After a fun-filled season of fishing, boat racing, and cruising to your heart’s content, there will come a time when the changing weather or other obligations require you to stow your watercraft away for a while. Choosing the right kind of storage and boat covering for your yacht ensures that your vessel remains in excellent condition until it’s time to get back out on the water.
This article compares indoor and outdoor boat storage to help you decide which option is best for your yacht. Figure out how to store your boat by:
Your location plays a big part in determining what type of boat storage is right for you. For example, if you live in the Northeastern United States or another place that experiences cold winters, a heated indoor unit may be your best bet. On the other hand, a breezy outdoor storage option could work just fine for those living in warmer climates.
“There are several different types of boat storage available, depending on what part of the country you’re in.”-William Morong, CEO of Yachting Solutions
When you have multiple options to choose from in a single area, it’s important to know what to look for in a boat storage facility. Ultimately, the place you select should fit your budget, accommodate the size of your vessel, and provide the necessary protection and additional conveniences that are ideal for your yacht.
Depending on whether you need to stow your boat on a long-term or short-term basis, certain storage spaces may work better for you. Long-term storage typically involves keeping your boat docked throughout the winter months until boating season starts up again. It might also mean signing an annual contract to get year-round storage at a facility.
Short-term boat storage usually lasts anywhere from a single weekend to a few weeks. If this is what you’re looking for, you could go to your local marina to rent slip or dry rack storage. Or, if you have the space, you could simply store your boat at home.
Indoor boat storage ensures maximum protection from the elements, which is essential for those living in locations with strong storms or freezing temperatures. Some facilities may also offer other amenities like security benefits and winterization services. When choosing between different indoor storage options, you’ll need to consider all these factors, as well as the overall cost.
While each facility sets its own prices, indoor boat storage costs are typically higher than rates for outdoor storage. The elevated cost makes sense, however, when you factor in the additional protections and services that come with it. Also, keep in mind that indoor storage is likely to cost less than the maintenance or repairs you’d need to pay for if your yacht sustains damage at an outdoor location.
Boat owners with smaller vessels usually keep their boat at home in a garage or storage shed. Most attached and standalone garages can accommodate a small fishing boat or other personal watercraft. However, depending on your vessel’s exact measurements, it might take up too much space for your car to fit beside it.
Storing your boat at home comes with several benefits, including:
Those with heated garages can also ensure that their boats stay warm all winter. However, you should avoid trying to combat the chilling temperatures with a plug-in heater. While they may keep your boat from sustaining damages due to freezing, space heaters can also tip over or short-circuit, leading to accidental fires that can destroy your boat and your storage unit.
Facilities that offer”high-and-dry” boat rack storage have a warehouse-style setup and are usually in coastal areas near the water. Trained professionals at these locations use lifts to stack and secure boats on storage racks that stand several stories high. Although this method may not work for vessels with tall masts, other boats of varying sizes tend to fit just fine.
When you choose dry-stack storage for your yacht, you have to call ahead so personnel can lift the boat out of its stack and prepare it for launch whenever you want to use it. Some warehouses may also limit the number of times you can access your vessel before they start charging additional fees.
Though indoor boat rack storage can sometimes be inconvenient, there are some perks to this option as well, such as:
Dry-stack storage is a popular method for new and experienced boaters, so more and more companies have started introducing innovative ways to stack vessels. For example, a few marinas in Florida use a state-of-the-art automated rack elevator system. Technology like this helps streamline the process of safely stowing and retrieving vessels.
Self-storage facilities take a more traditional approach to indoor boat storage. Rather than stacking the vessels on top of one another, these locations arrange yachts side-by-side as if the warehouse were a giant parking lot. New boaters who feel nervous about lift operators stacking (and potentially dropping) their watercraft may be more comfortable with the simpler self-storage option.
One of the biggest drawbacks to indoor self-storage is the limited space. Since they usually have fewer spots available, these locations tend to be more expensive than dry-stack storage facilities. If you have a larger boat, you’ll need to call ahead to check and see if there’s room for your watercraft or arrange storage in an individual unit.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to find a self-storage facility that’s close to the water or has more affordable prices than a dry-stack storage site. Other advantages of self-storage are:
Many boaters choose outdoor boat storage if they are unable to find an affordable indoor option. It’s an excellent option for both short-term and long-term storage needs, though it does require some planning. Along with selecting the best type of outdoor storage, you’ll need to pick the right protective covering and winterize your boat to handle the elements properly.
Although outdoor boat storage costs vary across different facilities, storing your boat outside is the most cost-effective way to stow your vessel when boating season ends. Those with enough room at home can even store their yacht for free on their own property. In some cases, the cost of preparing your boat for winter or long-term storage is the only price you pay for this storage option.
Depending on the size of your property, you can store your boat on a trailer in your driveway, in the backyard, or on a boat pad beside the house. However, to prevent tipping or sinking, you’ll need to make sure that the ground beneath the trailer is level and solid. You’ll also have to maintain the trailer to keep the metal from rusting and prevent dry rot in the wheels.
Storing your boat at home may be a problem for certain types of watercraft. You might also want to choose a different storage method if your property is too small or if you lack a carport or other type of protective covering for your vessel. Those who do have the necessary space and resources for at-home storage can enjoy additional perks like:
Before stowing your boat outside on your property, it’s important to be aware of any neighborhood or homeowner’s association guidelines prohibiting large vessels. You might also want to consider the crime rate where you live. If your home is in a high-traffic area where theft, burglary, and vandalism are prevalent, you might have to reconsider your outdoor boat storage plan.
Those who cannot store their yachts at home should consider using an outdoor self-storage facility or a boatyard. Along with offering affordable storage for both RVs and water vessels, boatyards are often near large lakes and coastal areas to give you quick access to the water. They’re also usually close to stores where you can stock up on supplies before heading out.
Since your boat will be out in the open (even in a covered outdoor storage facility), you’ll need to take steps to protect your watercraft from the elements. Tight coverings are essential to keeping rain, harsh sunlight, and wildlife like raccoons, snakes, and rodents from damaging your boat. Still, outdoor self-storage and boatyards are beneficial because they:
While storing a boat in the water is possible and somewhat common, it may not be ideal for the long term. Water, especially salt water, can erode the hull’s finish. If you live somewhere with freezing temperatures, ice and freezing damage can also become an issue, especially if your marine insurance does not provide that type of coverage.
If you choose this option over dry boat storage, prepare to regularly exercise the boat and perform routine maintenance to keep the mechanical systems functioning normally. Water storage can also damage the hull and its appearance, so you’ll need to clean the hull on a regular basis to remove barnacles and algae buildup.
You might rent a slip during the summer if you like to cruise with the family every weekend. Or, perhaps you travel the ICW and rent slips along the way. Either way, marina slips are great, short-term storage options that keep your boat on the water and ready to launch. You can also keep your boat in a slip all year long if you live in a region where freezing temps and long winters aren’t a problem.
Marina slips are generally more expensive since they provide supreme convenience for active boaters. However, it’s important to remember that the longer your boat is in the water, the more maintenance and upkeep it will need.
If the price fits your budget, take advantage of this ease-of-access option.
Slip rental costs vary by location and size. Some marinas allow you to buy a slip outright, but you could also purchase a property with dock access as a convenient storage option and an investment for the future. You can also reserve a slip online and find more customized long-term and short-term storage rates.
While keeping your boat in a slip may be convenient, it could affect the overall look and lifespan of your vessel. Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of storing your boat in a wet slip:
Slip lifts provide a solution to the constant water exposure to your boat’s hull while in a wet slip. Since these units raise boats out of the water and lower them into it, you could consider slip lifts a dry storage option. While it still gives you access to a slip, it keeps your vessel out of the water to prevent the build up of algae and barnacle growth.
Unfortunately, not all marinas can accommodate slip lifts. Others may prohibit their use if strong winds are likely to blow the boat down or tip it into the water. Slip lifts can be expensive to buy and install, so check with your local marina to learn their policies before you go ahead with your slip lift purchase.
If your local marina prohibits slip lifts, consider using a lift company. Marina lift companies are harbors that offer lift storage, as well as personnel who can transfer your boat to the slip when you need it. Many slip lifts at these outdoor facilities have covers that shield your vessel from the elements, so they’re ideal if you’re looking for long-term, annual storage contracts.
Whichever type of boat storage you choose, you’ll need a proper boat covering. Otherwise, the weather and other outside influences can undo all the winterizing tasks you completed when preparing your boat for storage. Having the right type of covering for your boat protects the interior and exterior from material damage, vandalism, mildew, and lots of other problems.
When you buy a new or used boat, it usually comes with a cover already. These tarps are fine if you need to protect your vessel from an unexpected rainstorm or if you’re too busy to get out on the water during the weekend. However, they rarely have the tight grip or ventilation you need for long-term storage.
Some boat coverings are better than others, so comparing different options is a smart way to determine which is right for your watercraft. Some of the most common boat cover types on the market include:
The best way to cover your boat depends on how you store it. If you store your vessel in a climate-controlled facility, you likely won’t need a cover at all. Of course, covering your boat does help protect it from dust and birds that find their way inside. Plus, it can minimize the amount of cleaning you have to do when de-winterizing your boat in the spring.
Boat owners who store their boats outdoors should always cover their boat with a protective, weather-safe covering. One of the best ways to ensure ultimate protection for your watercraft is to wrap it in industrial-strength shrink wrap, specifically designed for marine vehicles.
While the process seems complicated, shrink-wrapping a boat for winter is simpler than you might think. Using shrink wrap to protect your vessel can have several advantages if you do it correctly. However, there are a few problems you need to be aware of if you’re thinking about choosing this material to cover your boat.
Many experienced, knowledgeable boaters use shrink wrap to protect and store their yachts, and there are several reasons why.
“Shrink wrap is a nonpermeable material that doesn’t allow any water to get through. The UV inhibitors in the film help it last significantly longer than any tarp ever will.”- Ben Beaumont, Sales and Technical Specialist at Dr. Shrink, Inc.
Shrink wrap uses a supportive band system and heat-shrinking application to form a tight cover to aid in protection against the elements. According to Beaumont, the shrinking properties of the material ensure that your boat cover stays drum-tight, minimizing movement, chafing, and wind damage.
Most shrink wrap film comes in a roll that boaters must measure against the width of their watercraft for appropriate sizing. Typically, the roll contains two to three times as much shrink wrap as you need, so you can store the rest away and use it over the next few years.
“As long as you don’t keep it under direct UV light for a long time, the material will not go bad,”-Beaumont
Using shrink wrap to cover and store your watercraft can be complicated at times. Those who lack the skills or the time to apply the film properly tend to struggle with the entire process of shrink-wrapping their own boats. While professional installation is an option, you may still encounter some of the following difficulties.
“The cost of shrink-wrapping a boat comes down to the end-user. What do they want to pay upfront? Or, do they want to pay that reoccurring cost each year to have somebody else do it? The biggest expense for the end user doing it themselves is the heat tool. You need a propane-fired heat tool to do the process correctly.”- Beaumont
A propane heat gun can range anywhere from $300.00 to $800.00. Although this is a larger upfront cost, the roll of film and any accessories you may buy alongside it can last a few years. This initial cost is also usually less in the long run than the price of the professional service.
Applying heat to the shrink wrap film causes it to shrink to approximately 30% of its original size, allowing it to become tight and conform to the hull. Once that film shrinks down, it becomes thicker. When you try to reshrink the film or go through the shrinking process a second time, you actually start to thin out the plastic.
While you may be able to carefully unwrap your boat in the spring, it’s wise to discard the used film rather than attempt to reuse it after it’s lost any UV protection or strength. You can recycle shrink wrap for boats by contacting a local marina or finding other available programs via shrink wrap brands like Dr. Shrink.
Not for All Boats
The shrink-wrapping process can do more damage than good for some boats, which is why doing the job yourself requires taking a few extra precautions.
“You have to know what type of finish you have on your boat. 99% of boats have gel coats that won’t show signs of chafing or damage. Some high-end sailboats or specialty boats with paint or varnish are more susceptible to chafing, so there are a few extra steps you’ll need to take to prevent that.”- Beaumont
Yacht and boat owners whose vessels have specialty finishes use a buffer such as a one- to two-inch thick foam block that creates a gap between the film and the hull. It allows your paint or wood finish to breathe and keeps the film out of direct contact with the hull, reducing the chance of chafing.
Storing your boat indoors has several benefits, many of which come with a hefty price. On the other hand, outdoor storage can be affordable and convenient but might offer less protection from the elements. Consider your own circumstances and needs to determine which option works best for you, and you’ll be able to keep your yacht safe until boating season rolls around again.