Last winter was a particularly easy one here in the Northeast, leading many to consider leaving their boats in the water this winter. There can be some real advantages to wintering your boat at a marina that invites in-water winter storage. In-water storage may provide access to the boat for socializing or working below decks without climbing up and down precarious ladders, and in and out of storage buildings. Structurally, boats are designed to be in the water where the hull is evenly supported. There are no stresses from being pulled out of the water and placed on boat stands and blocks. Wooden boats in particular are often better off in the water. There may be cost savings as well.
If you’re thinking of wet storage in colder climates, here are some things to consider:
• First of all, make sure that any marina you’re considering is prepared to provide protection from ice. Ice formations around the hull in moving water could be quite damaging. Wet storage marinas usually safeguard boats, docks and pilings by using bubblers and/or ice eaters to agitate the water and prevent thick ice from forming.
• Electrolysis will continue, so make sure that your sacrificial anodes on the boat or engine drives get replaced now to ensure that they’ll last the winter.
• All thru-hulls, except those for cockpit drains, have to be protected by closing and winterizing all seacocks and gate valves. If your boat has thru-hulls at or below the waterline that can’t be closed, it should be stored ashore for the winter.
• Plug your exhaust ports. If snow piles up on the stern, exhaust ports could get pushed below the surface.
• Since you’ll probably be running some on-board systems throughout the winter, inspect your shore power cord and dock pedestal now for any signs of corrosion or overheating at the plug socket and terminals.
• Your boat’s fresh water system should be drained as it will likely freeze up, causing extensive damage. Winterize just as you would if you were stored on the hard, and bring bottled water for visits.
• All of your batteries should be brought up to a full charge and make sure all bilge pumps are in good working order.
• Your head’s holding tank should be completely pumped out. Pump some non-tox anti-freeze through the system. You can use the system through the winter, as long as you use enviro-friendly anti-freeze when you flush into the holding tank. And remember that you most likely will not be able to pump out your holding tank until spring.
• Just as you would if you were storing on land, change your engine(s)’ oil before the winter begins. Also check the coolant freeze level on the closed side of the cooling system to make sure it is adequate to about -25 degrees F.
• Chafe guards should always be used on lines when the boat is left unattended for long periods of time. Ready-made, polyester chafe protectors are available from marine stores, or you can make your own out of heavy-duty polyester and Velcro.