Thursday, October 4, 2012

What To Do When You Must Leave Your Boat Unattended

This summer, Citla spent out of the water at the Singular yard in La Paz,
Baja California Sur. It provides a less expensive alternative to leaving the boat in the water during hurricane season, while, at the same time, having the boat ready for a new rudder installation when we return. The monthly storage charge is slightly less in the yard than what is charged in the marina's and there's no routine bottom cleaning and zinc replacements needed while the boat is out of the water.

When you're not cruising full time, or you need to take a sabbatical from cruising to attend to emergencies, the question of how best to leave your boat becomes a concern. Since we've switched to cruising on a part time basis in 2010, we've had to face this question twice during the past two seasons in Mexico. There have been cruisers that have successfully left their boats either at anchor or on a mooring for an extended period without problems. Unfortunately, there are also instances where boats have been lost or vandalized following this practice. While there's no guarantee to insure that your boat will be absolutely safe when left unattended for weeks to months, there are practical actions you can take to minimize your risks.

I'm an admitted conservative when it comes to leaving the boat unattended. While we have friends who have left their boats for days
unattended at anchor, I cannot bring myself to do this. Even in a populated anchorage, as can be found in La Paz or La Cruz, my worry meter rises when the boat is out of sight for more than a couple of hours. Even if over the years, I've only experienced dragging anchor a half a dozen times (one due to 40-knot winds, where more scope solved the problem, and the other times due to weed fouling the anchor over a period of days).

We have no problem leaving the boat unattended for weeks to months in most marinas and boat-yards. For extended absences, we take all the loose gear off of the decks and store it below, locked away in either the
salon or lazerettes. This includes the horse-shoe bouy with strobe light; the lunch hook on the stern pushput; the man-overboard pole; the outboard; the life-sling; and the barbeque. When leaving the boat over the summer, we also take down all the canvas and sails, the halyards, the vang, the main sheet, and the boom (to help reduce windage). The anchor locker, lazerette covers and wash-boards are all locked to discourage petty theft. The propane is shut off and all batteries are disconnected (one or more would be left connected should the boat be left in the water to insure operation of the bilge pump).

If the boat is left in the water, a responsible friend should be asked to
check the boat on a regular basis. Depending on your relationship, this could be done without charge. When it comes to maintenance (washing the decks, cleaning the bottom, replacing zincs), however, you should expect to fairly compensate someone to perform these chores. Most all marinas and many anchorages have local workers who perform these services as their business. Ask fellow cruisers and locals for recommendations and then help the local economy by hiring one or more of these marine service providers. You'll find if you spend any time at all in a particular locale, the best service providers will be well known and easily contacted.

1 comment:

Belinda Del Pesco said...

Good read, as always. I can't imagine leaving our boat in an anchorage and being far away. I read about folks that do it all the time - with equal amounts of success and disaster. I'd be fretting and wondering and wringing my hands. I don't feel this way about my car - but a boat is a whole different attachment. I've witnessed boat-love in others, but now that I'm hopelessly smitten, the thought of leaving her far away, in anything other than the safest place possible, would likely give me hives. :)