Storing Your Boat For The Winter

Photo of a sinking powerboat

If you really want to make your boat happy, store it indoors, in a climate-controlled facility with a backup generator in case the electricity goes out in a storm. For most of us, indoor storage is not even an option — it's either not available or not affordable. Our choices come down to hauling the boat out and storing it on the hard, or leaving it in its slip in the water.

While storage in the water lets you use your boat during warm spells and gets you out on the water earlier next spring, keeping boats out of the water reduces the chance of damage from a number of different causes including:

  • Sinking. If owners don't regularly visit boats kept in the water, they become vulnerable to the slow failure of a small underwater fitting that might have been noticed and fixed otherwise.
  • Storm damage. Boats stored in the water are much more vulnerable to damage due to the rise and fall in water level, high winds, and torrential rains that accompany strong winter storms.
  • Blisters. Storage ashore may also be less expensive over the life of a boat because a hull that gets the chance to dry out for several months each winter is less likely to develop blisters than a hull that remains in the water.
  • Theft. Boats stored in gated or patrolled facilities are much less likely to be stolen. Take home electronics.

In general, our claim files suggest that a boat is less likely to sustain damage — in the short and the long run — if left for long periods on land rather than in the water. On the other hand, since water retains heat longer than air, boats surrounded by air are more vulnerable to a sudden freeze than boats surrounded by water. Boats kept ashore must be winterized, and it must be done earlier than if they were in the water because dropping temperatures will affect them sooner.

Wherever you end up keeping your boat, if you do not plan to use it for a month or more, you need to winterize it. Then, when the meteorologist tells you to break out the long underwear, you can rest easy instead of making a mad dash for the boatyard. 

— Published: September 2014

Seaworthy, the damage-avoidance newsletter, is brought to you by the BoatUS Marine Insurance Program. For an insurance quote, please call 1-800-283-2883 or apply online at BoatUS.com.