Saturday, November 12, 2011

thoughts on dry storage vs. in the water storage

Everyone who cruises tropical destinations like Mexico has to decide what to do with the boat during hurricane (cyclone) season. You can either leave the area, store the boat on the hard, or leave it in the water, someplace safe.

After our first season in Mexico, we tried dry storage at San Carlos. This is a very popular option, and the yard we were in had hundreds of boats in it and excellent security. We never thought about the boat while we were home for the summer, and everything looked fine upon our return 5 months later.

After the second season, we decided to try something different. We left the boat in the El Cid marina in Mazatlán. After 5 months, the boat looked fine. The biggest difference from the first year was that I never stopped worrying about the boat. I checked the hurricane reports daily. During one period when 2 hurricanes lingered off the coast, and some computer models showed at least a chance of one affecting Mazatlán, I booked a flight down. The bad weather never came anywhere near the boat, but I at least had peace of mind.

How do costs compare for the two methods? These are my rough figures:

Cost of dry storage:
haul/launch boat: $200
5 months' storage: $800
bottom paint (including labor): $1600
total: $2600

Cost of leaving the boat in the marina:
5 months' slip rent: $2000
boatwatch: $250
diver to clean bottom (2x): $80
RT flight to check boat: $600
insurance premium surcharge for leaving boat in hurricane zone: $300
total: $3230

Of course, all of these costs vary, depending on location and individual choices. For me, the bottom line is that had I not flown down to check on the boat, they would have been comparable in our situation. So cost in my case is not a huge consideration.

How about wear and tear on the boat? For our boat, wear and tear seemed far less in the water than during dry storage. The temperature in the boat during dry storage in San Carlos probably reached 150 degrees Fahrenheit, based on data from other boatowners with recording thermometers. Some plastic items were discolored on our return. We were able to leave our full boat covers on in Mazatlán, which really saved the gel coat from solar damage.
Another wear/tear item from dry storage: the haul/launch trailer caused a small amount of damage to the keel, which had to be faired before re-launch (at the yard's expense).

Again, "your mileage may vary."

The most important thing to consider is the list of preparatory work needed before leaving your boat in the water or in dry storage. It really helped us to talk to other boatowners who had previously stored their boats. For the locations we used, there were several days' worth of work to be done before leaving the boat and in re-commissioning upon our return. In both cases, sails and canvas should be removed, cleaned and stored belowdecks. Halyards should be skyed or removed entirely. The engine should be flushed with fresh water, and the fuel tank filled. Water and holding tanks should be emptied. Windows and hatches should be covered with aluminum foil. Winches and other delicate parts should be completely covered to protect from dust. We removed all food and sprinkled boric acid to discourage pests (we had zero in either case). Additionally, in Mazatlán we bagged up all fabric and books to discourage mold/mildew, and had no problems in that regard. There are dozens of other tasks - these are the major ones. Again, talking to other experienced boatowners helps refine the list.

So what will we do the next time around? Probably dry storage. The bottom line for us is peace of mind while you are away from the boat, and in that respect dry storage is best for us.

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