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How To Store Your Sailboat

Let’s talk about storage because this is, unfortunately, the state in which many recreational vessels spend most of their time.  There are many different ways to store boats. Some live in the water, some hang from the ceiling of a garage, and there are various ways in between.  The general concepts of storing your boat should be as follows: get it out of the sun and keep everything as clean and dry as possible. 

Cleaning: It is easier to keep things clean for the long run if you get in the habit of cleaning right after use.  Getting dried salt out of lines and off of the deck is harder than a good rinse at the end of the day. Have a habit of a thorough rinse (or quick wash if you want to be all pro about it) of everything at the end of a sailing day. 

Covers: The sun is the number one killer of pretty much all exterior marine equipment.  It fades paint, cracks varnish, breaks down rope, and turns cloth into powder. Covers are the best way to keep the sun off of your equipment and they are cheap (compared to replacing the actual part).  If you have a small boat, having a full deck cover is basically mandatory for protecting your equipment. Every item that sits under it will last you 10x longer. Big boat sailors, you may need to do some thinking as to how much is a reasonable amount to cover.  A full cover for a 100-foot yacht may be a bit excessive, but covering all of the cushions, electronics, halyards, and winches may save you serious dough in replacement costs. 

For dinghies, keep your blades in a bag.  This will help protect the edges and most have handles for convenient carrying.  Some bags can carry your rudder, centerboard, all lines, and some spares in one convenient package. 

Removal If your mast lives in the air all the time, find the best way to get the halyards completely out of the sun.  People regularly leave their halyards in full sun all of the time. In California, some boats leave the dock five times a year, but the sun shines every day.  So, in 5 years you may get 25 uses but the halyard gets 1,825 days (ok minus the 5 cloudy days a year) of brutal rope killing sunshine. A professionally maintained boat will have as few items out as possible for a given storage period.  When I was working on yachts, if we were not sailing for a couple of days, we would use a cheap mouse line to put the sail-end of the halyard at the top of the mast, coil the tails, hang and cover at the base of the mast. If we were not sailing for over a week, we would take the halyards completely out and store them down below.  This process only takes a few minutes per halyard so if you are going from race day to a month of storage, grab some trustworthy crew members and have them each do one and it will be done before the cooler can make it on deck! Same for control lines, sheets, and removable hardware - anything that can easily come off gets rinsed and put down below (or wherever storage is). 

Dry:  Keeping things dry is important to prevent mold.  Some covers may need to be pitched up so water does not pool in a low spot.  For dinghies, prop the bow of the boat up so water flows out the drains. Bigger boats that have down below storage, consider a dehumidifier to pull the moisture out of anything stored down below.  Remember that the unit may need to be emptied periodically or a drain line be run to the exterior of the boat. 

Final notes on storage, if you have done the above, you are most likely looking like a pro and you have done your part to store your equipment properly.  The boat may look sparse from the outside, but trained eyes will see a tidy and well cared for machine. 

Storage Summary:

1.  Get it clean

2.  Get it out of the sun, including the hardware

3.  Keep it dry