Saying goodbye to Nine of Cups, even for a couple of months, is always difficult. She looks so forlorn, sitting high and dry, as we leave. We'll try to make it up to her with some new paint on her topsides and new varnish on her brightwork when we return, but in the meantime, she's clearly unhappy.
There are always a number of things that must be done to prep her for an extended stay on the hard. In some climates, like the cool days of Tasmania or the hot dry days of South Australia, the list isn't all that long. When we are leaving her in a hot, tropical climate like Trinidad or Panama, however, there are a number of other things that should be done to prevent an outbreak of mold or an infestation by the local critters.
We have a checklist (yet another of David's @*%* checklists!) of things to do before leaving Cups for any length of time on the hard. We've never left her in a place that was likely to drop below freezing, so our list doesn't contemplate prepping her for the cold, but it does address the additional things that should be done when leaving her in the tropics. We thought it was pretty complete until we made a new friend here in Trinidad who is the real expert on the subject. Frederick VerPlanck, aka Fast Fred, has been spending part of each year in Trinidad for longer than we've been sailing. He's put together a much more comprehensive list, and I added several things to our list after reading his. Here are the highlights of what we do.
Heads. The heads will really stink if left for more than a few days with seawater in the intake hose or pump. I drain the intake line to the head, then pump fresh water mixed with a little mineral or vegetable oil through the system. Then I fill the bowl with fresh water mixed with a few teaspoons of bleach and seal the top of the bowl with plastic wrap to keep it from evaporating.
Bilge. The only time our bilge high water alarm has ever gone off was when we were on the hard in Uruguay. We had shut off the automatic bilge pump, and enough rain water made its way into the bilge to slowly fill it up. Now I remove the water speed transducer, which is located low in the bilge. Any rain water that collects in the bilge will run out of this thru-hull before it gets deep enough to set off the high water alarm. The same thing could be accomplished by removing the hose from a thru-hull and leaving the valve open. I leave a big note on the saloon table to remind myself to replace the transducer before we splash.
Dehumidifier. We rent a dehumidifier to keep the interior humidity low, which helps prevent mold from growing. We saw a boat in Panama that was left for a few months without one, and the walls and header were coated with black mold when the owners returned – nobody's image of a warm homecoming. We set the dehumidifier over the galley sink, so water from the hose and any drips will go down the sink drain. All cabinet doors and drawers are opened to help dry them out, and we put dryer sheets in all the clothes drawers. Since its operation depends on shore power, we arrange to have someone check on the boat once or twice a week to make sure it is working and that the shore power hasn't been disconnected.
Vermin. Rats, roaches, ants and termites are common in boatyards. We seal or screen every opening we can to make it as difficult as possible for them to find a way below. Since the sink drain and the speed transducer thru-hulls are open, we stuff these with stainless steel scrubbers, which block most vermin, but allow water to drain out. We sprinkle boric acid liberally on counters and the edges of the sole, and make up dozens of roach cookies as treats for any roaches or ants that do make it aboard.
Bees, wasps and birds like to nest in our boom, so we stuff a rag in the end to prevent them from getting in.
Refrigerator. Marcie cleans out the fridge, turns it off and leaves it with the door open. She stores a bowl of baking soda inside.
Food. Any perishable food is removed. Any open containers of food, condiments or staples that could conceivably go bad are given away or dumped. With the boat closed up and the dehumidifier running, it is going to get quite hot inside, so anything that can melt is eaten or removed. (We were forced to eat the last few remaining chocolate bars in the days before our departure from Trinidad).
Power. With the fridge off and most of the DC and AC circuits shut down, the solar panels have no problem keeping the batteries topped up. If anything, they are likely to become overcharged unless a reliable solar power regulator is in place to divert or disconnect the solar output when the batteries are charged.
Propane. We close the tank valves, then open the solenoid valve and burn off any propane in the lines. Then we close the solenoid.
Electronics. If the boat is in an area where the possibility of thunderstorms exists, we disconnect any antennas and power connections. We store handheld electronics in the microwave in the hope it will act as a Faraday cage and protect the circuitry from electromagnetic impulses.
Dinghy and engine. We stow the dinghy on our foredeck and cover it with a tarp. I add a fuel stabilizer to the dinghy fuel and run the engine in freshwater for several minutes to flush it out. Then I shut the gas line off and let it continue to run until the carburetor runs dry.
Flags and halyards. I remove all flags and burgees, and tie off the halyards to prevent them from slapping against the mast or shrouds.
Security. On occasion, we've had a few things go missing from the boat while it was being stored. Now we remove or lock everything on the deck that might find 'legs' in our absence. The hatches are secured and the companionway locked. We leave the combination with the boatyard in case of an emergency.
Fred's list is much more comprehensive, and he has given us permission to distribute it. If you would like a copy, send us an email and we'll happily send it along to you.