10 Tips for Preparing Your Yacht for Shipping

20 April 2010 By Louisa Beckett

Sending your yacht across the ocean on a commercial ship is a great way to avoid the engine hours and wear and tear inherent in making the transit on its own bottom – not to mention a good excuse to give the crew a little R&R after the busy winter season. But if you’ve never prepared the boat for transit by ship before, there are a few things to consider in advance.

Here are tips for smoothing the path from yacht to ship from Capt. Herb Magney of M/Y At Last, who has shipped three vessels transoceanic via Yacht Path International, including his former yacht, the 38-meter Milk and Honey, and received six more at the end of their transit. Yacht Path is a lift-on/lift-off type carrier, which hoists the yacht onto the deck of a heavy-lift cargo ship.

1) Make sure your yacht is fully insured for the voyage. “Verify that there is insurance coverage in place for this type of shipment, not just for the owner’s stuff, but for the crew’s stuff as well,” recommends Capt. Herb. Just as you would prior to moving house, keep an inventory of the valuable items on board the yacht. “Ask the loadmaster or captain of the freighter to come on board and have a look around beforehand,” he says. “Usually, they will take the time if invited.”

2) Know your yacht’s specs. You will need to be able to provide the shipping company with accurate measurements for your boat, including its actual weight (rather than displacement). “Often they are given the wrong thing,” Capt. Herb says. “Any boat that has been given a stability test will have this information in the stability book.”

3) Consider shrinkwrap. “On any transport, shrinkwrap is a great option as it protects against soot from the ship’s stacks,” he says. (Although on Yacht Path’s ships, the stacks are located aft, so less soot gets on the yachts.) “It will usually pay for itself in [saving] cleaning time, products and supplies at the other end,” says Capt. Herb. Captains of smaller yachts may opt for full coverage from bow to stern, while the captains of larger yachts usually shrinkwrap only vulnerable areas like the flybridge and aft decks.

4) Protect the shiny bits. Capt. Herb recommends applying a liberal coat of Collinite Insulator Wax to all exposed metal on the superstructure, particularly the stainless, and leaving it on until the yacht is unloaded. “It helps to repel salt spray, etc.” he says. There are also coatings available for painted surfaces, although this may be overkill.

5) Prepare the yacht’s interior for rough conditions. “The boat is still going to travel through the ocean, even if it’s on another ship,” says Capt. Herb. Stow all loose furniture and goods securely. Take breakables off the boat or wrap them in quilts or other padding. Be sure all hatches and portlights are closed and dogged.

6) Check the lockers. Most yacht transport companies have a list of items that are prohibited by customs and/or common sense from being on board your yacht during shipping, including firearms, ammunition, illegal drugs, inflammable liquids like fuel stored in jerry cans, fresh or frozen foods, canned meats and live plants. In addition, anything that could pollute the environment with oil or oil residues, garbage, plastics and paint residues during transit is strictly prohibited.

7) Lighten up. Your yacht should be delivered to the ship as light as possible in terms of both fuel and water. Grey and blackwater tanks should be emptied in advance. Capt. Herb also recommends flushing them with chlorine bleach solution: “The same parts-per-million formula used to shock a pool,” he says. “By doing that, you don’t leave a Petri dish on board. He also recommends sanitizing the heads and the freshwater system with a chlorine solution. “There are standards set that a Y4 engineer will know as part of his training,” he says.

8) Give ’em enough rope. Yacht Path requires the yacht have at least 50 feet of dock lines on each side, along with a minimum of two fenders, front and back.

9) Power down. It’s not enough just to switch off the engines. “Make sure you power down everything and take the leads off your main batteries,” says Capt. Herb. “If you don’t, and you have residual drain, you will have dead batteries at the other end.”

10) Lock it up. Make sure the interior cabinet doors are taped shut with blue tape, the cabin doors are securely closed and all exterior doors are locked before you turn the keys over to the captain of the transport ship. Capt. Herb makes a point of taking his yacht’s freighter captain out for a beer at the end of each transit, and he’s heard some horror stories. “Captains talk about watching the rear door of a yacht slide open and closed, open and closed, open and closed from their wheelhouse during a storm,” he says.