The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

John’s Thoughts & Photos—October #3

  • jhhomd1-111715Boatyard survival tip #1: Take your own ladder.
  • Boatyard survival tip #2: lock it to your boat or cradle.

The easy way to winterize: Vacuum the last of the water out of the tanks and then make a gadget like this to T-off the plumbing to feed antifreeze into the pipe. Saves a bunch of pink stuff too.

Note, if you have foot-valves on the pickups, as we do, vacuum the pickups from the top—forget and you will be replacing said pickups in the spring.


Once a year, whether she needs it or not. Too much cleaning is perverted.


Show me a boat with a dirty greasy oven and I will show you a crew that eat well.


If you tend to be clumsy and messy, like a guy I see every time I shave, there’s no such thing as too many drop cloths.


I don’t get along well with outboards…OK I hate the damned things. That said, they seem to work better for longer if regularly flushed with fresh water.


Problem is that most flushing attachments require a hose and lots of fresh water. This little trick works well. Just make sure the cavitation plate is covered…and don’t put it in gear!

Knee pads, one of the most useful tools on a boat at decommissioning time while grovelling around on the cabin sole, at least for those of us with aging knees. I get them from…you guessed it, McMaster-Carr.


Do you have any cool tricks and tips for laying-up your boat? Please leave a comment.

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Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
Good suggestions.
I would respectfully suggest that the first choice solution is to not winterize at all and cruise full time. The last 2 years have reminded me that winterizing a boat is a PITA and a lot of work with few gratifications. That said one should do it well and your suggestions will help in that goal.
You ask for suggestions: The device I have used for a few years and keep finding new uses for is a 5 liter container rigged to create a vacuum by a top mounted hand pump so liquids can be drawn into it and stored or poured out (not sure, but it likely has a real name). It is impressively clean and easy, quite powerful and fast, and may duplicate the chores that your little Greybeard pump executes.
I use mine for oil changes, tranny oil, coolant, odd spills. Its pick up duplicates work I sometimes used my liquid pick-up feature of my shop-vac for back in the days. There are other uses which just escape me at the moment.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy


I use this device to pick up last bits of water from the bilge. Specially if the bilge has weird shape.


Hi Dick & Taras,

What is the name of the vacuum pump that you’re referring to? I googled “vacuum hand pump” but got a lot of kitchen results.



Dick Stevenson

Hi Bryce,
This is the kind of unit I use:

From the pics, mine is a better design in that it is more compact and easier to stow on a boat. But the idea is there. If searching google, they seem to be advertised for oil removal with a vacuum pump. Sometimes they use the word extractor. There seem to be a number of designs.
My best,

Brian Guck

I use a LiquiVac Oil Extractor for pulling oil and transmission fluid from my Yanmar 2GMF diesel. It also works great on other small motors (Vespa’s, lawnmowers, etc.). Very fast, clean, portable & no power required. You can find them at Northern Tool and lots of other places with a quick Google search.

Marc Dacey

I’ve found the sort of impeller you can put in a drill chuck to be helpful as you can use different hose sizes. I also have cut down squeegee mop heads to wick up moisture from the deeper parts of the bilge, and use those “grippy picker upper” thingies to place dessicant in certain hard to reach places.

Chris Daly

Hi John,
Reading your post on decommissioning makes me feel so lucky to live on the east coast of Australia where we sail all year round. However, I always take away a some useful lessons. Thank you.

Matt Boney

If you get a Wet/Dry vac make sure it has a BLOW function so you can clean fuel lines and other pipes without contaminating the vac pipes.

Peter Pauling

Hi John,

Your post on laying up demonstrates that my wife and I are not alone in our obsessions! But I always said the more work you put in a layup, the fewer problems at sea the following season, and experience has proven me right (well, most of the time…).

I have a little tip on use of aluminium ladders: Ours doubled as a gang plank when moored stern to. Add wheels (as you have) and a couple eye bolts for a hoist, plus a runner of light marine ply between the rails and on top of the rungs, secured to the rungs with light S/S bolts and wingnuts so it can be easily removed when using the ladder in a yard. The ladder needs to be strong enough of course, and not too long, but ours served us nobly for over 5 years and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than those fancy gangways you see at chandlers.

Best regards,

Marc Dacey

Yes, those work well. An alternative, however, is those folding ramps used to put rideable mowers or ATVs into trailers. They can be painted to keep the rust away and folded upright and secured or even stowed below. They have a higher weight capacity than a ladder, and, unlike a ladder, are meant to be walked on horizontally. While “industrial-looking”, I see no reason why they couldn’t be “decked” as you describe, or improved with anti-skid or even a handrail. Very useful for rolling provisions and tools on and off!×2000/411/41156_2000x2000.jpg


I have a collapsing ladder I like since it is easy to store. Not as stiff as others but I have had it for more then 5 years. It’s like this one.

Marc Dacey

I can see putting that on a hinge on my rail as a stern boarding ladder. Thanks!

Dick Stevenson

Hi Marc,
A ladder can work well as a passerelle, especially if wedded to a fender-board which can give a good walking surface and spread the weight across the rungs. I would suggest lashing over a hinge for its ability to be attached at different heights and or directions on your stern or bow in order to accommodate the various wharf heights etc. that you will encounter.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Marc Dacey

Good idea, Dick, and thank you. The benefit of either ladder or ramp is that both are significantly cheaper than a “marine” product and so one can experiment and tinker until the desired functionality is achieved. I need a stern boarding ladder, too: some of these ideas may allow me to use one modified ladder for both passerelle and reboarding ladder.

It’s rare a sailor has a good idea some other sailor hasn’t already invented.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Marc,
My friends who carry a ladder almost always use said ladder in the boatyard, almost always by securing it to their swim/boarding ladder. This saves a world of headaches for those of us who are in a different strange boatyard at the end of a season.
My best, Dick

John S

Like the GreyBeard pumps. Neither appears to be designed for Diesel Fuel transfer. Any ideas?

Marc Dacey

I have a Walbro FRA-1 pump aboard I have yet to install as I seem to have sufficient lift available. But I have some tweaks still to do and I’m sure I’ll find a use for it depending on where the daytank goes.

John S