As summer approaches in the Caribbean, many sailors are looking for the answer to the age-old question of what to do with their boat in the hurricane season.
After the disasters of 2017, most sailors think they know what NOT to do with their boat. When compared to the time and depreciation cost of sailing to the US or Europe, it may become an option to store your boat within the Caribbean. There are lots of things to think about beforehand, and quite a few things you can do to your vessel to reduce the effects of summer storage in the tropics.
First thing is to check the coverage of your insurance company for the location you are considering.
Surprisingly enough, coverage is still available for named storms within the hurricane belt. If your current insurance policy does not cover you adequately, ask the boatyard or other cruisers, as there are companies that do insure year round in the tropics. Don’t forget that the definitions of the ‘hurricane belt’ and ‘hurricane season’ are somewhat defined by the insurance companies, and are no guarantee of safety or risk.
Something you must investigate is how the boatyards physically store boats.
One of the best options is a full sized cradle with supports that cannot move. Large straps should be placed from your boat to the cradle and also secured to the ground. Another good option is to reduce the wind exposure and lower the center of gravity by placing the keel in a pit. Individual stands are the least appealing as they need to be secured to make sure they do not move. If the ground gets soft when it is saturated by heavy rains, stands can sink and cause issues.
Security is also a big question for summer storage.
Other cruisers are again your best resource, either in person or on the Internet. Ideally there is someone trustworthy nearby, who can open the hatches a couple of times a month to let the boat air out. This is a great time to check for leaks, bugs, and mold. Additionally, they can check the batteries and give them a top up if needed. Your guardian can also make sure that deck drains are clear of leaves and debris.
Make plans to remove as much as possible from the deck and rig.
The sun is more intense in the summer months, and even if there is no risk of excess wind, the elevated humidity and frequent rains can lead to problems. Not only is it a good time to inspect the parts of the sail that you don’t often see, but some sail lofts will offer to do this and also store them for the summer.
Bugs and mold are your biggest concern for the interior.
While traps and insecticide may give you some peace of mind, make sure to also give the bugs less reason to be there. Remove all food that has been opened. Keep in mind that unopened cardboard packaging is a food source also and will naturally decay in the heat and moisture. Write the date on any canned foods that you keep, so that you are more likely to consume them first next season.
Try and bag all textiles.
Linens, pillows, and bedding can be stored in large trash bags. A better option is vacuum storage bags that remove the air (and moisture) and take up much less space. Books and magazines should also be bagged. Hide or remove any valuables including jewelry and portable electronics. Take pictures of valuable items, the interior, the deck, and the cradle support system. Leave open any sealed boxes such as refrigerators, freezers, or ice makers. (Make sure to dry out the ice cube tray in an ice maker as there is often residual water there.) Line the inside of uncovered ports and hatches with aluminum foil to reflect the heat out.
Finally, use the haulout period as a time to check the safety equipment.
Do you have expired flares on board? Is it time repack the liferaft? How about the marks on the anchor chain?
While it may take a lot of time to prepare for a summer of storage, it comes back to you in the fall when your boat is already in the warm water at the beginning of the season.