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Creating a winter work space

Storing a boat for the wintertime always has its hazards. We elected to build a "cathedral" with a durable fiber cover that we erect every winter. While one set of stays has to be disconnected and some water always manages to trickle down the mast, we have been very happy with this arrangement. The cathedral lets light in, protects the topsides from snow and other weather, and it provides a great (if cold) work-space.

Prout Escale catamaran with winter cover

So when the time comes to put her into the water we start with something like this. Note the cut-outs for the anchor and the custom shape of the cloth draping over the catamaran. There is a zipper in the middle that allows us to open the main flaps front and rear so working in the summertime doesn't tend to be too oppressively hot. This is her new cradle with yellow "guiding" rails and three times as much wood and steel as the old one.

Prout Escale catamaran with cover removed Here you can see the rib system that supports the winter canvas. Some of the axial interconnects have already been removed. All the fasteners used in this structure are screws, so it can be taken apart with relative ease (as long as you have cordless screwdrivers). As the wood wears (6+ years of use later, we may replace the screws with bolts, using the older ribs as templates.

When the V-shaped ribs are to be removed, we support the "keel" above with a halyard. We start in the bow area, moving from front to the mast. We then repeat the process in the back until the time comes to remove the "keel" boards and the support around the mast. Two sets of stays have been disconnected all winter - the baby backstays as well as the stays that run to the lower spreaders. The lifelines have also been removed.

Note how each rib is custom-fit to match the hull width. The spinnaker pole can be seen sitting on a bunch of horizontal frames. Removing the rear ribs is more difficult because the remaining stays and stanchions easily get in the way. Thankfully we had 8 people this year so the whole process took less than an hour. Naturally, these valiant efforts had to be rewarded with a tasty lunch in Cundy's harbor.

Taking a winter storage rib apart
Here is a rib on the ground. The whole rig is numbered to ease assembly.

Prout Escale Catamaran Ribs in storage
This is all that is left of the ribs once they have been taken apart... pretty neat package.

Prout Escale catamaran being pushed into water

Here is a front view of the boat as we prepare to push it down the ramp. The boat is stored on the launching ramp during the wintertime and a large insect like crawler pulls it initially into the center of the ramp. Then another piece of construction equipment with a long extension pushes the boat (frame and all) into the harbor (see below). This frame broke so the yard has built us a much stronger one (see below). The only downside to the winter storage location on the ramp is that everything is at an angle... thus repairing items that require level installation is tricky or have to wait until the boat has been launched.

The nacelle in the center offers a lot of positive flotation and also holds our engine and diesel further back. The two keels have small crash compartments front and back and also hold the fresh water supply.

Current Prout Escale catamaran cradle

This is the new cradle in its summer storage location. Note the bright yellow timbers which help guide the boat into the proper location. The rusty iron I-beams allow the assembly to stay underwater.