Winter Storage: Bringing the Boat Home

Surveyor Paul Grimes provides cost and convenience comparisons on storing a boat in the backyard.

28th September 2011.
By Paul Grimes

Last fall, I decided to follow the example of a father/son team, Bruce and Stuart MacNeil, whom I’ve sailed with to Bermuda three times. When Stuart was younger, they had their Seguin 44 trucked to their house every fall, and did all their own maintenance on the boat. Not only did this give them a common father/son project, but they knew their boat inside-out, which showed when the inevitable small problems arose offshore – a great example for the rest of us.

Most boats haul out for the winter at boat yards, but this boat went to the owner's yard last year.

With this in mind, I decided to bring our boat home for the winter. I had a vision of how easy it would be to get things done on the boat – as opposed to making trips to a nearby boatyard to work on it. I even hoped my kids would enjoy getting involved and learn from the projects. In the past, we had stored a J/22 and a Hobie 33 in our backyard on trailers, but nothing as large as a J/35. Here’s how the haul-out/transport process worked, and what we learned from storing the boat at home.

Comparing Options
As part of the decision-making process, I checked with two boatyards near our house in Portsmouth, RI, and with Casey’s Boat Hauling, in Newport, to compare the cost of storing the boat in a boatyard vs. our backyard. The costs, including haul-out and launching, are shown below. (Our boat is actually 35.5 ft. long, so it’s always considered 36’ for pricing.)

  • New England Boatworks – $45 per ft for storage, including jackstands, etc. = $1620
  • Pirate Cove Marina – $40 per ft. for storage, $25 per jackstand = $1615
  • Casey’s Boat Hauling – boat and mast + 24 m. round-trip & jackstand rental = $1596

Casey's Boat Hauling (Newport, RI) moves many boats over the road.

So the cost was pretty close either way. It was just a matter of whether we wanted the boat in the backyard, and I decided to give it a try.

The Big Move
On haul-out day, I dropped my car at Casey’s, got a ride to our boat, motored across the bay to Casey’s docks in Newport, and immediately started taking it apart – not a small process. The first step was to wrap electrical tape around the turnbuckle studs at the top and bottom of the turnbuckle bodies to mark their settings before loosening them. Remembering to do this before pulling the mast saves hours of tuning when it goes back in. I also took photos of the mast wiring connections, so they could be duplicated in the spring.

Then, I needed to pull out the speedometer transducers and put plugs in their place, pull all halyards to the top of the mast, store the mainsail, boom, vang & spinnaker pole inside the boat, and loosen the rigging.

Once the boat was ready the guys from Casey’s jumped aboard, and the mast was down on carts in minutes. My next job was to remove the spreaders so the mast could be loaded on the truck.

The Casey’s team was just as efficient with the boat itself, and with everything loaded, we snaked through the narrow streets of Newport (trimming a few small tree branches along the way). At our house, they worked their magic to support the boat while pulling the trailer out, and there it was – our boat in the yard.

It had all gone smoothly, but the whole process—from mooring to backyard—had taken most of the day.

When the truck left, I was pleased to see that the boat looked big, but not huge. I think the dark topsides helped – it would have looked much bigger if it were white.

Wrapping electrical tape around the top and bottom turnbuckle studs will make it much easier to duplicate tuning settings in the spring.

What We Learned
By the time the boat was relaunched for the summer, a few lessons stood out.

  1. If you participate in the unrigging and rigging, there is an additional cost in the time missed from work – basically a day for hauling and a day for launching. If a hauler has to do that part too, expect additional charges from them.
  2. It’s a lot easier to deliver the boat to a boatyard, step off, and come back later to find the boat hauled and on stands with the mast up (or down). If you participate in the hauling/launching you become a big part of the process, and you need to be very organized—especially when relaunching in the spring. Otherwise, you’ll still be assembling the boat several days afterward—as I was this year.
  3. Storing the boat at your house does not guarantee that you’ll have time to work on it. Unless you know that your schedule will allow you to work on the boat during the months when it’s warm enough to do so, it might not make sense to bring it home. I really did not get as much work done as I had hoped, and it probably would have made more sense to store it, mast up, at New England Boatworks – 10 minutes from our house. The kids were busy too, so they didn’t learn too much from the process.
  4. While it’s nice to pull the rig out and cover it up, the derigging/rigging process adds its own wear & tear to the rig. (This is true in boatyards as well).
    Once the grass starts growing in the spring, mowing around the jack stands is a pain! Also, birds like to make nests under the deck cover, and we had a colony of ants get into the mast – which we discovered only once the mast was back in the boat and the ants appeared everywhere.
  5. On the bright side, when there was work to do, having access to tools, power, and help from family members was a big help.

Navigating the skinny streets of downtown Newport requires a truck driver with experience.

Will We do it Again?
Ever the optimist (or in denial), I think I might have more time this year to work on the boat. And I know we need to tackle some big projects, like wet deck core, before too long. A lot will depend on whether there’s work to be done on the mast. If not, it sure would be easy just to take the boat to New England Boatworks, and let them haul it with the mast up. Fuzzy logic reigns again, and I don’t know which way it will lead us.

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series on buying and maintaining a used J/35.

Paul Grimes is an engineer and marine surveyor living in Portsmouth, RI. For more information, visit Grimes Yacht Services.


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