Surprisingly few large boats are winterized on the hard in the Pacific Northwest, as is standard practice in other areas where the water freezes (New England, the Great Lakes). We have the luxury of not having to; the relatively steady ~50 F water temperature prevents engines from freezing or harbors icing over. And we have the option of year-round sailing – although much of the winter is pretty rainy and dark, we always have some stretches of sunny, 45-55F weather (positively balmy!).
Yet there are some advantages to storing your boat on land (“on the hard”) – less bottom paint wear, no dock line chafe, etc. So this year we went this route, given we’re traveling for the winter and won’t be able to use our boat. Debating the pros/cons of storing in the water vs on the hard, it was hard to find much information specific to the PNW.
Even though many boats never leave the dock in the winter, their owners still choose to leave them in the water, paying significantly higher moorage costs. This is perplexing, but I guess it boils down to convenience – it takes a bit of work to winterize a boat, and there isn’t a huge surplus of winter storage yards in the Seattle area.
Perhaps another deterrent is that most storage yards have a couple neglected, derelict boats that have been there for years. In some cases, yards are where boats go to die – and this can be very hard to see (not to mention the concerns over their boat catching on fire next to yours). Leaving our boat is a scary thing because not only have we put thousands of hours of work into it, it’s our home now too.
At the end of September we spent several days working to prepare our boat for storage on the hard. There are many articles on winterization (Sailrite, West Marine, Discover Boating), but I’ll cover some things we learned that weren’t mentioned elsewhere, and the checklists we used so we wouldn’t forget things.
A year ago we wrote about our experiences with KiwiGrip non-skid paint and how we were pretty unhappy with it because the sharp ridges trap dirt very tenaciously, making the paint appear permanently dirty, even after cleaning.
For our next non-skid experiment, we had a few ideas of other kinds to try. Finally a year later, we took advantage of some sunny days in March and tried out Interlux Brightside + Interlux non-skid additive (called Intergrip).
Happily, this non-skid looks much better than KiwiGrip and isn’t really even harder to apply. It seems we’ve found the right non-skid for our personal preferences. Of course, we still need to wait a few years to see if it’ll hold up to the test of time / use. But all the reviews indicate it will (we steered clear of Interlux Interdeck, a premixed kind of non-skid, due to reviews saying it doesn’t hold up as long).
This post is a bit more technical and more for other sailors interested in propellers. Hopefully it may come in handy someday for those with AutoProps, because there isn’t a whole lot of community info on them that I could find.
We have an AutoProp propeller on our boat. It’s like a MaxProp, which is also a feathering propeller, except that the AutoProp is also dynamically pitching – instead of a fixed, preset pitch, it changes its pitch to match operating conditions.
It’s really a very clever piece of engineering – dynamic pitch means that in theory it’s always at the optimal pitch for our speed and engine power. This mainly applies when motor-sailing (which is pretty common in the Northwest) – our sails can contribute some speed while the AutoProp contributes some as well, but allows our engine to work less hard – meaning lower engine RPMs, saving on fuel but getting the same power as a higher RPM.
As I set the sails in Elliott Bay under blue skies with a perfect 8-10 knot breeze at my back, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed with joy at the successful completion of our haul-out. In five days we (myself + the yard) had gotten a ton done, nothing had gone wrong, and the haul-out was completed on schedule. Amazing. And no leaks!
It felt really good to have the boat back in her natural element, and as we glided smoothly along I noted it felt faster than before – probably thanks to the freshly painted bottom and prop, but more testing is needed to say for sure.
If you’ve ever done boatyard work, you know that haul-outs are stressful times. In a short period of time we take the boat out of water, do some of the most critical projects of the year and also incur our biggest expenses of the year (in one week, a haul-out doubles our yearly maintenance cost). It’s easy to see why some people avoid / postpone them as long as possible. But we want to get the boat into prime cruising condition, and delaying bottom paint any longer wouldn’t have been good.
Hard growth on our keel – a few mussel and barnacle families had taken up residence!
It’s winter, and for us that means it’s project season. Nearing 3 years of too many projects to count (but also a lot of sailing), I’ve been asking myself – did we actually end up with a project boat? While shopping for a boat, the one thing I was sure of was we didn’t want a project boat!
I had heard of people buying project boats and spending years working on them without sailing. I have a lot of admiration for people who do that, but for us sailing and cruising was always the number 1 goal. If a project boat meant we couldn’t cruise, we’d be better off continuing to charter and sail in clubs.
I’ve written before that eventually I realized all boats are project boats (“What Exactly is a Project Boat Anyway?“). And even though living aboard has made it easier to work on projects, the project list hasn’t gotten any shorter. For every project finished, we discover one or two new ones.
[Note: I’ve added a Projects page to the site, listing most of the major and minor projects completed]
Haul-out in June 2015
Another reason I didn’t want a project boat was I understood that boats are expensive but not in the initial purchase cost – an old boat is only as much as two new cars, which many middle-class families have (and if you told them two cars are a luxury rather than a necessity, they would probably disagree). The real budget killer is in the carrying costs – yearly moorage and maintenance.
Sailboat maintenance and refitting often involves many difficult, frustrating jobs – diesel engine work, rigging, fiberglassing, boatyard work. So it’s really nice to have some easy, fun ones mixed in sometimes. If you only did hard projects all the time, you’d probably burn out.
Easy projects are short, cheap and rewarding because they quickly make some small improvement to your life. They’re simple enough that unlike most boat projects, there aren’t 10 different things that can go wrong.
Ice Box LED Light
The first one, which I should’ve done a long time ago, is add a light to our fridge / ice box.
You see, our ice box is a great, giant, cavernous hole in which my beers sit at the bottom in the dark. So last summer when I wanted to find a beer, I’d often have to grab my headlamp or handy pocket flashlight. As everyone knows, beer is important to sailors. And often when cruising BC, we had a variety of types to try (Lighthouse IPA, Red Racer, Russell Brewing’s mixer pack, etc), so I couldn’t just grab any blindly.
Finally I realized a cheap solution to this inconvenience: motion activated LED light bars which you can find on Amazon for about $10! And this one came with a 3M adhesive strip on the back, so all I had to do was stick it on a surface inside the icebox.
Adding solar power to Violet Hour is something we’ve been meaning to do since returning from our cruise last summer and having trouble keeping our batteries charged because we weren’t motoring enough. Most sailboats in the PNW do a lot of motoring, which allows their engine’s alternator considerable time to charge up the batteries. We prefer to sail, and were sometimes getting less than 15 minutes of alternator time per day.
Surprisingly, it’s common to hear sailors say they were “motoring to charge up the batteries.” This is apparently one explanation for SMDs (sailboat motoring downwind). This seems incredibly silly to me, and is something I’ve always vowed to never have to say. Burning diesel to convert it into electricity while pushing an 18,000 pound boat through the water is terribly inefficient. As a believer in Muscles Over Motors, motoring your sailboat around just to run your fridge seems downright sad.
Solar panels will allow us to sail more while still keeping the fridge cold enough to not need to buy bags of ice or allow premature spoilage. It may also allow us to anchor out more since we’ll no longer have to visit a marina once a week to top up batteries (although we may still visit marinas to make groceries + laundry easier).
Solar has come down in cost a lot in the last 20 or so years. A 200 watt system is only about $1000 ($1400 minus the 30% solar tax credit*), if you can install it yourself. In other words, enough energy to power a fridge for 5 years with zero pollution costs less than half what the average American spends on gasoline in one year. From this perspective, solar is a no-brainer.
*A quick note on the solar tax credit if you’re not familiar with it: It’s a tax credit to incentivize clean solar energy replacing dirty energy sources. It might start getting phased out in 2020-2022. It can be applied to your second home, which a boat counts as if it has a galley and head. Anyway, our boat is our first (and only) home currently. Also, a tax credit is not like a deduction – credits are for anyone who pays any federal tax at all. (note: I’m not a tax advisor – do your own due diligence of course).
The system may even pay for itself after about 5 years. The electricity cost savings are small, because Washington’s plentiful hydro-electric plants provide cheap energy rates, but all the little savings add up:
- Reduced electrical consumption at dock while living aboard.
- Abstaining from shore power hookups in BC marinas once or twice a month ($5-8 per night typically).
- Skipping 1 or 2 marina visits per summer cruise ($50-60 per visit).