How Do You Leave the Boat for Months?

Okay, in this blog post I’m really talking about closing down the house here, but the concept is remarkably similar. What do you need to do to take care of the boat before you head off for a while? (And really, the first step is understanding what “for a while” means. We do all of this regularly without even thinking about it. Consider leaving for dinner, or even a weekend away. Yes, leaving for months at a time seems more daunting, but the steps are basically the same!)

Step 1: Make sure the house is standing when we return in the spring. On a boat, the equivalent would be making sure the boat is where you left it. You’ll want to check anchors and chafe gear, or add extra lines if you’re at the dock. Hauled out? Reduce windage, maybe strap down if you’re in an area where that’s advised. Up here, we’re pretty sure the house will be here when we get back but we need to make sure the pipes won’t burst. Part of what Jeremy’s doing involves a lot of plumbing work to drain the pipes and treat them.

A secondary part of this step has to do with security. Do you hire someone to check on the boat? Run a camera? Set up an alarm system? This is all individual as a choice, but it does need to be mentioned.

Step 2: Work to make the house as habitable on your return as you can. Pretty much, this has to do with mold and smells, and bugs and animal invaders. On a boat, the equivalent would be cleaning well, opening cabinets and floor boards for airflow, maybe setting up a dehumidifier or placing a lot of Kanberra gel containers everywhere. You might make sure there are rat guards on any docklines, and that you go through the boat completely looking for small holes a rodent or snake or wasp might be able to get in. Bug traps and Advion gel are highly recommended. For us, we’re cleaning like mad and spending hours under the basement with light blocked out so we can see where there’s daylight (and therefore critter access holes). I’ve got a lot of peppermint oil to spray around the house to deter mice. As this is our second winter with the house, hopefully our efforts will help; the worst part of coming up here in the spring was dealing with the aftermath from the weasel who took up residence in the kitchen cabinets.

Step 3: This is the big one. Deal with food. What you do will depend on how long you’re leaving for, what the temperatures are where you are (and the humidity), and how prone to bugs your area is. Will you be leaving your fridge running? (If you are, there are added steps to make sure it’ll be powered adequately.) There is nothing worse than coming back to the boat to find a forgotten pack of hamburger that’s gone off (see step 2) or a carton of milk that’s split open in a cabinet. Be diligent here. How far you take it is up to you, but a good rule of thumb (if you’re leaving for more than a month, anyway) is to remove any food item that’s not in completely sealed packages. Boxes of pasta don’t count as being totally sealed!

This step, dealing with food, is kind of keeping me up at night. The endless months of super cold temperatures change the equation a bit. We’ve been good about eating up the perishable food, but I was thinking I could leave things like unopened jars of curry sauce and cans of tomatoes. Then I thought about freezing temps and the possibility of expansion, and my decision has changed. It’s all coming back with us. All of it. I’ll leave the oil and vinegar (it’s open, so less liquid) and the spices, but the rest? Into bags and back to Virginia it goes. For next summer, I’ll buy a couple of latchable containers that I can put things like flour and pasta in, but for now, off it goes.

Step 4. Check and double check, then lock up and head off.

I’ll empty the fridges, wipe them down, leave them open. We’ll stack the kayaks in the basement under the porch so they’re out of sight. Jeremy and my brother, Zach, put up the plexiglass panels on the screen porch over the weekend, so it can be used to store things like the deck chairs and table. Booze will be moved to the garage; any beer and wine that are left will make the drive south. All linens will get stored in large sealable containers with some peppermint tea bags to (hopefully) deter mice. The plumbing will get drained and the well pump turned off.

And then we’ll drive south from Averill for the last time in 2019.

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