PS Advisor April 2019 Issue

Leaving Your Boat in a Foreign Port

A high percentage of cruisers we meet each year plan on leaving their boats in a safe place and flying home, often once a year. If youíre leaving your boat for less than four weeks, it may be most convenient to leave it in the water, providing you can find a secure marina slip or mooring. For longer periods of time, it may be cost effective and attractive to combine dry storage in a secure boat yard with your annual haul out. Weíve left Mahina Tiare 1, II & III on the hard or in the water in Portugal, the Azores, Sweden, Panama, Chile, Hawaii, Canada and New Zealand and over the past 35 years and have learned quite a bit about the process, from choosing a place to keep the boat.

Photo by John Neal

When choosing a marina for haulout, you donít want to be the biggest boat the yard has ever hauled.

The first place to start when deciding to leave your boat in a foreign port is to do your homework. The website Noonsite ( provides valuable links to boatyards and marinas. Also, Seven Seas Cruising Association ( bulletins frequently publish letters detailing memberís experiences with leaving their boats in various countries. Next, go straight to the source and ask local sailors or other cruisers for their recommendations, and if possible, visit the yards and marinas to talk with the operators.

When looking for a marina to leave your boat, one of the main criteria to meet is for a well-managed and operated front office. The quality of the folks operating the place is going to make you feel a lot better about leaving your boat in a foreign port for an extended period. Also, check to see if gates for marina piers lock and ask if there are security guards or cameras.

If you choose to leave your boat on the hard in a boatyard, again, look for a well-managed office and also a yard with a paved, fenced and guarded storage compound. Ensure that Travelift or cradles are adequate for a boat of your size, and that the cables and straps are regularly inspected and periodically replaced. If possible, try to leave your boat in a steel cradle with adjustable arms rather than on screw jacks or 44-gallon drums with wedges. Always inquire about the yardís insurance policy. Does it cover damage to your boat if they drop it, run into it, or if it blows over while in the yard?

If you are leaving the boat in a foreign port for an extended period of time it may work out well to leave a list of jobs to be done with the yard or associated workmen, so inquire about nearby yacht services including sail, engine and rigging repair. If they can then work on your boat in a quiet time, rather than it becoming rush job upon your return, and theyíll appreciate the business. Contact the yard a month before your return to make sure the jobs are being completed. And lastly, ask when the busiest season and holidays occur.

Many yards and services are stretched to the max around these times. In our experience, donít try to get anything achieved in European boatyards during the month of August or in New Zealand or Australia two weeks before Christmas and until a week after the New Year.

Stay tuned for a future article describing in more detail the items to take care of when carrying out the decommissioning and commissioning process.

John Neal and his wife Amanda Swan Neal are partners in Mahina Expeditions ( sail training program. Together they have over 600,000 miles combined ocean sailing experience.

Comments (1)

Great advice but not always possible in a "developing country." That is when one needs to supervise, monitor and even engineer the operation. Either that or cancel out and settle for an in-water solution. Costa Rican Yacht Club; Punta Arenas 2007. Haul out slip dries at 1/4 tide, only 9 ft depth at high tide. Travel lift too small to handle a beam of 12 ft. Lift capability about 25K. Yacht is a Beneteau 440: Needed wooden blocks to spread the slings so they did not take out stanchions. Once lifted, max height provided about three or four inches ground clearance. Props? Wooden posts with 5 ply pads. Survived a major storm splash was done without damage. A bit of luck here and there!! Travel ;lift blew a tire splashing the next yacht with predicable results: yacht became a free standing paper. weight! Oh yes, our 45 lb CQR was stolen. We had two spare 33 lb Bruce but the yard kindly provided a free replacement; a Delta 44 lb which we got rid of as soon as we could get another 45 lb CQR. Very much a do it yourself operation. We had lots of experience resulting from a circumnavigation so we were able to make it work. Still, I almost aborted when we had trouble finding blocks big enough to spread the travel lift slings,

Posted by: ARGONAUTA I | April 2, 2019 2:47 PM    Report this comment

New to Practical Sailor?
Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In