We will be spending most of the summer traveling across the US and in Europe, so rather than bring the boat north from Florida just to sit in a marina somewhere, we decided to put her on the hard in Florida where we will return after the winter holidays to continue cruising in relative warmth and comfort.
We had two considerations. First, the boat would be left for six months or so in Florida, which meant we did not want to leave her closed up in the water. We don't like to leave the boat plugged into shore ties when she will be unattended for long periods, so we have no way to keep the hot humidity from creating a mold and mildew hothouse while we're gone when the boat is in the water.
The second problem for us is that leaving the boat in Florida requires special hurricane coverage insurance, very pricey compared to what we've been used to. Putting the boat on the hard in an approved yard keeps the premiums down and also reassures us a bit. After all, we hope that there won't be a hurricane to head towards the 'Melon, and we sure don't want her harmed!
We traveled up the Gulf Coast looking for a yard to store the boat, since we didn't want to decide on a yard sight unseen. - An aside - we met a couple on their boat coming into the same yard we chose who expressed surprise that we visited every potential yard before we settled on one. They had decided on the yard sight unseen.
We were doing a lot of sightseeing along the Gulf coast, so visiting yards as we went wasn't a particularly stressful or time-consuming exercise.
There are lots of "rack storage" yards, where small power boats are placed on racks, up to six levels high, and our boat could have possibly been stored that way, but for a one-time exercise the cradle fabrication and other issues would have made it expensive and questionable. There are more smallish pleasure boats on the Gulf side, so there are fewer large travel lifts for a boat like ours.
There were two highly recommended yards that we visited that were also approved by our insurer. One was Snead Island Boat Works in Palmetto/Bradenton, FL. We liked the yard, but were concerned that there were so many sailboats stored there on dirt that should the area take a direct hit by a hurricane the risk of boats toppling if the yard turned into a sea of mud there could be problems. Our boat can't topple, but we would hate to have it hit by a sailboat falling down. Still, the price was fair, and we respected the yard and seriously considered leaving the 'Melon there.
The second yard is River Forest Yachting Center on the Okeechobee Waterway between LaBelle and Moore Haven. This facility offers inside, climate-controlled storage as well as outside storage. What we most liked about the facility is that the outside storage area is on a concrete pad with airplane-style tie-downs. It is a beautiful yard, just starting out, but there's plenty of room for expansion. I think the owner has about 40 acres there.
I think we were the only owners so far who secured the boat as if we were expecting a hurricane or torrential rains. We removed and stored inside the boat our Bimini and other canvas tops, tied down the frame securely. We then covered the flybridge with a tarp and tied that down securely. Whether the tarps would protect the 'Melon in a Cat. 3 or 4 hurricane we can't be sure, but if a lesser hurricane or tropical storm poured down on her, she should be okay.
The yard isn't terribly full yet, boats are only now trickling in from the Atlantic coast of Florida. I think that most of them were hoping that the River Forest yard on the East side of Lake Okeechobee might have room for them (there's a long waiting list) or that there would be enough rain that they could get to the LaBelle side via Lake Okeechobee. No luck, the lake is seriously low and there's not enough depth for the big boats to cross (I don't think boats over 3' draft can make it at all, and 3' might be iffy as well), so they have to go around the Keys and back up the Gulf side to get to the yard. Two Miami/Ft. Lauderdale boats arrived as we were leaving.