Preparing a boat for long term storage in the tropics

We’ve left Temptress before for long periods however laying up ashore in the tropics is a very different proposition to leaving a boat in it’s marina berth in the UK for a few months. High humidity and temperatures mean mildew, moulds and UV deterioration are a very real threat as are infestations of termites, cockroaches or other pests attracted by any food residues left inside the boat. So not only must we pack up the belongings we think we might need over the coming months (tempered by our 2 x 40kg baggage allowance) but also Temptress must be spring cleaned inside and out so that as little salt, crumbs and dust as possible remains to hold the damp and thence attract the mildew.

Just as in the UK everything below decks must be left so that air can circulate around; upholstery and mattresses, lockers, doors and drawers have to be propped up or open. And, as there is still a very real risk of hurricanes until mid November sails and canvas work has to be removed, rinsed with fresh water if possible, dried and stored below deck. A yacht gardiennage company Island Dream Yacht Services will look after Temptress for us, checking her over once a fortnight and ensuring that the battery charge is still being kept up by the solar panels. They have provided a lengthy list of things we need to do in order to prepare our home for a hot sticky spell on the hard including such advice as taping something permeable over the hole where the log  fits – any rain ingress to the hull has somewhere to drain out but equally rodents and insects can’t gain access via the same hole. The company will also remove the tarpaulins that will help protect the decks from the fierce sunlight and the rain if a storm is forecast. In addition to laying up the boat we have tasks like packing to ensure we take with us whatever we might need over the coming months; winter clothes, summer clothes, work clothes, gadgets and chargers, paperwork and driving licences.

The list is endless and just as you think you can cross off a task you think of another one; all perishable food stuffs must be got rid of – we have donated many of our unopened packs of lentils, pasta, flour and nibbles to other cruisers, all the tins and jars have had their best before dates checked, their bilge storage boxes wiped clean and contents repacked.  The galley stock will be thrown away, the many plastic or glass containers washed before we haul out on Tuesday morning. Even the galley rug has been washed and dried. Elsewhere bookshelves need thinning out so that they are not jammed against the hull potentially trapping condensation – a crate under the saloon table has taken one shelf load so once cleaned and dried that shelf can take half the books from the opposite one.

The removal of a galley drawer to retrieve something that had slipped down behind revealed another dust mecca – it was added to the list of things to do as was the chart table “pocket” usually a dumping ground for small items like keys and padlocks, a hand bearing compass and the ships pencil case in addition to the VHF. This rarely dusted “hidey hole” revealed a treasure trove of fuse holders, screws, washers and more oddments lurking in its depths; most now have been filed away correctly with their chums.

On deck lockers are gradually being emptied and cleaned, the freshly scrubbed and deflated dinghy had to fit in one of the big cockpit lockers meaning the usual contents – warps, fenders etc- will have to shuffle to new homes. For now they are occupying the cockpit floor and seats whilst they dry. At the end of each downpour we hasten to spread warps and seaboots in the sun to continue the drying process. Sails, bimini, sprayhood and the new dodger need to be stowed down in the guest cabin. The anchor locker has to be emptied and cleaned out, a good opportunity to re-mark the chain – we’ll do this once ashore.

In a small space the logistics are akin to a crazy 3D sliding puzzle – bags we need to pack for travelling were being used for storing items like oilies, our dirty laundry and a duvet currently not in use. To hang up the oilies in the aft head which also doubles as a wet locker (ie the place to hang the oilies), the head had to have a final thorough clean. To sort out tinned food required the retrieval of a crate of remaining ocean passage supplies buried under more frequently used boxes in the storage cabin. Everything was then merged into the bilge stores with the exception of a few tins that now occupy the crate under the saloon table that had been home to packets of lentils and dried beans since we left Lanzarote, the latter having been gifted to cruising friends. Whilst we were at it we made an inventory of our remaining stores so when we next need to know how many tins of corned beef or baked beans are on board there will be a list to refer to. And there are lots of lists as we think of things still to be done or must take items like those pesky bank security code generators,a purse of sterling notes (all £15.80 something but it will purchase us a meal at Gatwick should we need it) and our driving licences.

Each task seems to turn some or all of the boat upside down. The cockpit is full of damp warps which have yet to dry thoroughly due to the frequent downpours. Cabin floors are now home to stuff that was stored on bunks or in lockers. The saloon table, a mess of lists of things to do.

Some tasks cannot be undertaken until we are out of the water. The fenders and some of the warps are currently in use so can’t be rinsed down with fresh water. Matthew from Prickly Bay Marina will “winterise” the engine for us ensuring freshwater rather than salt fills the raw water side of the engine cooling system. Mark from Island Dreams needs to know where to find the batteries and battery switches as well as review with us the state of his new charge. Roach traps and buckets of dehumidifying crystals will be set up just prior to us flying out. And we are still sitting on the saloon cushions so can’t stack them so as to permit an airflow round them. Likewise defrosting the fridge and the last of the laundry will have to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday.

Behind all of our preparations the crew are in a state of mixed emotions, sadness at leaving our home, grief at the death of Kevin’s father and a low key anticipation of a potential future in Singapore together with trepidation at the chore of relocation to somewhere as yet unknown.


  1. Oh my word. So sorry to hear about Kevin's father, and all the more difficult because you are so far away. The journey you are about to make, both into the known, and unknown, will be challenging and yet I hope in one way will be cathartic. Intrigued by ventures new and 'dream job' and why this means Singapore first before being relocated – geographically this could mean where? The work involved in storing Temptress in an overseas climate makes for exhausting reading! I was en route to the garden over half an hour ago when I saw this post and decided to read it. Now I need a lie down. 🙂 Whatever about your mixed emotions, you are both doing extraordinarily well in being able to focus on what needs doing immediately and all you can do beyond that is take one step at a time. You are well used to moving, and rising to new challenges, so I know you will both cope well with and perhaps love the next stage even if as yet it is unknown or unchartered territory. Interesting times. Wishing you all the very best, good luck with this next leg of the journey, and look forward to hearing more about the job which is luring you both to the other side of the world. Take care, safe travels, and big hugs to you both. xxx Sheila


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