Girding for the Silent Season
When your boat’s your home, winter comes early, so button things up and enjoy.
During a period of extreme cold in the Arctic, four out of four of my stainless-steel knives shattered like glass. Fortunately, I’d loosened the standing rigging just enough to allow for contraction, which is what did my knives in, and to lessen the high-pitched vibration caused by the incessant winter gales.
Because of the increased smog and soot associated with winter, we strike and stow all sails to protect them. I’ve seen several boats with their jib and in-mast roller-furlers wrapped in plastic and taped to keep winter grit out of the delicate mechanisms.
I leave our dodger up in spite of the wear because it helps keep the main hatch clear of snow, and the clear plastic, when folded, is prone to cracking in the extreme cold. I collapse and cover the bimini, though, and lash that bundle to the aft rail.
Seldom have I seen a tarp not specifically designed to conform to the shapes and fastening points of a yacht last through even the first gale, much less an entire winter. All coverings must be strong and taut and present low profiles to winter winds.
I tie a knot in the external end of the halyards and run the knots up to the masthead to prevent the incessant clanging in the stiff breeze. As I have mast steps, these are simple to retrieve, but for those boats without steps, send a thin messenger line up with the halyards for easy retrieval in the spring.
Spade and keel-hung rudders usually lay deep enough to avoid problems with all but the thickest of pack ice. However, Roger Henry has a transom-hung rudder that’s exposed to any mischievous bit of ice that happens by. I firmly lash the tiller in place to prevent any movement of the rudder. To ensure that the rudder can’t be lifted off, I’ve installed especially thick retainer pins in the pintles.
If you anticipate substantial ice thickness, pull and plug your paddle-wheel speed transducers, if the model allows this. Self-steering servo rudders should be flipped up or removed.
Due to cooking, heating, and even just breathing down below, warm, moist air constantly comes into contact with cold surfaces. This results in an alarming amount of condensation. Diana glazes all but one of the portholes and deadlights with an insulating layer of heavy plastic, which allows welcome sunlight in but minimizes condensation. Nevertheless, she packs our clothing, extra bedding, and all small electronic devices into heavy-duty resealable bags.
She leaves the small galley hatch unglazed so that she can open it to vent the cabin when we’re cooking. This cuts down on condensation and the buildup of odors in a confined space, but more important, it ensures that an adequate supply of fresh air is pulled below. This is critical because our main hatch is designed to be so watertight as to be nearly airtight.