Boat Winter ChecklistBy Beth Leonard
Published: February/March 2013
Fight the winter blues by paying your boat a visit and making sure all is well. Whether it's stored on the hard or in the water, you may just forestall some spring problems.
This is the time of year when you can't help wondering if winter will ever end. The days don't seem to be getting any longer, and the sun barely climbs high enough to provide a bit of warmth before slinking back down to the horizon. As the sound of water lapping against the hull and the feel of a cool breeze tickling your face fade into fond memories, it's easy to settle into a midwinter funk. Shake off those winter blues by visiting your boat. Better yet, organize a rendezvous with boating buddies near your marina so you can swap some sea stories after making sure your boats are weathering the winter without problems. Not only will reminiscing about summer help get you through the winter doldrums, but a thorough midwinter inspection that uncovers some developing problems may well get you back on the water faster in the spring.
The Walk-Around, If Your Boat's In The Water
Take a close look at the waterline. Is there a change? If the boat looks lower on its lines than the last time you saw it, or if it's down at the bow or the stern, check for water in the bilges when you get aboard.
Check docklines along their entire length for security and any signs of chafe. Adjust the chafe guards if necessary (heavy hose, fire hose, or commercially made chafe guards will keep your lines from shredding during bad weather). Smaller boats can get caught under a dock at low tide and then be overwhelmed by the rising tide and sunk. Make sure docklines are tight enough to keep the boat off the dock, but loose enough to allow for variations in water level.
Make sure your fenders haven't wandered and look for any marks on the hull that might signal a problem that occurs only at low or high tide or in high winds. Fenders that are tied to lifelines tend to slide around and bend stanchions -- attach them to cleats or the toe rail if possible.
Are all above-water thru-hulls still above water? The weight of snow and ice can submerge above-waterline thru-hulls, including the exhaust. If any are underwater, start shoveling.
Inspect the shore-power cord from the dock pedestal to the inlet on your boat. Look for flat spots, kinks, or chafe marks where the cord may have gotten pinched between the boat and dock, or corrosion on the plug's blades. Either can cause overheating and lead to fire. Make sure the cord can't get into the water or get crushed against the dock. And don't leave a heater plugged in when the boat is unattended; that's a leading cause of fires in the winter.
Secure your wheel or tiller to prevent rudder damage from boat movement.
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