Seaworthy | From The BoatUS Insurance Files


Boat Winterizing

By Bob Adriance

While the entire crew is likely to lend a hand for spring fitting out, reversing the process in the fall is like cleaning up after a party; there are few volunteers and even less effort.

True story: A man in Minnesota was planning to spend the weekend hunting. As he was heading out the door with his buddies, his wife asked when he was going to winterize his boat. The man put his arm around her and said, "Honey, I think of it as our boat. Would you do it?" So she drove to the boat, poured kerosene in the bilge, and tossed in a match.

Photo of 30-foot powerboat encased in ice
A one-inch thickness of ice covering one square foot of surface weighs almost five pounds! On a typical 30-foot powerboat, that could add 1,500 pounds per inch of ice, high above the water-line. A boat covered with this much ice risks rolling over.

Two points: The wife's winterizing "shortcut" created more problems than it solved, and the couple is no longer married. BoatUS didn't insure the boat, incidentally. This incident wasn't the first time a boat was damaged by a hasty winterizing effort. Many boats are damaged or even destroyed every year because the systems aren't given the attention they deserve. While everybody knows that the engine and freshwater system must be winterized, there are many small but critical jobs that should be done that tend to go begging. Here are various winterizing chores that are most likely to be overlooked.

Did you drain the engine intake sea strainer? Everyone knows to winterize the engine, but not everyone knows to drain the sea strainer. Water left in the strainer can freeze and break the watertight seal. When that happens, water is free to enter the boat in the spring when the ice thaws and the intake seacock is opened.

Have biminis and dodgers been stored inside? There's a common misconception that a cover that protects the crew from sunlight and spray will also protect the boat from freezing rain and snow. Quite the contrary, biminis and dodgers tend to be ripped apart or, more likely, aged prematurely by the effects of winter weather while doing almost nothing to protect the boat. Aluminum support frames are frequently bent by the weight of accumulated snow. Biminis and dodgers should be taken home for the winter, cleaned, and, if necessary, re-stitched and repaired.

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Click here to view and print the Winterizing Worksheet

More Reminders

  • Outriggers stored at a 45-degree angle are prone to bending in ice storms. Outriggers should be disassembled or, if that’s not possible, stored vertically.
  • Take home cushions, rugs, clothing, and anything else that retains moisture and encourages mildew. Open up locker doors to circulate air down below.
  • Unless you’ll need to leave one aboard to operate a bilge pump, all batteries should be taken home, recharged, and stored for the winter.
  • Plan on visiting your boat regularly, at least once or twice a month. All too often, skippers rely on bilge pumps to bail them out when they’re away. The pump fails, the boat sinks. If you can’t visit your boat frequently, consider using a buddy system with other boat owners. Another alternative is to ask your marina manger to keep an eye on the boat. Many marinas will inspect boats, usually for a fee.


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