Inquiring minds have been asking..."How much dowe really needto do?". This posting is for them; those poor sailors who haven't yet experienced the joy of putting their baby (er boat) to bed for the Mexican summer. It's not that hard, but it's not for the feint of heart. Some would say it's the price we pay for sailing in Paradise... and I guess they're right. But it's also a chance to take a closer look at the systems and equipment that keep us going; something we should all be doing on a regular basis.So, let's get started.
Before I begin, let me say that if you ask every skipper you meet this question, you'll get a different answer each time. This is ours...
The first thing to consider is what it is you're trying to protect your boat from. You might think that theft or vandalism would be the first priority and, in some places it likely is. But today in Mexico most of us choose to leave our boats in dry storage yards that are being run as a business. Most are surrounded by fencing; most have one or more dogs prowling the premises; and most have at least one or two securityguards. Admittedly someyards are better than others. The good news is your research need go no further than the local cruising community. It doesn't take long to suss out the reputations of each available yard, the good and the bad.
For instance, a yard that stores their boats on cement is preferable to one withonlydirt. Stories abound about how quickly that dirt can turn to soft quagmire in torrential rains. If your best choice of location still has a dirt yard you can protect your baby somewhat by insisting on metal plates under each foot of each leg on each stand. If they don't have some sort of plate, you should be able to find something suitable in the nearby hardware stores or construction sites. The number of stands is also important. A minimum of 6, and preferably 8 (three down each side and one fore and aft), is our goal.
Of equal, and perhaps more importance is the consequences of Mother Nature's wrath. Each year she insists on pelting our boats with torrential rain, sometimes in hurricane force winds. Even if you have selected a location outside the official hurricane corridor she will find you and she will toss winds at your boat that may not be officially named but are, nonetheless, fierce and forceful. If that isn't ugly enough, she will also try to steam your boat open like a clam in a pot of boiling water. Extremely high temperatures combined with dense humidity can turn the inside of your boat into a healthy terrarium harboring moulds and mildews for the duration. Sound like fun yet? Oh yes, I mustn't forget to mention the critters; not just the crawling kind like ants, spidersand cockroaches, but also the flying ones. Small mud wasps, packing their nests into small holes and openings, are becoming more of a problem. Those small spaces need to be covered or packed with the substance of your choice. OK, enough of the scary stuff. Let's get down to business.
Preparing the Interior: A few basic rules persist; advice like remove all food. Some folks leave cans on board but they bundle them into plastic bags and stow those bags in safe places in case one or more explode. Certain canned goods survive the heat better than others. All other food must be removed so as prevent it becoming yummy enticement for those creepy crawly critters. Protect your teak. A good wipe down with vinegar and water will go a long way to protecting your teak from mould and mildew. Secure your electronics. One of the joys of a Mexican summer are the numerous thunder and lightening storms. Some folks will assure you the lightening will only strike the taller masts. Many skippers of small boats will disagree, having themselves been struck while surrounded by much larger craft. We choose to be safer and disconnect all our electronic equipment. We also stow some of the more expensive pieces in the oven (emulating a kind of Faraday Shield). Clothing, linen, books and papers can also be protected from the inevitable dust and/or moisture by bagging (space bags work very well and save room too). Upholstery will benefit from a good vacuum and being stood on end with a dust coverasprotection. Covering the windows is also a good idea, with one caveat. Placing tinfoil on the inside of acrylic or plexi-glass windows or hatches will create a situation resulting in crazed panes. These materials require covers on the outside instead. Windows that open need to be leak proof..remember those torrential rains? Water tanks need attention too. Some folks leave them empty, some leave them full. We leave them mostly full with a bottle of bleach in each. We also leave one inspection port open to allow for some evaporation during the very hot (and dry) times. Propane lines should be run dry and tanks stored where they can't leak into the boat. Aerosol cans should be removed completely due to their propensity to blow up in extreme heat. Some folks leave them in a covered bucket below the boat. Batteries should be removed from all flashlights and other battery-dependent equipment. Cupboard doors, locker lids, and actual doors should be propped open to allow air movement. All access points to the interior should be plugged or set up with netting to prevent visitors from the outdoors. Remember there may be two sets of openings connected to your dorade vents and both should be dealt with. Plastic scrubbies (the kind we use for cleaning dishes) make great plugs for openings. They allow air and water to pass at the same time as they keep most bugs out. And, finally, before locking up those companionway boards critter proofing must be considered. Good roach bait, set up in all the hard to get at corners (and according to the instructions) is a good start. Boric acid, mixed into a paste with water, works well for cockroaches. Shoved into short pieces of hose that lay along the edges of lockers, etc. is a good way to dispense it and keep your pets safe at the same time. Small mud wasps seem more prevalent this year and they just love to nest in whatever openings they can find. Lastly, do not forget to close all through-hullsand stuff their lower openings with scrubbies (with the exception of your cockpit drains and bilge pump outlet). Now that the inside seems well cared for, let's take a step outside.
Preparing the Exterior: Securing the outside of our boats is equally important. I must admit a lot of this work is easier to do while the boat's in the water. It's pretty hot working on deck in the boat yards. Removing sails is a great way to start. Cleaned, if necessary, and nicely folded... the sails can be stowed on one of the bunks below. Running rigging needs attention as well. If your lines need to be cleaned they should come right off. This is best accomplished using messenger lines (one for each) which will allow a relatively easy re-running of the lines at the start of the next season. Don't forget to label both the lines themselves and the messenger lines. We label with tape and then cover the messenger line labels with tin foil to protect them over the summer. All messenger lines should be secured to a location that will prevent them from banging on the mast or tangling with other lines. Chafe is your worst enemy here as lines chafed through will have to be retrieved by climbing the mast... a job to be avoided when possible. If your running rigging is newer and/or not in need of a good cleaning, you may just (using a messenger line) run it up and into the mast. That will protect some of the line and you can then just bundle up the exposed line and cover it for protection. We also take the time to do a few diagrams of some of the more complicated running rigging (like the boom vang and main sheet). Just a precaution; but very handycome six months later when your memory has understandably faded. Rigging and sails taken care of, the focus then moves to all the deck hardware. UV can do considerable damage to vulnerable pieces of nylon and material left exposed. Wrapping with tin foil can provide great protection from both UV rays and wind-blown dust and grit. It will also save you hours of cleaning at the start of the next season. Covered properly, your equipment should be in whatever condition you left it... when you return. Speaking of covering; old sail material and old sunbrella make great covers for things like your roller furling, boom, lines remaining outside the mast, solar panels, permanently installed BBQs and outboards. A product called Tyvac, sold by Home Depot, is also very good and well worth the trouble of carrying down. Some folks cover their solar panels and some folks don't (relying on their solar panel monitor to work properly while they are gone). We choose to cover ours partially, leaving a small portion to operate much like a trickle charger. Even though the boat is on the hard in a ship yard, damage can happen and water can collect inside your boat. Having a functioning bilge pump, and the power to run it, will help protect against the ravages of a flooded boat. Speaking of water... make sure the yard staff set your boat up with a slight slope in the direction of your cockpit drains. The wrong slope can cause your cockpit to fill and then drain into the cabin. Critters can also move aboardfromthe outside. Beware the open spaces offered by your anchor locker lid, your open ended boom, and holes in your barge boards (set up to secure your fuel and water Jerry cans).
Mechanics and equipment: What ever you need to do to protect your engine, outboard and any other equipment with 'needs' must be done. If there is ever a time to ignore maintenance... this is not it. Engines need at least an oil change, a fresh water flush, and the loosening and/or removal of rubber bits like impellers and V belts. Other equipment may require some protective coating or packaging to protect it from moisture. Corroded electrical connections are a common cause of difficulties with VHF radio transmissions and other such things.
And finally, while it's tempting to do without... adequate insurance is important. Accidents do happen; if not to your boat then to the boat next door. And sometimes, sadly, one vessel's problems can spread to the next without much warning.
So my sailing friends... sail in Paradise and be happy. The only consolation I have with respect to all this work at the end and beginning of each season... is that it does get easier. Each year you'll find ways to streamline the process, and...just like the rain in Vancouver (BC), it only takes one day of sunshine with your sails nicely set to forget all about the dusty hot sweat. Take heart and sail on. Adios for now.
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