Many boats will remain snugly tucked away for the next month or two, but once winterized, out of sight should not mean out of mind for the responsible boat owner. Whether it’s tied in a slip, resting on a lift, stowed at a yard, or sitting on a trailer on your driveway, a winterized boat is not a “fix it and forget it” type of thing.
“Boat owners should be checking on their boats regularly,” says a local boat mechanic with decades of experience. “Even during the winter, I recommend my clients visit their boats once a week to avoid costly repairs. I’d much rather keep someone’s boat running well than do repair work on damages that could have been prevented.”
Water that accumulates in a boat can do substantial damage, especially if it freezes. According to BoatU.S., fresh water expands in volume by about nine percent when it freezes and can push outwards with a force of tens of thousands of pounds per square inch. That expansion can crack an engine block, damage fiberglass, split hoses, or destroy a refrigeration system overnight.
It’s well worth your time to ensure that any covering is secure and water or snow does not accumulate, especially in the cockpit area. A boat filled with heavy snow sitting on a lift with marginal capacity can push the lift beyond its limits.
For a boat wintering in its slip, pay attention to how it’s sitting in the water. Is it lower than normal? Is it listing? This could indicate that water is filling the hull or that heavy snow on the cover, deck, or cockpit is weighing her down. A boat is at risk of sinking if through-hulls that are normally above the waterline become submerged. Do not assume that your float switch or automatic bilge pump will properly operate the entire season without any attention.
Installation of a deicer, also called a bubbler, will protect both boats and piers by bringing up the relatively warm water from the bottom and preventing ice from forming around the hulls and pilings. A deicer with a timer and thermostat is a sound investment. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and a watchful eye now will serve you and your boat well. Look for more winter boat tips at boatus.com.