There’s no need for the end of the summer to be the end of your sailing season says Jake Kavanagh, yachting journalist. If you follow these top tips, you’ll be comfortable whatever the weather brings.
Why put the boat ashore when there is so much great cruising to be had during the winter? Many berth-holders are now opting to keep the boat afloat from November onwards, and only have a brief lift out in early spring to scrub-off and change the anodes.
As one sailing instructor remarks: “With modern clothing, great insulation and blown-air heating systems, there is no real end to the boating season.”
Extending the boating season is one of MDL Marinas’ specialties as its extensive network offers some really attractive winter berthing packages, with fully serviced pontoons allowing a boat to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Dry stack customers are particularly good at making the most of a sunny winter’s day, as one phone call has the boat afloat and waiting for them as soon as they arrive at the marina.
The speed of service means that when settled weather arrives, those crisp, sunny days can be exploited to the full, even though the daylight is relatively short. It’s been known for UK boaters to go sailing in T-shirts in January when a clear sky allows the sun’s radiant energy to warm the decks, with perhaps a gentle southerly breeze wafting up from the Sahara. As winter boaters cruise along the coastline, they will find popular summer anchorages largely deserted, harbour moorings plentiful, and vast expanses of water with not another boat in sight.
So although daylight hours are shorter the spirit of exploration and adventure can remain the same, especially if owners take advantage of schemes like MDL’s Freedom Berthing. This offers complimentary stays in over 120 marinas in the UK, France, Italy and Spain allowing passages between marinas during the short hours of daylight before enjoying all the comforts of home at your destination.
Here are some top tips to get the most from your boat with off-season cruising:
1: Have the right clothing
Most boat owners already have a good set of wet weather gear, but it pays to invest in a layered system underneath. Many manufacturers have their own dedicated system of breathable fabrics for maximum effect. Several thin layers beneath a fully waterproof outer layer are much better at trapping heat than a couple of thick ones. Most heat is lost through the head, so don’t forget a comfortable wooly hat!
2: Keep a well-stocked galley
Winter sailing requires regular hot food and drinks, especially on a longish passage. One-pot meals are always popular, and usually comprise of tinned ingredients that can be poured into a pan, heated quickly, and served in a bowl so it stays warm in an exposed cockpit. There are plenty of good cookbooks that suggest these instant meals.
3: Switch to propane
Boaters who cruise all year round – or who are planning a blue water adventure - often change their cooking gas from butane to a propane system instead. This is because propane has a higher calorific value and freezes at a very respectable minus 40oC, whereas butane succumbs at just minus 4oC. If there was an overnight frost, the butane in the regulator would freeze and there would be no gas until it had thawed. Propane, however, will still light easily, even if the sea itself has iced over! Most cookers will happily use either gas, although a different regulator will be needed. Long range cruisers often carry both types of bottle and regulator to cover their options.
4: Keep those fingers warm
Cold fingers stop working very quickly; not good when it comes to handling ropes. Invest in a good pair of gloves, and keep those extremities warm. Fingerless gloves are a sort of compromise in summer, but ideally the finger tips should be protected at all times in cold weather. A mitten works well, as you can still steer, throttle and wind winches, but the hand can be easily slipped out of it for tasks requiring more dexterity.
5: Embrace the hot water bottle
The hot water bottle is a major asset afloat. Choose a fleece-lined one, and keep it tucked under your jacket to warm the inner core. Also great at night – as the thicker the bottle’s coat, the hotter the water you can use and the longer it will stay warm. They are great around your feet under the duvet if you haven’t got a heating system.
6: Why not fit blown air heating?
Talking of which, why not fit a blown air heater? Arguably the safest way of heating a boat, it is free from potential carbon exhaust emissions within the cabin. (Running the gas stove all night is highly dangerous, unless there is excellent ventilation, which rather defeats the object.) A blown air heater burns small amounts of diesel from the boat’s main tank, with the combustion gasses exhausted over the side. A small electric motor then drives the hot air from a heat exchanger throughout the accommodation. A good tip is to insulate the heating duct between outlets, and to reduce the diameter of the duct as it travels further from the heater to maintain velocity. (The duct can be left un-insulated as it passes through hanging lockers to help damp clothing to dry). Check out products from manufacturers such as Eberspacher and Webasto, to name just two, with prices highly competitive due to the volumes made for the trucking and RV industries.
7: Indulge in a luxury sleeping bag
Warm bedding will make a big difference to your comfort afloat, so look for winter sleeping bags or duvets with a high tog rating. This rating is a measure of thermal insulation, and the higher the number, the warmer you will be. A lightweight summer duvet, for example, will have a tog rating of between 3.0 to 4.5. A spring/autumn-weight duvet will score between 7.5 to 10.5tog, and the one you will want for mid-winter will be between 12.0 to 13.5.
8: Run a dehumidifier
Condensation can be a problem in the winter months, especially when the warm air inside the boat meets the windows. With little insulation from single-pane glass (although you can make insulated covers) the cold air outside promotes condensation and can cause annoying runs. The same thing can happen on uninsulated headlinings.
If you are taking advantage of MDL’s Freedom Berthing, you can expect to connect to shorepower every night and run a small dehumidifier. These inexpensive machines strip all the excess water from the air and transfer it to a built-in reservoir, whilst some can drain directly into the galley sink. It is best to get a reputable make, and keep an eye on it, as some cheaper ones have been known to burn out if used excessively. Even a relatively small unit will make a big difference aboard and some 12-24V versions are also available for use at anchor.
9: Get the most from Freedom Berthing
MDL’s complimentary berthing scheme allows you to check out marinas in the UK and participating marinas in southern Europe with a series of free visits. In addition, some of MDL’s marinas have partnered with hotels ashore, such as Southampton’s Ocean Village and the 5-star Harbour Hotel within the marina complex. If your partner is reluctant to sail in the midst of winter, then a stay ashore in such luxury should make a chilly sail worthwhile.
Plus, when you use MDL’s network, you’ll benefit from 24/7 marina staff and security, and great onsite restaurant and bars. All the marinas are experienced with looking after off-season cruisers, and offer warm showers, warm clubhouses and a warm welcome.
10: Don’t forget to take pictures
The winter offers some dramatic seascapes, with brooding skies, glassy reflections and spectacular sunsets. For those who hate getting up early, then the late sunrise is rarely missed. Keep your phone and camera handy, as the winter offers some excellent photo opportunities. If you are into astronomy, then crisp clear winter nights reveal the magnificence of the Milky Way and other northern constellations away from the light pollution of towns and cities.
11. Keep the tender available
The downside of a winter cruise is that some of the summer services, such as a water taxi, may not be available. Make sure your tender is accessible and easy to deploy, as this will allow you access to the shore when you have no choice but to anchor off. However, such will be the lack of crowds that some quayside pubs and restaurants may also throw in alongside overnight berthing even through they usually have strict time limits during the summer. The dinghy is also a great way to go creek crawling, and explore those places you missed during the season. But if you’re staying at an MDL marina you obviously won’t need a tender as you can step straight from boat to pontoon.
12: Take a course
Many sea schools do a brisk trade off-season as students like being able to practice their skills in empty harbours and anchorages. There are very few onlookers, and plenty of room to manoeuvre. Another big advantage is the short daylight, allowing them to practice night navigation for several hours and still manage to get back in time for a leisurely pub supper. Prices are generally cheaper, too, and will allow new boaters to gain confidence and skills before the busy summer season. MDL marinas always has a list of approved RYA sea schools available, with many operating out of each marina. Ask the dockmaster who they can recommend. Or visit www.mdlmarinas.co.uk/services-directory
And that’s it. You’ve invested a lot of money in your boat, so make the most of it by enjoying every fine day during the winter.
We’re delighted to announce a great package of winter offers across our extensive marina network, offering boat owners excellent quality and great value berthing, dry stack, lifting and storage packages. With these winter offers, boat owners can put their minds at ease as the nights draw in.
Highlights of the offers include savings of up to 40% on winter scrubs and storage ashore at a number of boatyards including Hythe Marina Village in Southampton and Queen Anne's Battery in Plymouth. Great-value short term berthing is available in the finest UK marinas, including the chance to enjoy three months berthing from just £649 at Shamrock Quay in Southampton, available on boats up to 8m.
“It’s very important to keep your boat well maintained, especially during the winter season when it tends to be used less frequently and is most at risk from adverse weather conditions,” says Adrien Burnand, MDL’s head of marketing.
“Our lifting and storage packages give owners the chance to carry out essential maintenance work and prepare their boat for next season. For those seeking a safe and secure home for their boat during the winter months, our berthing packages give peace of mind with boats looked after around the clock. We’re always keen to welcome new members too. Offers like these are a great way to come aboard our network, experience our renowned customer service and get a really good feel about what we offer. Once owners have taken advantage of a winter deal, we’re very happy to talk to them about what we can offer year-round.”
Read more about our full range of winter offers.
MDL Marinas is delighted to reveal that within its hospitality lounge overlooking the main boat show marina (E052), Salcombe Gin will be hosting daily taster sessions and teach the art of distilling, while the five-star Southampton Harbour Hotel spa team offers complimentary head, neck, and shoulder massages.
Known across its extensive network of over 120 marinas for its excellent customer service, prime locations and top of the line facilities, MDL Marinas is applying its key ethos of relax, enjoy and discover to its stand at TheYachtMarket.com Southampton Boat Show.
“We’re recreating the excellent experience people enjoy at our marinas,” says Dean Smith, commercial director for the European-wide group of marinas in UK, Italy, France and Spain. “There’s always something exciting happening onshore, so it makes sense to continue that at Southampton Boat Show. We’re delighted to be welcoming two partners to the stand.”
Salcombe Gin, a traditional copper pot, one-shot distiller based in Devon, will host a tasting session every day between 4 and 5pm on MDL’s stunning members’ waterside hospitality lounge. Distillery demonstrations will take place on both Sundays (16 / 23 September), and Wednesday (19 September) between 3 and 4pm.
Southampton Harbour Hotel's HarSPA, will also be offering complimentary head, neck and shoulder massages throughout the show, as well as foot pampers. Known for their deep tissue massages to ease muscle aches and areas of tension, HarSPA therapists offer Lava Shell, Bamboo and Lomi Lomi massages in the five-star hotel.
Relax, enjoy, discover
MDL is looking forward to welcoming over 4,000 members and their guests to its stunning waterside hospitality lounge. Visitors are encouraged to use the area as a meeting place, or somewhere to take a well-deserved break. With free WiFi, refreshments and massages from the Harbour Hotel’s spa staff, the lounge is the ideal place to relax in comfort.
Helping its members to explore with friends, MDL will showcase its impressive network of over 120 marinas. Visitors will also be able to discover the exciting benefits of becoming an MDL member such as Freedom Berthing which gives access to the marinas in the European network at no extra cost, and upcoming offers that feature options for winter marina berthing and storage. Plus, it’s the ideal opportunity to discuss Beds On Board, the accommodation scheme designed to unlock the economic potential of members’ boats.
Additionally, the boat show offers a great opportunity to celebrate and enjoy the end of the season. On the members’ balcony overlooking the marina, MDL’s hospitality lounge offers a buzzing social environment, complimentary refreshments and fundraising events for the two great charities that the company supports.
“We love the Southampton Boat Show,” Dean continues. “It’s a great opportunity to touch base with our members and hear about their marina and cruising experiences. Plus, we enjoy meeting those who haven’t stayed with us before, finding out about their sailing adventures, plans, and letting them know all about the benefits of becoming part of the MDL family. We’re also really looking forward to sharing more information about the great work we’re doing with the Blue Marine Foundation, the Ocean Youth Trust South and our Sail Training Awards. It’s going to be a great show!”
Make sure that you plan time in your day to visit the stand (E052), enjoy the view and learn more about MDL Marinas.
Summer is officially here and a glorious season out on the water is underway. At MDL Marinas that means one thing – it’s time for our famous summer offers. There are great deals of up to 55% off across the group, up and down the Thames and along the Solent coastline.
If you’re not yet an MDL member, enjoy cruising some of the most beautiful coastlines and waterways in the UK from the country’s finest marinas with two months’ summer berthing from just £350.
If your boat is in need of a lift and scrub, our boatyards have come up with generous deals - up to £380 off - to make sure boats are gleaming for the summer ahead. Prices start from just £16 per metre for a lift, pressure wash and relaunch at Shamrock and Hythe marinas in Southampton.
For further details on the full range of offers available at MDL marinas this summer visit www.mdlmarinas.co.uk/offers.
Helping the next generation to discover the joys of life on the water is something MDL is passionate about. For over 20 years, we’ve supported the Ocean Youth Trust (OYT) South, a wonderful charity that gives hundreds of vulnerable and disadvantaged young people their first taste of sailing.
On May 13th, to raise vital funds, an MDL team will be running (and possibly struggling) around the grounds of Broadlands House outside Romsey in Hampshire for the third annual Romsey Relay Marathon.
Our team is made up of engineers, a HR administrator, our head of marketing and two directors. Team members have varying degrees of running experience, from marathon veterans to complete newbies.
Dan, Ollie, Adrien, Jo, Dean, Jane, Mike and Ben will each run a 2.6 mile leg of the course, competing alongside 130 other teams.
We’d love your support to help us reach our fundraising target of £1,000 and continue to support OYT South and all the incredible work they do. Sponsor us here.
For more information about the charity, visit their website at www.oytsouth.org
Those participating are: Dan Chamberlain (Marina Development Advisor), Oliver Witt (Projects Assistant), Adrien Burnand (Head of Marketing), Jo Meekley (Project Manager - Civils & Marine), Dean Smith (Commercial Director), Jane Whitcher (Payroll & HR Administrator), Mike Glanville (Director of Operations) and Dr Ben Carroll (Assistant Project Manager).
To celebrate the start of the summer sailing season, MDL Marinas is releasing a fantastic range of exclusive offers for boat owners across the UK to enjoy. From pressure washing, hull scrubs and summer berthing packages, owners will be able to ensure their boats are in tip top condition to make the most of those beautiful days on the water.
To help make the most of the summer, boat owners can benefit from berthing offers at any one of eleven participating MDL marinas. Packages start from just £499 for two month’s berthing at Ocean Village Marina in Southampton, available on boats up to 8m. Participating marinas include Hamble Point and Mercury Yacht Harbour on the idyllic River Hamble, Ocean Village and Shamrock Quay Marina in Southampton, and Northney and Sparkes Marina on Hayling Island. A full list of participating marinas can be found on our Summer Offers webpage.
As well as the Summer Berthing Offer, MDL boatyards along the south and east coast are also running Summer Scrub Offers, with great discounts on hull scrubs and storage. Boat owners will be able to experience MDL Marinas’ renowned service and enjoy special offers on lifting and pressure washing at many of their leading sites, as well as storage ashore for a specified period. Prices start from just £13 per metre for a lift and pressure wash at Woolverstone Marina and from £16 per metre for a lift, hold, pressure wash and re-launch at Queen Anne’s Battery in Plymouth.
Adrien Burnand, Head of Marketing at MDL Marinas, commented: “We’re looking forward to seeing many boat owners taking up these great boatyard offers and enjoying a highly professional service. We are constantly striving to add value for our customers, so we’re delighted to be offering additional savings on boat care to help them make the most of a summer on the water. Our summer berthing offer gives boaters the opportunity to cruise some of the best coastline in the UK and the chance to experience the renowned MDL customer service for themselves.
For further details on the full range of offers available at MDL marinas this summer visit our Summer Offers webpage
MDL Marinas, Europe’s leading marina operator and official marina partner to Land Rover BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing), is helping the team gear up for the 35th America’s Cup, which is destined for a climactic finale in Bermuda this summer. MDL has worked closely with Land Rover BAR to help set up their team base in Bermuda and has created customised pontoons, expertly designed to give swift access for the team and accommodate the crucial support boats.
Alongside the existing partnership, which has seen MDL Marinas involved in the Portsmouth Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series (the preliminary series to the 35th America’s Cup), as an official Engagement Partner, the marina operator has designed custom-made pontoons tailored to the racing conditions in Bermuda. Using innovative, industry-leading technology, the pontoon has the ability to rotate 90∘, which will allow Land Rover BAR to berth the boat in all wind directions and stay attached to the shore, instead of having to have the boat on a swing mooring. The pontoon was constructed in Southampton and has travelled 3,400 miles to reach Bermuda, where it is now undergoing trial as part of the team’s intensive training programme.
The extensive design stages were started at the beginning of 2016, with the pontoons being completed and shipped by the end of the year. They are now fully installed in Bermuda, ready for the summer competition to begin. The competition so far has been a high adrenaline cinematic whirlwind, gaining international attention and reaching a crescendo last year, with Sir Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR winning the overall Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in Japan, as well as the team’s home event in Portsmouth in 2016.
Adrien Burnand, Head of Marketing at MDL Marinas, commented: “Open sea racing is unpredictable and fast paced, so implementing equipment which saves even a second can make all the difference. MDL Marinas has worked closely with the Land Rover BAR team in what has been a new but exciting challenge, and we can’t wait to see the pontoons in action this summer. The America’s Cup is the Formula 1 of the sailing world and it’s going to be an epic finale, both MDL and our customers are counting down the days until the action starts once again!”
James Stagg, Shore Team Manager, at Land Rover BAR, added: “The America’s Cup is all about looking at advances in technology to help gain a competitive advantage. We wanted to see if we could create a pivoting pontoon to enable us to berth the race boat in any wind direction to reduce boat loading times, so we came together with MDL Marinas to put this concept into motion. Together we’ve designed and built a tool which is tailored to the team’s racing needs and the finished product looks fantastic. It will all come down to the race days but it’s been brilliant partnering with MDL Marinas on this element of the campaign.”
To watch MDL's innovative pontoon in action, please click here.