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Attention, Winterstorm!

19.12.2022

Being well prepared for wet, windy, and cold weather is all part of boat ownership in winter. However, one should not only rely on the work done at the beginning of the winter break. In the face of acute storm warnings, it is advisable to prevent damage with renewed checks and precautions.  

Leaving boats in outdoor storage has long been the practice in many marinas. In the wind-protected halls, there are usually not enough places available to accommodate the full fleet. Sometimes a lack of berths in summer forces owners into involuntary outdoor storage in winter but for other, more hard-boiled owners, it’s about keeping the possibility there to go on one or two trips in winter. True to the motto: There is no such thing as bad weather. Only the wrong clothes.

Whether involuntarily or not, it should be clear to everyone that a boat is exposed to much greater environmental influences outdoors than indoors. In addition to the wind, cold, and moisture, the UV radiation causes continued ageing to the boat’s material - even in winter. However, this is no reason to despair because, with the right preparation, most challenges can be met quite easily. You can find out exactly how to winterise a boat and what the advantages and disadvantages of the individual types of winter storage are, on our website, in the well-known trade magazines, or from a shipyard you trust.

If you leave your boat or yacht to its own fate until next spring after the initial work is done, you underestimate the danger posed by the increasing number of extreme weather events. Storms, such as the recent hurricane Zeynep, ruthlessly expose weak points in storage.

The following tips should be taken to heart:

Storm preparation in outdoor storage

Owners should consider the stresses that will be placed on their boat during the winter season. The often-obligatory tarpaulin, for example, can cause more damage than protection in the event of a severe hurricane. If it is too loose, water pockets can form. Furthermore, chafing on surfaces or damage from thimbles flapping around can occur. Just like the standing rigging on sailing boats and yachts, it also significantly increases the surface area for the wind to attack. Especially with two-part tarpaulins, where there is a danger that the wind will reach underneath and thus exert enormous forces on the boat. When laying a tarpaulin cover, make sure that the one facing the wind is fitted last. Boats with standing rigs also offer significantly more resistance to the wind.  In addition to the danger of halyards flapping around, shackles coming loose or even structural damage from shrouds that are too loose, vibrations can occur and cause wedges to slowly shift. In the worst case, the boat or yacht will then slip out of the trestle during the next heavy storm. It goes without saying that struck sails must be avoided in any case and that the boom must be adequately secured in the case of a standing rig.

Additional precautions for boats and yachts in the water

A boat in the water requires just as much care in winter as in the summer season. This is especially true when heavy weather is forecast. Double or appropriately sized lines provide the necessary safety. It should be noted that even the strongest cleat will give way at some point. Pressure points on the boat should therefore be distributed accordingly, and additional fenders should be part of the standard equipment. These fenders can be deployed in the event of an impending storm in order to protect against damage from the jetty or adjacent berths. Another point that requires some care is the cockpit deflectors. If they are blocked by leaves, parts of the tarpaulin or other things, a correspondingly heavy rainfall threatens to sink the boat or at least flood parts of the cabin. Finally, it should be checked what effects the forecast storm could have on the water depth in the harbour. While hurricane Zeynep caused a storm surge in the North Sea, it brought extremely low water in parts of the Baltic Sea. If grounding is feared, the boat should be moved to another berth with a suitable water depth. In any case, lines must be adjusted to the rising or falling water levels if they do not have enough slack.

What to do with a standing rig through the winter?

Axel zu Putlitz-Lürmann, head of the Pantaenius claims department in Hamburg, advises owners to be cautious: "Of course, in the end, everyone has to decide for themselves how they want to get their boat through the winter. However, based on our experience, the trend towards standing rigging is worrying, in that the obligatory checks cannot be carried out in winter and spring, or can only be carried out inadequately. Even if it saves cost and effort, whether the mast holds should not be left to chance. Regular rig checks are not only an investment in the boat but, in case of doubt, life insurance for the people on board."

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