Almost all boats spend time on dry land sitting on their trailers or boat stands—especially during winter storage. Having operated a boatyard that routinely stored hundreds of boats each off-season, I have some insights into properly supporting boats onshore.
I’m not sure exactly when boat stands came into vogue, probably as marine railways and boat cradles faded in favor of modern marine travel lifts, but they have been a godsend for the boat owner who wants to store at home, and for boatyards whose efficiency has greatly improved handling boats ashore.
Picking a boat up in the slings and plopping it in some back lot ashore for 6 months sounds easy, right—it’s not. One of the most indispensible people in a boatyard is the travel lift operator who’s responsible for picking boats up and putting them down secure and undamaged—in a way that they will stay that way through winter storms and shifting ground conditions.
The first thing anyone putting a boat “on the beach” needs to know is how to block it. Jackstands are meant to balance a boat, not support it. Powerboats and sailboats, with few exceptions, should have their full weight sitting on their keels with wood blocking supports. For boats that need to sit a little higher due to propellers and rudders, the wood blocking under the keel has to be “cribbed” or layered so it won’t fall down. The blocking should also be placed in such a way that the boat is level or slightly by the stern fore and aft for drainage reasons. Once the boat is placed on the blocking and leveled, the jackstands can be put in place to keep it there. Note, they now make adjustable keel stands that can be used in place of wood keel blocks.
Powerboat jackstands have four legs, sailboat jackstands have three. On occasion, using a sailboat stand at the bows of a Deep V powerboat, for instance, is the right choice. At minimum 4 stands are needed for any powerboat, and 6 or more should be used on sailboats. On larger boats and on boats leaving the rig up, 8 or more stands may be required. Stands should be placed in equidistant pairs, opposite of each other on each side, and not staggered.
Remember those winter winds and driving rainstorms can rock any boat and drive the stands’ legs into the softened ground, ultimately unbalancing the boat. To prevent the stands from sinking into the ground use small squares of plywood under each leg, even if the
boat is sitting on an asphalt driveway. Wind the screws to place the pads in contact with the hull at 90 degree angles; be careful not to lift the boat off the blocking and to keep it level both fore and aft and side to side. Place chains on opposite pairs of sailboat stands so the stands can’t “kick out”.
The major failures that lead to a boat falling over during land storage are improper blocking, not placing pads under the legs, not using security chains, or people moving a stand when their aren’t enough stands to support the boat. Remember, at some point you will likely go up on the boat during storage, and walking out on the pointy end of a sailboat may unbalance it if you haven’t taken all these precautions and also put an extra V- stand in place under the bow. If you do have to move a stand, please put another stand next to it first!
- use boat stands to suspend a boat off the blocking in mid-air.
- allow anything (such as canvas covers) to be tied to boat stands.
- place blocks on top of boat stands or underneath legs of boat stands to increase their reach.
New jackstands cost $100 to $200 each depending on size and can be bought from stand manufacturers like Brownell . Used ones can be found at marine consignment stores for roughly half the cost. A one-time investment in a set of stands is reasonable for DIY boaters who want to have their boats at home or avoid boatyard storage fees.
Now that you know how to set them up, your boat will be secure from that most ignominious fate of falling off the stands.
P.S. If you have a boat on a trailer, use trailer jacks to level it and take the weight off the tires during long term storage.