From disaster comes education >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News

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As the keelboats are stored for the winter in northern latitudes, David Evans reflects on lessons learned from his base in the UK.


In 1984 I had a Stephen Jones designed Hustler SJ30 (beautiful boat) and it was stored ashore for the last part of the winter, as we had decommissioned it after Christmas. It was solid with the platform in place, outside the normal (sheltered) winter storage area and in a fairly exposed part of the yard.

In early March I blew up the slurry from the bottom and one Friday I intended to start painting it but it was an appalling day with wind and rain so I gracefully retired to the Yacht Club bar! In the early afternoon, the court came to get me with news that it had blown out of the cradle.

They had recorded a gust of 100 mph, during which the hull generated aerodynamic lift and lifted and rotated in the cradle, then fell and turned to port. But coincidentally, the Yard was using a Renner hoist and had it parked next to my boat for their lunch break. The boat had fallen against the winch and hit a big three inch wide bolt head on the winch with its tops, and it punched a hole in the tops that the boat was hanging on!

After a lot of hassle with the jacks and banks, they managed to get the winch out and put it back in the cradle! The only damage was that three inch hole, and the following weekend everything was fixed, but if the winch hadn’t been there it would have been written off! Since then, this yard has always insisted that the keels be wedged laterally in the cradle on all boats, with or without the mast raised!

Personally I went a little further on my Hustler SJ32 as I have my keel propped sideways, but I also have four heavy duty straps with turnbuckles that clip into my alloy guard rail and then clip into the cradle at the widest point! I stretch them as hard as they will fit over my super wide base cradle and have never had a problem with moving or lifting it even during the St Jude storm (about 4-5 years ago) when we had gusts of 120mph with the mast up!

I have a really nice cobalt nickel rig and I don’t want the yards to roll them up and bend them so my mast stays in place and with a keel mast, mast drain and low level heater all the way through. winter, I have no problem with frost.

By the way, in Scandinavia they rarely use cradles; they park their boats ashore and plant the keel in the center of large wooden or steel crosses, then use the same straps as me, attaching one to the bow, one in the center of the stern, and one on each side. The boat is held securely like this, with no hard points the hull can sit on (many leave their rigs raised) and they seem to have no problem using this method.


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