Experts’ Forum – Why Using a Drystack Could Be For You

Drystack serviceWe’re delighted to see Colin Richardson, our General Manager, has an article published in the All At Sea Experts’ Forum. Each month, All At Sea invites a leading marine industry expert to share their opinion together with their top tips to help you get the most from your boating:

We have all seen it. The end of a long day afloat, the family on a busy public slipway, road-trailer dunked in the water, with a cross tide. It is not going well and someone is going to get wet. They probably started their day wet too. Add some kids, beach toys and a dog into the equation and the fireworks are sparking.  It is not fun, ruins a good day and can be costly in burnt-out clutches and seized up brake pads too. Fortunately, now there are some far more convenient, time-saving ways of storing and launching your RIB or powerboat, such as using a Drystack service.

The concept of storing boats in racks is not entirely new. Many people are familiar with storing their tender or Optimist dinghy in a scaffolding based rack in a boat park. However, the idea of stacking sizeable powerboats and RIBS in four to six tiers of racking, up to 6oft high off the ground, is less well known. Boat storage in a ‘drystack’ is a concept that has migrated over from America and is increasingly being adopted by British boat storage facilities. In principle, a drystack is a large, industrial scale racking system, where the boats are lifted into their storage slot by giant forklift trucks. Whenever the owner needs the boat launched the forklift driver picks the boat up and lowers it into the water. It is a highly efficient, space-saving way to store multiple boats ranging between 12-43ft, which does not use acres of land.

For the boat owner there are a host of advantages, in addition to a peaceful family life. With many people trying to pack numerous activities into busy schedules, the convenience factor of a drystack is considerable. Having your boat launched and recovered for you saves precious time, allowing you to maximise your time spent out on the water and not in a slipway queue.  It removes the stress of having to get back in time to catch the tide on a slipway or marina sill. There is no tender to row ashore or road trailer to collect from a car park either. You simply come back to the drystack, moor your boat and walk away, leaving it to be lifted, washed and stored for you. Normally, boat launching is booked at the swipe of a screen. Some operators need 24 hours’ notice or more, whilst others are more flexible enabling you to go afloat at short notice.

At the Trafalgar Drystack, during the pandemic, notice time was increased from one hour to three hours, simply to allow for Covid secure measures and cleaning. Bookings come in direct to the lift drivers’ screens and they handle all launches in priority order.

Compared to being on a swinging mooring buoy or marina berth, when your boat is not being used it is out of the water. This reduces general wear and tear and degradation from UV light and saltwater on engines, hulls and equipment, plus reduces issues such as osmosis. Whilst most modem outboard and inboard engines are significantly better than in the past, it also helps reduce
marine pollution. If something is going to leak or drip, at least it will not be directly into the ocean. In addition, there is no need to apply any antifouling to the hull, saving you time and money. It is far kinder to the marine environment too, with no additional chemicals attached to the outside of your boat. A clean, smooth hull is a faster, more efficient hull, which increases fuel efficiency, reduces the cost and the amount of fuel you need to consume.

Increased security is another significant consideration. Engine theft and even boat theft sadly, is a factor, and outboards left on a mooring or a road trailer in a quiet shoreside boat park can
be vulnerable.  The very nature of drystack racks makes the boats accessible only by the fork lift itself.  The boats are literally “high and dry” out of the water and free from interference. There are, of course, different types. Many are open air boat racks, which mean your boat will need a cover to protect it from the elements, UV and air pollution. By definition, whilst your boat is dry from saltwater with the British climate it will never be totally dry. Other stacks may have just a roof or roof and a single sidewall offering limited protection. However, the only really “dry” drystack will be a fully indoor stack. The reduced wear and tear from an indoor type can considerably add to the resale value of owners’ boats. The Trafalgar Drystack is housed inside the vast former Vosper Thomycroft boatshed at the top of Portsmouth Harbour. It has expanded since 2008 to fill the entire building and now has capacity for more than 400 boats.

Location – factor in the time spent in your car to reach your boat. It is generally more fun to be heading down the channel in your boat than queuing in traffic on a busy single lane road trying to get there.

Launch frequency – always study the contract you take out. A package that includes unlimited launches gives you ultimate flexibility to use your boat whenever you want without any additional surcharges.

Guaranteed launching – it can be very frustrating if your boat is stuck ashore on a sunny day because the operator has mechanical issues with their forklift. To ensure this never happens Trafalgar
Drystack operates three Wiggins forklifts named Emma, Fanny and Little Lucy. The third lift is held in reserve in case of a breakdown, so launching can always continue.

Easy maintenance – make sure you can easily access your boat if you need to do maintenance. At Trafalgar Drystack bookable maintenance racks are free to customers and lift outs to the racks are all included.

Boat support – racking systems vary by operator. The more sophisticated drystack operations enable the chocks and support to be adapted to exactly fit your particular make and model of boat, avoiding any high pressure points on the hull.

Extra services – operators may also offer a variety of services including refuelling, boat washing, full valeting and even a full picnic hamper. Some of these may be included in your package.

This article first appeared in All At Sea in December 2020.

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