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Sanity Check: Winterization...Covering winches in a below freezing winter ? Maybe a cockpit tarp over the boom or unstepped mast ?

Mar 20, 2015
2,255
C&C 30 Mk1 Silver Harbour, Lake Winnipeg
I was having a discussion with others in our marina, and debating the pros and cons of covering a boat in winter.

I am talking a winter where the water stays solid, and air temps can hit -30.. not a mamby pamby winter where the tough guys like @LeslieTroyer and @jssailem make the rest of us look bad by going sailing in the PNW in winter ;)


The 99% of the 50+ boats in our marina are stored mast up.
The vast majority do not have winter covers of any kind. Maybe 5 or 6 boats have some type of cover over at least part of the boat.

Most of the older coots.. err experienced people... in my marina... say that a winter cover is really pointless for a fiberglass boat here.
They had used them before... tarp covers can rip and then beat the boat to crap, can trap moisture in the boat if not done correctly etc.
They don't bother with a cover now.

For my Catalina 22, I had started to make a cover...haven't finished it (yet:liar:).. so it has been uncovered every winter I have owned her.

-------------

With our "new" boat, I am thinking my options.

Instead of covering the whole boat, I am considering the following (or a combination thereof):

  • use a 12mil, poly tarp over the cockpit, supported by the boom (or mast if down). Tied to the toerail with a gap between it and the deck. (old coots say: bad)
  • Tarp the binnacle/steering to help protect it and the compass, from moisture and sun. (some olds coots say: good)
  • leave the sunbrella covers on the winches (old coots say: bad)
  • simply leaving the sunbrella cover on the compass, and leaving the binnacle uncovered.
  • some type of cover for the engine controls which are located on the side of the cockpit.

My concerns are...
  • I suspect that leaving the winches covered in sunbrella, would be trapping moisture in the winches in a misguided attempt to help protect them
  • tarping the steering binnacle, and the attempt to prevent any additional sun damage to the compass, may also just trap moisture and be pointless.
  • A tarp will likely do little to prevent snow in the cockpit if it isn't wide enough to go over toerail, but one that goes over the toerail will trap moisture and likely be a worse idea.
I am leaning towards no tarp at all, and just covering the binnacle or just the compass at this point.

So...Sailors who live in frozen lands... What say you ?
 

DArcy

.
Feb 11, 2017
1,252
Islander Freeport 36 Ottawa
Here in Ottawa almost all boats store with the mast down and a cover on the boat. There are a few that keep the mast up but I like the opportunity to inspect and repair while it's down.
On my old boat I stored the mast on deck with a poly tarp over the mast. Depending on the winter I might get 1 or 2 seasons out of a heavy poly tarp. This boat came with a canvas tarp and aluminum support frame so the mast is on supports near by the boat. The cover on a frame is nice for working on the boat.
I am sure a cover helps in Canadian winters by keeping the weather off the deck fittings and bright work. If you have no wood on deck maybe it's not as much of a concern but I would at least cover the cockpit.
The debate around here is how do you secure the cover. Some people like to use weights to hold it down but I tie it to the cradle. Then there are the shrink wrappers but that is expensive and I'm not convinced it's a good idea to shrink the plastic up against the hull.
Even a full cover (maybe not shrink wrap) will allow a fair bit of air flow so I've never worried about trapping moisture.
 
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Sep 25, 2008
6,315
Alden 50 Sarasota, Florida
Ventilating under any cover isn't that difficult so I don't get why some people use that as a reason to leave a boat exposed to water seeping into any/all deck fittings, corners/cracks, window seams, hardware mounting points, etc...where it obviously freezes and expands.

If a cover rips dues to normally anticipated winter weather, you used the wrong cover.
 
Mar 20, 2015
2,255
C&C 30 Mk1 Silver Harbour, Lake Winnipeg
Here in Ottawa almost all boats store with the mast down and a cover on the boat. There are a few that keep the mast up but I like the opportunity to inspect and repair while it's down.
At our marina, the majority of the boats are ramp launched... with a wheeled trailer extension, and bulldozer.
Inspecting the mast is a nice, but the speed of ramp launching, without the hassle of re-stepping the mast is fantastic, and also cheaper.
(unstepping the mast is always an option for occasional inspections)
2 days of screwing around with a mast, and crane vs floating at the slip in 30 mins.

On my old boat I stored the mast on deck with a poly tarp over the mast.
How are people avoiding damaging the spreaders, with the tarp ? Remove them ? or simply alter the tarp to go around them ?

I am sure a cover helps in Canadian winters by keeping the weather off the deck fittings and bright work
OTOH:
Southern Ontario isn't like the midwest in winter.
The extreme cold, and the dry air, actually preserves things... machinery that spend their lives in extreme dry cold up north don't rust quickly, and bodies won't rot hehe.

I assume the big winter issue is freeze and thaw cycles and UV damage ?
Here, the snow doesn't come even vaguely close to melting until spring, so there isn't a winter long, repeated, freeze thaw cycle like you can usually see in southern Ontario, the east coast, PNW etc.
In the fall we get a couple days hovering around 32F/0C and then it stays cold until spring.
Totally unlike what, for example, a boat on a dock, without a cover, in a PNW winter sees.

Winter UV, with the short days, and a deck covered in snow, isn't an issue compared to summer heat and UV baking the brightwork.

With the boat uncovered, in a very dry and cold environment, I suspect it isn't a big deal. In fact, making sure it stays really cold, without the sun heating a cover during the days close to freezing, I could see a benefit.


I may make a frame and full cover in the future, if I ever want to work on the boat in shoulder seasons. That is one big benefit I see of a cover, but it's not a yearly need unless my wife chases me out outside in the cold. :yikes:
 
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Mar 26, 2011
2,937
Corsair F-24 MK I Deale, MD
I cover winches for two reasons:
  • The plastic bits of self-tailers, and the real reason, which is...
  • Mud daubers love to build nests in the sockets if I don't. Also birds poop in them.
Only this boat. That didn't happen on the last two. Weird.

If you have a cocpit with drains, consider how you are going to prevent the drains from freeze if there is deep snow.
 
Mar 20, 2015
2,255
C&C 30 Mk1 Silver Harbour, Lake Winnipeg
If you have a cocpit with drains, consider how you are going to prevent the drains from freeze if there is deep snow.
If the temps stay cold they don't freeze closed.
Unlike places where the winters are mild, allowing a freeze thaw cycle, which turns the snow into ice.

Over 50 boats stored in our marina yard right now, and many more in the area. It's not really an issue here afaik.
I check the C22 a couple times a winter, and I have never seen anything but dry snow in the drains, not ice.

The only local case I know of where a cockpit had water issues, was one that had a clear cover, allowing the snow to melt in early spring from sunshine, and turn into ice, thereby blocking the drains for when the true spring that hit.

Deep snow isn't as much of an issue either. at 0F and colder, we get sunshine most of the winter. Snow is an issue in the east and west, but not here, unless you see the occasional blizzard with blowing snow.
 
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Mar 20, 2015
2,255
C&C 30 Mk1 Silver Harbour, Lake Winnipeg
I cover winches for two reasons:
  • The plastic bits of self-tailers, and the real reason, which is...
  • Mud daubers love to build nests in the sockets if I don't. Also birds poop in them.
Yup, similar reasons in summer here.

But,
No insects living here in winter
Plastic doesn't absorb water at risk of freezing, and will be below freezing regardless.

Trapping moisture in the winch, is my somewhat "suspect" concern. Admittedly any real water should drain away like it does in summer.
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,840
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
If you tarp the boat secure the tarp by tying down the edges and running lines over the tarp. This reduces billowing and reduces stress on the tarp, it lasts longer and is less likely to blow off.

I have the same question as @thinwater’s about the trains. The will be a time in the spring and fall where there will be freeze cycles.
 
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Jul 19, 2013
318
Pearson 31-2 Boston
I think not covering at least the cockpit of boats which experience snowfall and freeze-thaw temperatures is asking for trouble.

If a hose gets iced-up, you can end up with a hose with a split in it from ice expansion. Mostly likely the owner wont be aware of such damage until after the boat has sunk following its spring launch. (Every season I ask the yard manager to notify me when the boat goes in, and every season I find out only because I drive over anyways just to check.)

Alternatively wind-blown debris like leaves can block the cockpit scuppers, resulting in rain and snow filling the cockpit, and then spilling into the interior. One of these boards has a story of a Hunter 40 that was totaled due to the interior water damage resulting from ice blocked scuppers.

Most owners in the Boston area are having their boats covered in single-use shrink-wrap. Some apy the big dollars for a full canvas cover. I found the sweet spot to be a nicely fitted deck tent (from Ship-Shape Canvas in Duluth), which cost less than three years of shrink-wrapping, and after three seasons still looked new.
1634330295207.jpeg
 
Mar 20, 2015
2,255
C&C 30 Mk1 Silver Harbour, Lake Winnipeg
I think not covering at least the cockpit of boats which experience snowfall and freeze-thaw temperatures is asking for trouble
I have the same question as @thinwater’s about the trains. The will be a time in the spring and fall where there will be freeze cycles
You would think so right ?
but most of the boats here have no covers at all. People with decades of boat ownership here have stopped using covers.
For example...One guy who has had various boats here since I was a kid, said that he stopped using them due to the hassle. Cost for a custom cover isn't an issue for him. His boat is well maintained.
Other than cleaning the deck, in spring he has evidently seen no meaningful difference between the results of covering or not.

Our C22 hasn't had an issue being uncovered in winter since we bought it.

Again, I suspect it is the very big difference in winter conditions between places like Mass, Maryland, southern Ontario etc, vs northern Minnesota, Manitoba etc.
The winters here are cold and sunny. Very little ice. Dry snow. The highways are usually clear most of the winter.
Storms like you see in the east are not a thing here. It gets cold and stays cold. A month at -35 is normal.

That's the only thing I can think of that explains the experience of people who have posted so far vs the local sailors here.:confused:

That said, winters here are getting milder and that variable is changing.:confused:



Most owners in the Boston area are having their boats covered in single-use shrink-wrap. Some apy the big dollars for a full canvas cover. I found the sweet spot to be a nicely fitted deck tent (from Ship-Shape Canvas in Duluth), which cost less than three years of shrink-wrapping, and after three seasons still looked new.
Yeah. Shrink wrap seems stupid. One time use gets expensive and a custom seems both cheaper and better.

When you say deck tent, do you mean exactly like that photo ?
I always just saw that as a being a cover, though I have seen photos of both custom covers and shrink wrap covering the hull.

Why would people cover the hull too ? Especially when it is evidently a problem to trap moisture against the hull paint ?

FWIW: next fall, when it is stored mast up, I may make a cabintop/cockpit tent with an industrial tarp and my sewing machine. If only for doing late and early maintenance. Eventually it may be a cust canvas or nylon one.
This is more about this winter.
 
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Oct 29, 2016
1,821
Hunter 41 DS Port Huron
Cover every year, mast unstepped every second year, the canvas 3 pc cover is at least 10 years old
Wintering Sapphire.jpeg
 
Jul 19, 2013
318
Pearson 31-2 Boston
....
Yeah. Shrink wrap seems stupid. One time use gets expensive.
When you say deck tent, do you mean exactly like that photo ? Why would people cover the hull too ? Especially when it is evidently a problem to trap moisture against the hull paint ?
FWIW: I may eventually make a deck tent with a industrial tarp and a sewing machine. If only for doing late and early maintenance.
The photo is of my deck tent. I personally see no plus to a full hull cover, and if the boat is painted, you do not want the topsides closed in. There is a lot of engineering in a deck tent - cutouts for the mast, topping lift, shrouds, stanchions, bow and stern rails, and all reinforced, plus reinforcements at all corners, plus heavy duty zippers. All the work plus a quality material for under $2,000 was a bargain.
 
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Mar 20, 2015
2,255
C&C 30 Mk1 Silver Harbour, Lake Winnipeg
The photo is of my deck tent. I personally see no plus to a full hull cover, and if the boat is painted, you do not want the topsides closed in. There is a lot of engineering in a deck tent - cutouts for the mast, topping lift, shrouds, stanchions, bow and stern rails, and all reinforced, plus reinforcements at all corners, plus heavy duty zippers. All the work plus a quality material for under $2,000 was a bargain.
That is a bargain. In Canuck dollars it's likely 25000 lol
 
Mar 26, 2011
2,937
Corsair F-24 MK I Deale, MD
Yup, similar reasons in summer here.

But,
No insects living here in winter
Plastic doesn't absorb water at risk of freezing, and will be below freezing regardless.

Trapping moisture in the winch, is my somewhat "suspect" concern. Admittedly any real water should drain away like it does in summer.
The concern with plastic is UV near round.

I would just make sure the cover does not seal tight to the deck. Then it will breath. As for grease and corrosion, they really should be serviced, and least partially, each year. While you may not want to do a full tear down each spring, simply pulling the drum, cleaning what you can reach and puting a few drops of oil on the pawls is a quick job. Then do it right next year. The most serious wear seems to be around the pawls, and the oil light oil really cannot last more than one year.
 
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Mar 20, 2015
2,255
C&C 30 Mk1 Silver Harbour, Lake Winnipeg
The concern with plastic is UV near round.
UV is the scourge of almost anything unfortunately.

As for grease and corrosion, they really should be serviced, and least partially, each year.
Yup. They seem to often be treated like trailer wheel bearings. The ones on our C22 hadn't been touched in ages. Dried grease etc. At the price of them you would think people would service them more often.
You have me wondering if any of the winches on our CnC 30 have exposed plastic.
The mains are Anderssen 28T 2 speed units.
Supposedly serviced every spring.
 
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Jan 7, 2011
2,920
Oday 322 East Chicago, IN
In the Chicago area, we get all sorts of inclement weather…wind, rain, ice, snow and cold temps.

The first year I had my O’Day 322, I covered it with a plastic tarp. Very tedious to get a frame to support and attach it to. You can get an idea of the work to tarp it from this video of me taking it off…it was a real pain…

Then I bought a canvas cover…zips in 3 pieces, supported by the boom, and does a good job keeping the ice and freeze and UV off the deck, hatches, etc.

If your tarp it, don’t go over the lifelines, unless you build a frame to support the tarp. I have seen many lifelines and stanchions bent over by the weight of snow and ice and water on the tarp, puddling on the tarp.

Greg
 
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Mar 20, 2015
2,255
C&C 30 Mk1 Silver Harbour, Lake Winnipeg
If your tarp it, don’t go over the lifelines, unless you build a frame to support the tarp. I have seen many lifelines and stanchions bent over by the weight of snow and ice and water on the tarp, puddling on the tarp.
Yup. That reminds me.. I need to find the contact info for who owns the boat beside us. Complete beginner owner and he has a big tarp running on top of the lifeline stanchions.. Hopefully the tarp rips instead of bent stanchions. Hopefully can warn him.
 
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Apr 5, 2009
1,620
Catalina '88 C30 tr/bs Oak Harbor, WA
The math geek in me cannot get past the "The 99% of the 50+ boats in our marina are stored mast up."
Did the 1% of the 50+ boats drop the main mast or the mizzen? :biggrin::cowbell:
 
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