Dry berthing and maintenance: what to do at the season’s end?

All tips for finding our boat in good condition the next summer

Some time ago we talked about the endless chances of sailing even in the cold seasons, suggesting some destination in Italy and all over the world. But if you really don’t want to hear a thing about it and you’d rather hibernate your boat, therefore you would find these winter dry berthing and maintenance tips very useful.


Let’s start with dry berthing: that’s to say, where to park your boat during the winter. There are a lot of factors to consider. First of all, take the geographic location. Your boat has to be stored in a place you can easily reach even beyond the usual sea trip in order to do some maintenance. And we are not talking only about the haven: the actual point of mooring is paramount because it should ease the entry and exit maneuvers. Shallow waters, accentuated backwaters and insufficient mooring cleats are some frequent deficit that you should take seriously.
Let’s touch a sore spot: how much does it cost? It’s hard to provide a precise figure, because every marina has its own rate table. We can state that in Italy you can spend around 1.900 euro per year for a 6,50 meters boat. This cost rises to 3.300 euro per year if we are talking about a 10 meters boat, up to 5.200 euro per year for a 13 meters.


But what is best for your boat: dry berthing or wet berthing? If you leave your boat in the water, exposed to the elements, you will make it subject to wear and tear. If you wish to keep your boat ashore, you will lower osmosis, inside moisture appearances and storm surge risks. Moreover, cleaning and maintenance would be easier. On the other end you must consider that is impossible to use the vessel in a short time. In addition, if your boat has a poor quality cradle, there could be the rare risk to damage the fiberglass. This could happen because the forces distribution that acting on the hull in a different way from when the boat it's in water. Is there any difference about pricing? Well, excluding costs of storage covering, water storage in Italy is generally more expensive than dry berthing. And in any case you need to haul and launch your boat at least once at year.


Now, let's talk about routine maintenance. A good berthing is not enough to face the long winter: there is a list of maintenance jobs to do in order to be ready for the next sailing season. Autumn is definitely the best period for maintenance, just before the winter storage. As our sailing season is just ended, we have the precise idea of what our boat needs and of the most urgent technical interventions we have to perform. Did the engine give us some trouble? Did we run against a rock? It’s better to act immediately and not to postpone these measures to spring. First of all, when you haul your boat out, you have to clean the hull with a pressure washer to prevent the sedimentation of deposits. If we want to enjoy our exits without being forced to arm ourselves with a mask to clean the annoying hull vegetation which inevitably slows down the boat, we will sand the keel using an epoxy primer and an antifouling paint. We don’t’ recommend the accumulation of multiple layers of painting, because they promote internal moisture that can become osmosis in the long term.


Talking about propellers and other metal parts, we must never forget that the sea water is a conductive and corrosive liquid. There is a high presence of metals in the hulls: axes, propellers, outdrives are all components made of different metals which have different electronegativity. The salt water, being an excellent electrolyte, may electrically connect these parts with each other. As a result, the less noble metal would corrode. To get around the galvanic corrosion we can exploit the features of zinc, a metal characterized by a very low electronegativity. Simply apply special zinc-coated plates, called anodes, in some strategic points and that's it: zinc will be corroded and therefore the most important parts of the hull will be protected. Just remember to change the anodes before going into the water: galvanic corrosion will no longer be a problem.


What are the most important procesures for performing a correct winter storage? 
First of all, clean the deck outfit: steel, teak, woods, sheets and portholes, and give care to seals and various seams. Then, check over anchor, chains, windlass, roller furling and any other component. Concerning the hull, periodically wipe the ship sides and propeller. Pay also attention to the electrical system: focus on navigation lights and electrical panel (it could be useful to spray an antirust on electrical contacts). If you have a motor boat, you must replace oil and filter, check belt, straps and sleeves. And about the lowerdeck? Don’t forget to clean everything – yes, the upholstery too - and to verify the seacocks.

All these procedures may seem exaggerated - especially for newbies – but, you know, the boat is just like your car. Make periodic services and take care of it all year long: you boat will live better, longer and will pay you back with excellent boating performances.