Where do Finnish sailing yachts go for winter? I’d love to say they (and we, the people on them!) migrate to warmer climates, but no. We all stay here, try to protect ourselves from oncoming winter as well as we can afford, and then put an optimistic spin on it: quite soon it will be spring again!
Ice Is A-Coming
So, in Finland we get ice every winter. The ice can quite normally be about 30 cm thick (about 12″), so it’s not really a good place to be. Especially for glass-reinforced plastic boats.
A few daredevils, however, do keep their boats in the water over winter. These are very seldom GRP (plastic) boats, though, but boats made out of steel or aluminium. Additionally, they generally try to keep the water from freezing right next to the boat by using different kinds of water circulation systems. (And if they live aboard, they have to have a good heater! Brrrrr!)
While it’s almost a given that the boats come out of the water, what happens then, is a more complicated question. (At least for us it was, and I spent a lot of the fall trying to figure it out!)
Storage On Land
The most economical option is to store the boat on land, in a cradle, out in the open.
Most sailing clubs have some land area set aside for this, and most boatyards offer this service as well. For us, having the boat overwinter at the sailing club would have cost about 600€. Our closest boatyard would have charged about 760€ for the same thing. (Excluding the lifting, washing the bottom, cradle, etc.)
My biggest frustration with storing a boat out in the open is that I would have to construct some sort of roof, to protect it from the elements. Most people do this by putting together a wooden or aluminium frame, and then covering this with some tarp. I’ve never liked to do that! Usually, when it’s time to do it, it’s cold, damp, dark and generally terrible outside. (And, honestly, I’m not very handy when it comes to building stuff, so I rather don’t)
And the tarp isn’t all magic, as the boat will still be partly exposed to the elements, including big temperature changes. Moisture can (and will!) creep into the boat, and when temperatures keep cycling between freezing and not freezing, there will be mould. This is why all cushions, mattresses, and other mould attracting things have to be removed from the boat, as well!
Still, it is very cost effective. If you know what you’re supposed to do, and don’t feel too irritated actually doing it 🙃.
Getting It Inside
The step from outside to inside is quite expensive, but most yards provide two different options here as well. Either go with cold storage, trucking the boat into a warehouse without any heating, or get it into warm storage, where the air is kept above freezing for all winter.
Getting the boat into cold storage has many benefits. Above all, you don’t need to make the tarp construction! 🙌 (See previous section.)
The potential mould problem is still there, though, so the boat has to be emptied of cushions and mattresses. And since temperatures will drop down below freezing, all the systems (water, engine, toilet, etc) have to be winterized. (A fancy way of saying prepared, so that they won’t break when water freezes.)
The cold inside storage, for our boat, would have been about 1800€. For all of the reasons above, we ended up choosing the warm option. The final cost for just the storage was a bit over 3000€.
When adding all the other costs (taking down the mast, removing running rigging, lifting and cleaning the boat, cradle rent, inside storage for mast, warm storage for sails), the final everything-included total was a little shy of 5000€.
It feels like a huge amount of money, to spend for off-season storage.
On the other hand, this is pretty much the market price you have to pay (most quotes were actually more expensive). Also, I’m very happy to have found this particular service provider. It’s worth quite much to know that our lovely Hanse is in good hands for her first winter in Finland.
A few final words about said service provider.
They are called D-Marin, and they operate in Taalintehdas (Dalsbruk in Swedish). This is about an hour’s drive away from where we live.
During my twenty plus years of experience with different marine service providers, I’ll have to say they are absolutely great!
Here in Canada, dry storage in heated shed is very rare. Most boats are keep out of the water on their cradle and fully or partially cover with tarp. Leaving cushion set on their side and good air circulation is good enough. Mold does not grow up when temperature is negative!
Nice to get some perspective from over there. And I think we’re in quite similar climates?
As far as the mold is concerned, maybe the warm storage will help in keeping it more dry inside? Don’t know. Have to research this some more 🙂
Looking at this in conjunction with your blog about costs of ownership, it looks like your winter storage may be one of your biggest annual cost. Like you I was concerned about ensuring that my new boat was well cared for during the Baltic winter, albeit MUCH further south in Greifswald. I planned to keep the boat in an unheated shed however I was too late to book this and there was no room for me. However the crew at Yachtzentrum marina offered an alternative. They recommended storage outside with the mast off (and stored in a shed) and the hull shrink-wrapped to the water-line. I am so glad that I took this option. The boat was put into a shed for two weeks to dry out completely before being shrnk-wrapped. Shrink-wrap was €300 + GST. This brought my 8 month storage costs down to around €1,200 including all crane work and cradle rental. I did strip the mast (removing all stays and spreaders) myself.
This may not be appropiate in Finland, however I can assure you that there was no dampness or mildew inside the boat. As I don’t live anywhere near my boat, everything (clothes, bedding etc) stays aboard during the winter.
Given your exciting plans to get to Norway (something I highly recommend) and the limited use of the boat that you had after your main summer cruise, I am wondering if using a “foreign” port like Greifswald for a winter stay might make some sense? This will mean you don’t need to sail all the way Norway AND back in a single season and it will position you somewhere new to start the following season.
Thank you for this comment as well!
You are right. Cutting down on the winter storage would make a big difference.
The shrink-wrapping is a great idea! (Our Hanse spent its first winter like that, down in Greifswald!). I don’t know why it’s not that commonly used over here, but I will ask our current storage provider.
About Norway and a foreign port– yes, indeed, that is what we’re planning. I hadn’t actually thought about Greifswald, but that’s a really interesting idea. We thought about leaving the boat in Norway, but nothing is decided yet. On the west coast, it could overwinter in the water. That is an exciting prospect as well 🙂