Mailboat Letters

Avoiding Winter Gotchas

I enjoy reading your articles and generally agree with what is written, but your advice indicating that tarps are not an effective way to protect your boat during winter storage has a few holes in it (pun intended). I do agree that, when properly vented, shrinkwrapping is the best way to protect your boat, but it is also pricey. I have been "tarping" my boats for over 25 years and save at least $200 per year, but there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to do it.

Photo of frame for boat tarp

First you need to build a quality frame (I use PVC electrical conduit pipe for my ribs and strapping for the center ridge — photo above) and connect them with electrical tape. Then you need to pad any sharp corners that may create a friction point — old carpet is great for this. Next I use two tarps, one old and one newer. Extra heavy duty (12mm) is key — blue tarps bought from your local hardware store will not work. The old one goes on first and helps protect the outer tarp. At some point the new tarp becomes the old. I purchase a new tarp every two or three years, which runs me about $100. It is important to tie the tarp down tightly and it may need to be adjusted over time. A ball or an old wadded-up rag can be used to give you a super strong tie-down point if needed.

I vent my 24-foot powerboat by leaving the stern open behind the outboard (like an A-frame tent), which gives me easy access and is far back enough to avoid water entering the hull. In the bow I use a section of flexible landscaping drainage pipe to create an airflow. My boat is stored near the water and has been exposed to many winter northeasters with gusts up to 90 mph and snowfalls of over two feet at a time. The technique has never failed me.

Is it more work? Definitely. Does it work? Without a doubt, and over the years it has saved me thousands of dollars.



Thanks for the article on mast winterizing in Seaworthy. And many thanks to the link for I have a Beneteau 373 in fresh water since day one here in Arkansas and will be checking my mast drain capability immediately. Corrosion is not an issue, but we do have dirt dauber wasps, so dirt plugging the drain holes is a real possibility. I will also share this with other owners of in-mast furling boats here.


Real World Anchoring

Seaworthy's recent article on anchor testing leaves out major essentials. First, experienced voyagers know that a long chain rode is the critical component of any anchor arrangement. Not only does the rode catenary absorb most of the wave-induced "shock load" but ensures that the force upon the anchor is nearly horizontal, save in storm conditions. Testing with just a short piece of chain has little useful information. Second, the ability of Danforth-style anchors in sand/mud was amply demonstrated during the War in the Pacific when 33-pounders were thrown overboard to stop landing craft from running full bore to the beach. But, and it's a big but, those Danforths were made of forged steel. Modern copies typically made of aluminum/alloys all too readily bend under load. We have a nicely bent 55-lb. Fortress to illustrate the point. Third, the experience of long-distance cruisers is that suitably heavy anchors plus ample chain rodes, plus proof-tested shackles are the key ingredients of a dependable anchor system — not the specific type of anchor.



Your article on the anchor testing is very interesting, especially since it kind of flies in the face of many other tests that have been done. There are two questions that it suggests to me:

1. In the case of the Fortress, is there a logical explanation for the tremendous variability in the anchoring strengths? My motto has always been that "good enough all of the time is better than excellent most of the time." I don't want to drop it and wonder if this is the time that it will perform poorly in a bottom that it was previously fine in.

2. It seems to me that keeping a constant scope and moving the boat is more realistic than holding the boat still and constantly changing the scope angle by reeling in the anchor. Was there some reason to do it this way? There will always be inconsistencies in the bottom as the anchor drags through it, but doing it this way puts two variables in the testing simultaneously, which seems like poor science to me.

What I think most of the larger boat owners are interested in is testing that would show what might be the best all-around anchor for all bottom types.


Editor: The testers would have loved to have seen what was happening on the bottom with each anchor, but since we could not, we are left guessing. In the case of the Fortress, it may have landed upside down. With the flukes set, it would have skimmed over the bottom "on its back" and the flukes would never have engaged. But it may also have found a particularly soft patch of mud where it could get no purchase, or gotten shells caught in the flukes so they could not grab. It all just goes to show the unpredictability of anchoring and to underline the need to make sure the anchor is set every single time you drop it.

As far as the testing protocol of pulling the anchor to the boat, the testers chose their method so that they could monitor the anchor's holding power at various scopes in a short period of time. Even though the data is for a very specific kind of test in a specific kind of bottom, the tests took several days and consumed a huge amount of human and monetary resources. To determine the best all-around anchor for all bottom types would mean testing a large group of anchors in many different locations because most areas tend to have one bottom type. The Seaworthy editors would be happy to volunteer to test the anchors in fine Caribbean sand!

Still More Light

Having read the latest round of Dan Rutherford's article and mail response, I would like to clarify a term misused and not clearly understood by many. "COLREGS" are the "International Rules for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea," sometimes called the "72 COLREGS." Thus they apply to waters outside the lines of demarcation. The rules Dan cited in several of his comments are called the Inland Navigation Rules Act of 1980. These rules apply to the navigable waters of the United States — those navigable waters INSIDE the lines of demarcation. Those waters may include lakes that cross borders between two states — otherwise state rules apply. Generally, most states use the Inland Rules as a basis for their statutes, but may add other rules. Many of these rules are identical but not all. For example, the term "Vessel Constrained by Draft" ONLY exists under the International Rules or COLREGS. "Privileged" and "burdened" are no longer used, because the term "privileged" gave mariners the idea that they had right-of-way privilege under conditions that are properly deemed to be "stand on" situations. Right of way exists ONLY for downbound, power-driven vessels with a following current, on the Great Lakes, Western Rivers, and other specified waters. Regardless, even a vessel that is stand-on must do everything in its power to "avoid the risk of a collision," not necessarily the collision itself.



Editor: We thank all of our readers for the many comments on "Light Up The Night" from the July issue. That article was not first and foremost meant to cover the nav rules, but rather to focus on the importance of navigation lights for nighttime safety. Clearly this has sparked a much larger discussion, and we intend to follow up with an article on the navigation rules later this year.

Safe Fuel Filling

In the October issue of "Small Stuff", there is an article about Seaworthy reader Cort Schult watching his neighbor put gas into his boat using a five-gallon plastic fuel jug and a plastic funnel. The article states "three things to avoid: not grounding the fuel jug on the funnel ..." The use of a double negative leaves me confused: Should you not ground the fuel jug on the funnel or should you ground the jug on the funnel when fueling?


Editor: Sorry for the ambiguity. Yes, you should have the fuel jug in contact with the plastic funnel to prevent a spark from leaping between the jug and the funnel, and igniting the gasoline.


Would grounding a plastic fuel jug to a plastic funnel really make any difference? How about putting the key to the gas cap on the same key chain as the ignition key? That way you cannot open the gas fill pipe without removing the ignition key from the switch.


Editor: Static charges can build up on either surface, but if they are touching, there's no chance for a spark to jump. Fuel fills on boats are required to be grounded, so there can't be any buildup of static on the fill side. Keeping a fuel nozzle in contact with a funnel in the fuel fill or with the fuel fill itself eliminates any possibility of static charge building because it would simply go to ground. If your boat has a lockable gas cap, keeping the key attached to the ignition key is a great idea to prevent the engine from being started while the fill is open. 

— Published: January 2015

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