DelMarVa winters can be deceiving. Sixty degrees one day and 30 the next, though even on those warm days, we must always be cognizant of the season in order to keep ourselves and our boats safe during their long winter’s nap. Keep these three winter boat storage tips in mind, courtesy of BoatUS, to ensure a less stressful winter and commissioning come spring time. 

winter boat storage
A winter boat check up can ensure your boat stays free of water, snow, and ice accumulation during the off-season Courtesy of Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore/BoatUS

1. If you haven’t done so yet, read your marina, boat club, or storage facility contract. Every page. Why? This document clearly specifies critical safety rules to live by over the winter. Don’t assume that because you read one contract, they’re all the same. Different contracts apply to the specific type of winter storage you might have, such as outdoor, indoor, or boats stored on a rack. Contracts also include work rules. Some common ones may include no work of any kind (most often for boats in rack storage but also sometimes for indoor storage), prohibiting outside contractors, no heaters or portable generators, or batteries must be disconnected. Why all the rules? There’s no getting around the fact that vessels tightly stored together tee up an increased fire hazard. So, for the greater good of everyone in winter storage, follow these rules to the letter.

2. Say “no” to power cords. While this best practice could have been included above, it deserves its own mention. Ask any marina owner what keeps them up at night over the long winter storage period and they will tell you one item at the top of the list is power cords. Undersized and multiple cords connected together are not only a potential source of ignition but make whatever they are plugged into, such as a battery charger or heater, another fire issue. If you need power to the boat to do some off-season work, check with your marina first. Some marinas may also require notification of any work you wish to do.

winter boat storage
If you store your boat in the water or on a lift over winter, bring a friend with you on any visits. An accidental fall into the water this time of year could go unnoticed. Courtesy of the BoatUS Foundation

3. Visit your boat—safely. BoatUS recommends checking on your boat at least once during the off season, though more often is better. This will help ensure animals don’t make a home and your cover or shrink wrap is still effectively shedding ice and snow. When visiting the boat, it’s best to find a parking spot away from vessels on jackstands. Don’t move or adjust jackstands, and never tie off a winter cover to them. If you need to use a ladder to climb aboard, tie it off at the top. If your boat is stored in the water, bring a friend with you so a slip off an icy dock doesn’t go unnoticed.