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10 Tips to Keep Your Boat Safe this Winter

You know how boats are. Little problems compound quickly into big ones. If we had to give only one piece, be mindful of your boat during the winter.

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You know how boats are. Little problems compound quickly into big ones. If we had to give only one piece of advice this winter, it's this: Visit your boat. Snow, ice, wind, rain, and damp air can take their toll on both of you. If guilt is a good motivator, think of it this way: You can sit by a warm fire drinking hot cocoa while winter rages, but your boat has to be outside, enduring winter's worst, so make some time to visit. Here are 10 tips from the BoatUS Marine Insurance claim files that can help prevent damage to your boat over winter.

1. If your boat's in the water, take a walk around it at the dock. Are there any changes in the waterline? If so, check the bilge for water, a good practice at any time. If you find any, locate the source. It might be a leaking thru-hull or stuffing box, or be coming from the deck through a hatch or portlight.

2. Verify that all seacocks are closed, except for the cockpit. Also check that leaves don't clog the cockpit scuppers, which could fill the cockpit and force drains underwater, back-flooding the boat.

3. Check your docklines for security and chafe. Winter storms can put a lot of strain on docklines so make sure you use a good chafe guard, and make sure the boat is tied so it can't get caught under the dock during tide changes.

4. Check the operation of the bilge pump. It should work even if the battery switch is off. Manually turn on the switch to verify the pump comes on.

5. Inspect the shore power cord for damage and make sure the battery charger is operating. Verify the battery electrolyte hasn't evaporated and add some if needed. If you spot corrosion on battery terminals, clean it off now.

6. Look for fuel, oil, or coolant leaks. You don't want your bilge pump to spew oil into the water. In addition to polluting the environment, you could be in for a big fine.

7. If you haven't already removed expensive electronics, now's the time. Boatyards are like ghost towns in the winter, and can be easy pickings for thieves.

8. Make sure the boat is well-ventilated. Air circulation prevents mold and mildew from forming down below and keeps the boat smelling fresh. Treat any mold that you find now, before it gets worse.

9. If your boat is stored ashore, check that jackstands haven't shifted or sunk into the ground, and are chained together under the boat. Tell the boatyard if something doesn't look right.

10. Make sure that water isn't pooling on deck or in the cockpit. Nothing good ever comes from standing water inside or outside a boat; water can damage the gelcoat and cause stains.

Author

Charles Fort

Charles handles our exclusive Reports in-depth tech feature in every issue, our videos, and our investigative features. He helps with dispute-mediation and writes our Consumer Protection column. A member of the National Association of Marine Surveyors, he’s on ABYC tech committees, and has a 100-ton U.S. Coast Guard license. A sailor who went cruising with his family, he now lives in California.