dutch Har­bor and Cairns, the lay­ing-up process was sur­pris­ingly sim­i­lar.

The tasks in­volved can be broadly bro­ken down into these cat­e­gories: hedg­ing against wind-in­duced risks, car­ing for the en­gine, keep­ing the bat­ter­ies happy and pre­vent­ing boat funk.


Ev­ery time we leave our boat, Seth and I pay close at­ten­tion to any­thing that could go wrong in high winds. We start by try­ing to re­duce windage, thereby less­en­ing the strain a storm would put on the boat. The ob­vi­ous windage cul­prit is the roller-furl­ing genoa and main­sail, which we store ei­ther in the sa­loon or with friends ashore. We also re­move ev­ery­thing on top of the mast — VHF an­tenna, tri­color and wind in­di­ca­tor — although this is more be­cause of perch­ing birds than high winds. Next to go are the hal­yards, which we re­place with very thin feeder lines. We also re­move our can­vas dodger. Ini­tially, we did this as yet an­other mea­sure against gen­eral windage, but after see­ing a friend’s dodger get torn to shreds in a Dutch Har­bor storm, we now think this is more a mea­sure to pro­tect the dodger it­self.

In the same vein, we lash ply­wood to our so­lar pan­els to pre­vent break­ages. Last win­ter, this turned out to be es­sen­tial: A typhoon hit Dutch Har­bor, and rocks flew through the air, break­ing car wind­shields and house win­dows all over the is­land. Hap­pily for us, our so­lar pan­els re­mained in­tact. We no longer have a wind gen­er­a­tor, but when we did, we re­moved its blades. We also strip the deck, stor­ing oars, boat hook, grill, stern an­chor and ex­tra propane cylin­ders ashore. This is partly mo­ti­vated by ru­mors of theft off unat­tended boats.

Per­haps most im­por­tant are the dock lines and fen­ders. We’ve learned from hard ex­pe­ri­ence — our boat heel­ing over in that same typhoon and get­ting caught un­der the dock — to use many more fen­ders than seem nec­es­sary. For dock lines, we use thick ny­lon rope with good plumb­ing-hose for chafe gear. This seems to work well; we’ve never had a prob­lem with our dock lines.


Decom­mis­sion­ing our en­gine for in-the-wa­ter stor­age con­sists of chang­ing oil and fil­ters, check­ing the trans­mis­sion fluid and an­tifreeze, and run­ning fresh wa­ter mixed with an­tifreeze through the raw-wa­ter in­take as a pre­cau­tion against freez­ing and cor­ro­sion. It’s also im­por­tant, whether ashore or afloat, to top up the fuel tanks com­pletely to pre­vent con­den­sa­tion. The same ap­plies to the cabin heater’s fuel tank, if you have one.


On Ce­leste, keep­ing the bat­ter­ies happy is sim­ply a mat­ter of plug­ging into shore power and turn­ing on the smart charger. It reg­u­lates the charge to the op­ti­mal level for AGM bat­ter­ies in a cold cli­mate. The charger’s ini­tial in­stal­la­tion was a bit of a project, but now it’s easy to keep the bat­ter­ies healthy all win­ter. When we sail to a warmer cli­mate, we’ll have to ad­just the charger for warmer tem­per­a­tures, but oth­er­wise it’s fairly main­te­nance-free. When we left our boat in Aus­tralia, we did not have an adapter for Aussie shore power, so we sim­ply turned ev­ery­thing off and switched the bat­ter­ies off once they were fully charged. This seemed to work fine, but would have been less ideal in a cold cli­mate.


Pre­vent­ing boat funk is prob­a­bly the most time­con­sum­ing job. But since I hate that mildewy boat smell, it’s well worth it. First, we sort through ev­ery­thing we have on board. This is a great op­por­tu­nity to thin out the

junk that tends to ac­cu­mu­late. Any open or per­ish­able food that we haven’t eaten by our de­par­ture gets tossed, and if pos­si­ble, we store all the non­per­ish­ables ashore. (We added this to our check­list after hear­ing ru­mors of rats in Dutch Har­bor.) Any items that have a hint of mildew smell — blan­kets, clothes, cush­ions and tow­els — get laun­dered and, if fea­si­ble, stored ashore. Things that can’t be laun­dered, such as mat­tresses or books, just get dried out and stored ashore.

Then we deal with var­i­ous ar­eas of the boat. Start­ing at the bow, we wash down and dry all the an­chor chain and rode be­fore re­plac­ing it in the an­chor locker. The hold­ing tank gets pumped out, and the head gets a good scrub and a hefty dose of vine­gar. The vine­gar breaks down any min­eral buildup and keeps the head free of odors. We pre­serve the mem­brane of our Kata­dyn wa­ter­maker and run it dry, just in case of freez­ing con­di­tions. We empty the wa­ter tanks and plumb­ing to pre­vent growth, and flush them with a small dose of di­luted bleach for ster­il­iza­tion. Any bleach should not be pumped out into the ocean, of course, but dis­posed of prop­erly on land. Fol­low­ing an­other flush of wa­ter, we add a lit­tle an­tifreeze and wa­ter to pre­vent any­thing from burst­ing in case of un­ex­pected freeze-up. It’s im­por­tant to use an­tifreeze that’s ap­proved for drink­ing-wa­ter tanks; ei­ther ma­rine or RV works fine. All the way aft in the gal­ley, we empty, dry and clean the re­frig­er­a­tor and leave the top off it.

Be­cause we have a cold-molded wooden boat (and also be­cause we loathe boat funk), we’re fa­nat­i­cal about keep­ing our bilge dry. We sponge it out thor­oughly and then take pa­per tow­els to it un­til we’re just get­ting dust. Then we leave sev­eral of the floor­boards open to cir­cu­late air.

Right be­fore de­par­ture, we wipe down all sur­faces with ei­ther Sim­ple Green

or white vine­gar to pre­vent mildew. Then we plug in our big Gen­eral Elec­tric ac­tive de­hu­mid­i­fier to one of our AC out­lets. It drains con­tin­u­ously into our sink and keeps the boat’s hu­mid­ity at 50 per­cent, a huge re­duc­tion from the am­bi­ent 85 to 90 per­cent that per­sists in Dutch Har­bor. Of course, leav­ing a big ap­pli­ance run­ning like this means it’s im­per­a­tive to have some­one check on the boat reg­u­larly. We’ve been lucky to have close friends in Dutch Har­bor who’ve watched over our boat, but it’s quite pos­si­ble to hire peo­ple to do this. Many Amer­i­can mari­nas re­quire that you have a boat care­taker if you are leav­ing for an ex­tended pe­riod. This seems a sen­si­ble re­quire­ment on all fronts, not least as it pro­vides peace of mind for you as the owner.

Seth and I gen­er­ally fin­ish lay­ing up the boat in about five days to a week. Yes, that’s a week that we can’t spend sail­ing or an­chored in a beau­ti­ful, de­serted cove, but it’s time well spent. With it com­plete, we feel com­fort­able leav­ing our Ce­leste for a whole win­ter — even in the Ber­ing Sea — and it means we re­turn in the spring to a clean, fresh-smelling, func­tional boat. Ad­di­tion­ally, it’s a sys­tem­atic, bian­nual (since we recom­mis­sion each sum­mer too) over­haul of the whole boat and its sys­tems, en­abling us to keep close tabs on its con­di­tion and what might need up­grad­ing or re­pair. So, in some ways, de­spite the amount of work in­volved, lay­ing up is yet an­other ad­van­tage to part-time cruis­ing.

Ce­leste is ready for the com­ing win­ter: The sails are stowed ashore, the decks are stripped and the so­lar pan­els have ply­wood cov­ers.

Clock­wise from top left: AGM bat­ter­ies need lit­tle main­te­nance be­sides stay­ing well charged. Ce­leste in her win­ter berth in Dutch Har­bor, Alaska. Plas­tic tub­ing worked well for dock-line chafe gear. The wa­ter­maker mem­brane was pick­led and the sys­tem run dry. Com­pletely dry­ing the bilge helps to keep the mold down and the boat smelling fresh. Chang­ing the en­gine oil and fil­ters is im­por­tant be­cause con­tam­i­nants in the dirty oil could harm the en­gine dur­ing a layup pe­riod.

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