It would first appear that professional yacht crew spend all of their time making every part of the boat shiny. It is a long standing joke amongst deckhands that the horn is louder proportionate to how highly polished it is. In reality, sound maintenance, and the captain’s management of it, begins in the bilge of the boat and works up. Come winter, it is more important than ever.
As the summer sailing season comes to an end in the Mediterranean and those that aren’t heading elsewhere prepare for annual maintenance, yachts enter a potentially vulnerable period. If neglected, as is so often the case, their value rapidly decreases and they become a sorry sight by the following year. For owners and captains alike, a game plan is crucial. Here’s my five cents on how to go about it:
Think very carefully about where you haul out your yacht. Is it secure? Does it have access to the trades you will need over the winter? Is it financially stable? The Greek islands for example, where I hauled out last year, retain some good boat yards that deserve and need business. They should not be ruled out. But do consider if there is an inherent lack of stability in the country you are putting the boat if you could get it out relatively quickly if necessary. The Eastern Med is rapidly changing in this respect.
By far the best long term maintenance plan for a yacht is to put a keen captain on board that relishes the change of role that winter guardainage involves. Not only will they look after the boat, they will also take on the responsibility in it’s entirety. For many yachts, this is overkill, and the realistic solution will be a guardianage company instead. Charged with looking after many yachts, truly great guardianage usually results in a lasting relationship that carries over when the owner buys a new yacht. It should be a reassuring relationship that lifts relieves the boss of any kind of worry.
An experienced and capable guardianage company will fundamentally have a sound understanding of the yard that built the boat in the first place, a sound range of contacts for all aspects of maintenance, and the ability most importantly to effectively manage. Steer clear of anyone that is selling the anything and everything to anyone approach. It is a specialist job and different companies specialialise in different sizes and types of yachts. Don’t always assume that a local guardianage company carrying out all the winter works will be the most cost effective. Vortec
Marine, based in Portsmouth UK, travel all over Europe over the winter, bringing specialist services to British built yachts, whilst aiming to compete on price.
Exactly as it sounds. Winterisation is the process of decommissioning the yacht’s systems for the winter period. Engines and generators should be serviced and left with fresh oil in them. Watermarking equipment and anything where stagnant water could be trapped should be ‘pickled’ to prevent bad smells and worse. High value yachts should always be connected to shore power over the winter to maintain battery life and power a dehumidifier. The former will save a lot of money in the long run and the latter will preserve the interior. Yacht interiors are prone to holding damp and the effect can be devastating and very hard to reverse. Ideally, as on the boat I run, a dehumidifier will be hard wired into the boat. Mattresses and cushions should be left where air can circulate around them.
Of course, the best thing to avoid the problems associated with a lack of use is to enjoy using the boat more and to sail her through the winter as well!