Your expert print-out-and-throw-away guide to free overwintering and hassle-free maintenance

Not that you’ll read this in PBO, but without doubt the most productive way to tackle the winter months is to forget you’ve got a boat.

Then you can get on with reading PBO, go to night classes, do retakes, fantasise about your next boat, dream of anchoring off palm-fringed golden beaches in the Pacific and frolicking in warm blue seas.

It’s amazing how quickly five months can pass if you really apply yourself, and if you’re truly conscientious you’ll find you have no time whatsoever for boat maintenance. Job done.

Then the only other thing you’ve got to do is avoid all contact with Famous Five-type hearty winter sailors who keep their boats in commission and go sailing only when snow, rain or hail is horizontal. I was one of them once.

I’ve sailed as crew in snow on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and in the freezing February Frostbite Race on the Thames from Limehouse to Erith. All that happened was it numbed my fingers, toes, senses and other extremities.

The result was that we didn’t realise how ridiculously pitiful we looked and sounded as we bounced, ruddy-cheeked, into pubs in oilies stiffer than armour and said: ‘Wasn’t it super out there, not another soul on the water. Ooh look, they’ve got treacle pudding on the menu. I do hope it comes with tinned custard and lashings of condensed milk.’ To which the regulars roared in unison: ‘Shut the bloody door… it’s freezing.’

Back then, when I was one of them, we found such encounters quaint, rustic and charming, until I went into rehab and saw the light.

And now I’ve come to the realisation the only reason these faux-Maurice Griffiths types go sailing in winter is to avoid the faff and cost of laying their boats up and doing maintenance.

Neither am I ashamed to admit I’m in a programme for recovering winter sailors, which has taught me to ask some searching questions: Is your boat a Sunseeker? Does it have under-floor heating? Is it in the Caribbean?

If the answer to any is ‘no’, simply avoid. If still uncertain, ask: are parts of your boat outside? Does it have a mast? Does the mast have sails? Is it in the northern hemisphere? If yes to any, avoid.

All of which allows you to get on with your life, which is what I’ve been doing, although there is a cost. The trouble is that boat storage usually involves paying money, which is something that PBO and its readers, particularly teachers and consultant surgeons, are ideologically and morally opposed to.

However, I have an ethical free solution. My idea was to abandon my Sailfish for five months in a lay-by on the A12 (other A roads are available). To this end I fashioned my very own ‘police aware’ signs fashioned out of ‘police aware’ signs – this will feature in a forthcoming PBO practical feature: project cost £0.

What’s more, as the A12 is in Essex I had high hopes that by spring my Sailfish would have been substantially improved, with its own tarmac driveway leading through wrought-iron gates straddled by a pair of concrete lions to a freshly pebble-dashed or stone-clad Sailfish on an AstroTurf lawn with plastic flowers. As it would be overlooked by an array of CCTV cameras, security wouldn’t be a problem.

The only drawback was that I’d need a court order to get my boat back. Neither am I sure the traveller community would have used the correct marine-type stone-cladding or pebble-dash.

So after consideration, back in October or November – I can’t remember – I abandoned Marlin in ‘police aware’ livery in a sailing club compound somewhere in Europe. The Extraordinary General Meeting is next Thursday (I’m removing Marlin at midnight on Wednesday).

Other than that I’ve been frantically busy doing absolutely nothing to Marlin, which has reaped further cost-saving benefits. In the aftermath of storm Doris the club secretary sent an email notifying members that many boat covers had ripped to shreds. But I was unconcerned.

My high-quality, heavy-duty and quite costly boat cover will last for years; it’s in my garage.

Yet for all that, I find my sleep fitful, as boat denial is hard work. Any day now I’ll find out if Marlin is where I left her.

PS: If you don’t want to make your own ‘police aware’ signs I have a limited supply, available special order, cash only.

The money will go to replacing the dead battery, the rusted trailer jockey wheel, the square trailer tyres, ruined bunk cushions and repairing the seized outboard that I never flushed at the end of the season.

It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind, literally, as they’ll furnish PBO practical articles which don’t cost me that much to have published. I hope that helps.

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