Seaworthy | From The BoatUS Insurance Files


Winterproof Your Boat

By Beth Leonard
Published: October/November 2013

Whether you live in Alaska or Alabama, these nine winterizing steps will get you back on the water faster come spring.

Photo of winterizing a boat engine
Photo: John Tiger

Tip iconFor more information on winterizing your boat, check out the BoatTECH section of our website at

Yes, you read that right — Alabama. That's where BoatUS Marine Insurance's second most expensive ice/freeze claim came from last year. In that claim, water left in the engines of a 21-foot jet boat froze and cracked the blocks. In fact, 40 percent of the ice/freezing claims in the past year came from nine states we don't normally associate with freezing weather, including California, Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee. Even if you keep your boat in an area with a moderate winter climate, you need to put it to bed properly. The nine steps that follow will ensure that your pride and joy has a good winter's rest — and is shipshape and ready to hit the water as soon as spring arrives.

1. Create your personalized winterizing checklist. Start with the BoatUS Winterizing Checklist. Review our in-depth information on winterizing and add to the checklist any additional notes that apply to your boat. Then go through your owner's manuals to find the specific winterizing to-dos for all your equipment. Don't just pull out your engine manual. You'll need to add to-do items for everything from deck-washdown pumps to refrigeration, and your boat owner's manual may include other items as well. By the time you're finished, you'll have a comprehensive checklist tailored specifically to your boat.

2. Put together your winter refit list. Take your boat out for one last spin and try to remember all those little things that bothered you over the summer. Did a leak soak a cushion down below? Maybe you have some deck fittings or a hatch that needs rebedding. Was your depth sounder unreliable? The electrical connections may need cleaning and resealing. Your winter refit list gives your nearest and dearest a handy holiday shopping list, and gives you a great excuse to spend time messing about the boatyard. Instead of thinking, "Darn, I meant to fix that over the winter. ..." as you step aboard in the spring, you can revel in the sense of satisfaction that comes when you scratch that last item off your to-do list. Just don't expect that feeling to last — it is a boat, after all.

3. Tuck your boat in. You may choose to leave your boat in the water, tied snugly into her berth at the dock, or on the hard, either blocked up in a hardstand area or on a trailer. Whichever option you choose, make sure she's set up well to handle the strong winds that often accompany winter storms, as well as the possibility of freezing temperatures and large amounts of snow. If you're leaving your boat in the water, your lines need to be protected against chafe and set up to keep the boat away from the dock. If the boat will be blocked up on the hard, check that the jackstands have been placed on firm ground to take the boat's weight evenly, and are chained together so one cannot slide out from under the hull. If you're storing the boat on a trailer, taking the wheels off and storing them in the garage will keep the tires in good shape for next summer while discouraging thieves.

4. Clean out. Once you've secured the boat in her winter berth, it's time to get her shipshape to minimize the unpleasant surprises come spring. To keep furry guests in search of a winter meal ticket from coming aboard, empty the icebox and all food storage areas. Don't forget the metal and plastic containers holding liquids, which can burst in freezing temperatures. Wash dishes, pots, pans, linens, blankets, curtains, and rugs. Store fabrics at home along with cushions and pillows to keep them fresh and mold-free. Take electronics home. Not only will that prevent theft, but large swings in temperature can damage those pricey screens. Send your fire extinguishers to be inspected, and take the batteries out of anything you'll be leaving aboard like clocks and flashlights. You'll avoid a battery leak over the winter, and start with fresh batteries come spring.

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