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!