Boat Safety On Land

Post by: Dee White
29 May 2018

sion roberts / Winter Boat storage

This month I read about a yachtsman who had sadly lost his life in an accident. Was it a collision at sea, was he caught up in a severe storm and capsized, or was he wrecked on dangerous rocks? None of these – he was in fact crushed by his 29ft keelboat which fell on him while he worked on it on dry land at his local yacht club. It was out of the water for maintenance and a few minor repairs. This incident prompted me to consider the dangers of working on a boat when it is not in its natural environment but is supported by stands and blocks.

Whether you do it yourself or not, it is essential to know the proper way to block up a boat for storage or maintenance. Placing a boat on blocks can be dangerous to you and damaging to the boat.

Dos and Don’ts when Blocking Up a Boat

  • Select a firm, level piece of ground on which to block up your boat and regardless of the surface, place stands and blocks on plywood bases to spread the load and prevent the supports from settling. Even asphalt will give way, especially when it gets hot.
  • Invest in boat stands to keep the boat balanced and level. The main weight of the boat will rest on the blocking. Boat stands cost about $75or £54 new and $25 or £18 used. If the stands and blocks are not exactly the same height or aligned properly then the boat could develop a permanent twist or sag that changes its shape, so for a long-term measure you may need to adjust the stands and blocks every couple of weeks.
  • For blocks use 12”x12” pressure treated wood blocking. If you can’t find the right size you can glue together 6”x6” blocks with Liquid Nails and then nail 12”x12”x5/8” plywood to the ends to make  on 12”x12” unit. This keeps them square and locked in place.
  • Many people use cinder blocks. These are alright if used close to the ground for winter storage, but do not use them if you are going to work on the bottom of your boat, as they are liable to crumble.
  • It is a good idea to use a pad of plywood between the blocks and the hull.
  • The weight of the hull should be distributed evenly along the length of the keel, not just at one or two points.
  • Make sure you tap the bottom of the hull to find the inside supports so you know where to place the blocking. Support the keel first as it takes all the weight. Generally keel blocks should be positioned under internal bulkheads to avoid stressing the boat. If the blocks are in the wrong place the blocking may go right through the hull and improper blocking can lead to problems such as gelcoat stress cracks, damaged stringers and misaligned engines. Your boat’s manufacturer may be able to help with the prefered location of the blocks.
  • Do not use a three-point blocking stance. For an 18 ft boat you should have a total of six contact points, 2 main blocks under the boat and 2 boat stands on the port and starboard sides. Larger boats need more blocks and stands, so for a 20 ft boat you will need eight contact points. Use one stand or support for every 10 feet of length along the keel.

Remember that if you are DIY boat blocking, even a small boat is heavy enough to kill you if it falls.