Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Well, Was the Winter Cover Worth it?

Last November, we spent two weekends and about two-hundred bucks to construct Kwaietek's weather cover. Our intention was to keep the boat dry enough to get a few pressing projects accomplished during the winter months.

Our dock has several live-aboards that opted for a homemade winter cover as well, so we pooled our resources and purchased supplies en masse. It turned out to be a great neighborhood bonding experience.

 Each boat was a little different of course and presented their own particular challenges to wrap. Fortunately, we had some experienced advise from David B's Jeffrey Smith. (He also lent a hand celebrating the completion of our cover installations).

Four months and roughly six robust windstorms later, we assess the shape of our cover and evaluate it's benefits. The PVC framing has held up pretty well. Jeff learned a good lesson for next year: When using the flame torch to heat-shrink the plastic, he'll avoid heating the PVC up next time. Jeff found that after the heat built up inside the cover it compounded the problem as he brushed the torch back and forth near the pipes. By the fourth or fifth pipe, the PVC began to flex and as the plastic shrunk down. We ended up with some pretty severe warps in our structure. (That we'd been so careful to line up initially).

It has been interesting to see how each vessel's unique wrap-job held up throughout the winter. Some had more success than others. Most held up better than the factory-made fabric boat covers. Overall, we are pretty pleased with ours. It quite likely has maybe one more good storm left in it...maybe not even that much, but it has served us well. Jeff has already planned out some modifications for the next cover.

The decks have stayed relatively dry over the course of winter. So much so that we've been able to complete the deckhouse covering-board project that was priority-number-one.

We've been trying to get stanchions  around our lower deckhouse for a number of years, but always run out of time to complete the project during the dry season and never wanted to pay extra day-rates when hauled out to work on the deck project.
The ability to work at a relaxed pace (well, 'relaxed' for us equals ten-hour days on select weekends), has been a huge bonus. We'll have the posts and rails fastened down before we pull the cover in a few weeks.

Covering board ready for stanchions.

Despite the developing leaks and tearing plastic, the work area has remained dry and unexpectedly warm. In fact, so warm that we often found ourselves working in tee shirts in December through February.

The unforeseen benefit of our weather cover has been a toasty warm boat all winter long. We have enjoyed the shirt-sleeve temps during the day and have been kicking the blankets off during nights for several weeks now.

The animals have taken advantage of our greenhouse conditions and are quick to find the optimum spots for sunbathing. We often use the deck area as an extra room on the boat these days. What with the unseasonably warm February and March weather, we have breakfasted on deck and even held a movie-night with our dock-mates last week. Jeff remarked how surreal it was to have eleven people piled cozily up on deck at 9:30PM in early March. (Global warming much)?

Movie night onboard Kwaietek!

The next job to complete is some corking of deck seams. There are two problem areas that have plagued us for the past three years. Both leaks are situated right over Jeff's and Juliet's pillows!
While we have the luxury of working under cover, Jeff is going to reef out and recork the bad areas--perhaps even replacing one plank.
Work began on this project last night. There's no going back now!

We BBQ'd on deck while he was working on the foredeck and learned one negative effect of living under the cover. And, it really is not a small issue. Proper ventilation is a must when you're residing under what is basically a plastic cocoon. As the propane grill heated up and burned off last week's leavings, we noticed the smoke getting pretty thick up forward.
Always the one to dream up worse-case-scenarios, I started to cut holes and flaps to cross ventilate the boat. Eventually our smoke dissipated, but it isn't something to fool around with. The potential for CO or smoke to accumulate is pretty serious in a wrapped boat. We're pretty satisfied with the amount of venting we have now--and we use fans when painting or using fairing compound... anyway, it is something to really think about when deciding whether to erect a plastic cover and live underneath it.

We have also buffed up our safety measures once the cover was installed. There is an emergency knife hanging at every exit as well as the doorway of every stateroom. We amended our evacuation plan to take into consideration the cover and discussed with our daughter how she would escape from the boat if it were on fire or sinking with the cover on it. Next year we will add smoke and carbon monoxide detectors fore and aft on the framework.

All in all, it has been a great advantage to make a winter cover for our boat. The annual expense isn't overwhelming--and with modifications next year, we can keep most of the parts. The energy spent in erecting the cover is not too cumbersome, especially if neighbors all work together on each other's vessels. The safety concerns are real and should be seriously addressed, but if owners are conscientious and responsible, they are manageable.

Jeff is preparing to begin some shipwright projects on another plastic-covered boat. He will post updates and photos on his new website King Fisher Craftsmen .

I for one, am really looking forward to peeling back the cocoon and revealing all the changes that have occurred inside this winter!


1 comment:

  1. I think that you had the good time and some good adventurous things to do and in my opinion I would say that the winter cover that you gave more than worth it.