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As featured in Pontoon & Deck Boat Magazine September 2007. This is an abridged extract from an article describing various dry boat storage options.

Summer is almost over. It hurts to say that, but it's true, so you might as well embrace it. The bright colors, the cooler temperatures and the gluttonous holidays are right around the corner, but that also means that the time is now to start thinking about where you're going to store your investment from nasty weather and invasive varmints.

September is the best time to start. While you still have plenty of nice days left to play on the lake, you've got enough time to make arrangements before the pleasant days of fall go south along with the birds.

Most people still use the traditional method of outdoor storage, but that's mainly due to cost. Sure, you can keep a close eye on it if it's on your property, and you can work on it anytime the weather is cooperative (though if you're from my neck of the woods, that's not much). However, if you live in a neighborhood where the homeowners association or zoning forbids a large boat from being stored on residential lots, you'll have to look elsewhere. Besides, the elements will take their toll.

If in the budget, it would be a wise decision to look into a nearby rack storage facility, commonly referred to as dry-stack storage. Boats are stacked on top of each other on cradles similar to your boat trailer, inside large three or four walled storage buildings.

One such facility is Garrett's Marina Boat Storage / Harborside Storage at Garrett's Marina, located in Bowlers Wharf, Va. Rick Garrett, one of the owners of the family-run business, says his family took over the business nine years ago. It didn't take long for the family to tear down the old storage facilities and build new buildings for dry-stack storage.

Garrett says there are two big reasons people are going with dry-stack. The first reason is convenience. Customers don't just use the facilities for winter storage—they also store their boats in between summer outings. The storage facility does all the work in loading and unloading the boats, so you can go ahead and put your trailer away!

"You come back in [from the water], get your gear, get in the car and go. It maximizes your time in the water."

The second reason is protection— both from thieves and the elements. While many older storage facilities have three-walled buildings—what Garrett likes to call "semi-enclosed"—his facilities are totally enclosed. The buildings are shut and locked every night, making them free from winter's harsh poundings or summer's piercing ultraviolet light.

And it comes with all the benefits of dry storage: boats don't accumulate marine growth or oily water in bilges, and they're less likely to develop blisters from water soaking into the laminate below the waterline. Oh yeah, and they tend to not sink when they're stored out of water. Inside a closed storage facility, boats stay looking new for much longer, you don't have to worry about your boat's stereo suddenly disappearing and birds have to find someone else's boat to nest in.

Garrett says more and more facilities are using totally enclosed storage buildings, especially in coastal areas.

"It's a good thing all around," he says. "Once we get people to try it, they usually don't want to see their trailer again. They get spoiled."

At Harborside Storage, rates start at $160 a month for a boat up to 20 feet long or rates can be paid on an annual basis. Garrett has found most customers go with annual payment.

The demand for dry-stack storage has risen so much in recent years that they've added new buildings to accommodate. Only skyrocketing gas prices over the last two years have put the kibosh on growth. Even so, the facility could only accommodate 90 boats in dry-storage when the family took over nine years ago, but now there's room for 320 boats total in dry-storage.

One downside to dry-stack storage is that boat owners can't work on the boat during the winter; however, some storage facilities, like Harborside, have provided a way around that. If you call Harborside in advance, they'll move your boat to an outdoor ground rack building provided with heat, electricity and running water. That means you can conveniently work on your boat and do it without freezing and fighting the cold!

"We don't charge extra. Some places do, but we don't," explains Garrett.

On the day you finally accept that depressing, soul-draining fact that there are no more days left to boat until springtime, it helps both you and the marina if that day is a weekday, not a weekend. Because most boaters are taking their pride and joys in on Saturdays and Sundays, the yard has too many to handle at once. For their convenience, make sure the boat actually is ready for storage: spaces in the boat, such as the engine, which the yard crew need to access, should be accessible, not cluttered over with fishing gear or life jackets.

Indoor storage is the best place to store your boat in the long run. Even so, this can feel pricey for the monthly or yearly budget. If indoor storage isn't feasible, and if you don't need to work on it during the winter, the most effective way to keep critters and winter's wrath out of the boat is to shrink-wrap it.

Wherever you store your boat, make sure that when spring rolls around, you embrace that too.
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Garrett's Marina Boat Storage / Harborside Storage on the Rapppahannock River and Chesapeake Bay at Buoy 19
402 Catchpenny Lane  •  Bowlers Wharf  •  Virginia  •  22560  •  804-443-0190  •  fax: 804-443-0179  •  email: info@harborsidestorage.com
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