BoatUS ANGLER: Boats and Motors
Who Needs To Winterize?
Courtesy of Seaworthy Magazine - The BoatUS Damage Avoidance Program
Of all 50 states, which would you guess had the most freeze-related claims? New York? Maine? Michigan? Guess again. An examination of the BoatUS Marine Insurance claim files found that balmy California had more winterizing claims than any other state, including any of the "deep freeze" states. While winters may be much colder in the deep-freeze states, the bitter temperatures are a fact of life and preparations for winter are taken very seriously. But in the more temperate states, like California, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia, winter tends to be relatively comfortable in most areas with only an occasional cold spell. And if the forecasts aren't taken seriously, they can do a lot of damage.
Storage Ashore - In some parts of the country, where winter means several months of bitterly cold weather, storing boats ashore is the norm. In warmer climates, however, ice and snow may occur infrequently, and the choice between storage ashore and storage in the water is open to discussion.
Storage in the water means you might get a jump on the boating season next spring. On the other hand, boats stored ashore (on high ground) won't sink. If you have a choice, storage ashore is a safer bet. Storage ashore may also be less expensive over the life of a boat, since a hull surrounded by air for several months each winter is less likely to develop blisters than a hull that remains in the water. These blisters, the fiberglass equivalent of rot, occur on many boats when water soaks into the laminate below the waterline.
Storage in the Water - If the boat must be left in the water, the thru-hulls have to be protected by closing all seacocks and gate valves. Leaving a thru-hull unprotected over the winter is like going on an extended vacation and leaving your home's front door open. Failure to close thru-hulls is a major cause of loss in the BoatUS insurance program. In a recent study of 40 winter-related claims, seacocks or gate valves left open caused or contributed to the sinking of seven of the boats in the sample group. It should be noted that raising and refurbishing a boat that sinks, even at a dock, is a daunting job that can keep the boat in the repair yard for many weeks over the spring and summer.
Whenever a boat is stored in the water over the winter, all thru-hulls, with the exception of the ones for cockpit drains, must be closed or it could be on the bottom next spring. And all thru-hulls, especially the ones for the cockpit drains, must be double-clamped with stainless steel hose clamps at each end. This is critical. When water freezes it expands and will lift a poorly secured hose off of a fitting. The hose itself is also important. Lightweight hose and PVC tubing can rupture or crack. Use only a heavily reinforced hose, especially at cockpit drains.
If your boat has thru-hulls below the waterline that can't be closed, either because they are mechanically frozen open or have broken (typical with gate valves, which is why they are not recommended), it should be stored ashore for the winter.
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