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Those glorious summer days of long seaward excursions and local day trips are drawing to a close. You may want to get out one last time before those cold, damp winter months settle in for good. Once you’ve gotten your final fill for the season, it’s a good idea to take the time to prepare your boat for the winter ahead. For watercraft, the off-season requires a little TLC to keep them in tip top shape before you officially sign off on summer fun.

Before You Lay Up Your Boat

There are many steps for properly laying up a boat, especially depending on the type of watercraft you own. You will want to look into care tips for your specific boat to ensure you have a solid checklist to tend to each need. For most every boat, there are some shared steps you can take to properly prepare your vessel for its time ashore.

Your boat has weathered many an excursion over the course of the summer season, and has likely taken some normal wear and tear. Before you pull the boat out of the water, make note of any areas that may have cracks or leaks as these can be difficult to trace once the boat is on dry land. You can even take pictures of the affected areas to easily identify them later when you are ready to begin working on repairs.

Protecting components of your boat is of next importance. Batteries can suffer damage at freezing temperatures, so it is important to bring them to a full charge and then remove them to be stored in a dry, cool place. Electronics should also be removed from the boat and stored somewhere warm and dry to prolong their life. Sails and canvas can become damaged or destroyed during harsh winter conditions, so these should be taken down and stored rather than simply folded or furled.

Preventing Freezing on Your Vessel

Freezing is the top concern for every boat owner, and for good reason. Pipes can burst or pumps can take unnecessary wear and tear if they freeze over during cold months. It is critical to freeze-proof your boat as much as possible, usually with a combination of draining and using antifreeze mixes. Make sure to check your boat’s manufacturer instructions for any special steps to take for your specific vessel. In general, it is best practice to empty out everything you can, including the holding tank, freshwater tanks, water heater, accumulator, and even pumps and hoses. For certain aspects, it will be better to use an antifreeze mix to freeze-proof your boat, such as with the toilet and any air conditioning condensers.

The fuel tank and bilge can easily become places where condensation and water can inadvertently collect, which can lead to freezing. To avoid this, keep the fuel tank 95% full even during the off-season to prevent water from forming and freezing inside. The bilge pump may be efficient, but it is not perfect, so some water may still be left behind and will inevitably freeze when temperatures drop enough. The best way around this issue is to pump and sponge the bilge completely dry to make sure there isn’t any water stuck inside. Finally, you will want to open the drain plug to allow for continuous draining of any precipitation and close all seacocks to keep out any moisture or frigid air. By taking these steps, you can better combat issues of freezing on your watercraft and protect it from potential damage.

Clean and Cover Your Watercraft

Once you have taken all of the necessary steps to freeze-proof your vessel, it’s a good time to do some deep cleaning before laying the boat up for good. Dirt, grease, mold, and mildew can easily accumulate during use of the boat, and can grow from there if not taken care of before the storage period. Use a mild chlorine solution on the interior of refrigerators and ice chests to properly sanitize them, and place an open box of baking soda inside once done. From here you can leave the lid open or off to allow the air to continue to circulate and prevent mold from developing.

Air circulation is key in other areas of the boat as well. It is a good idea to vacuum any cushions, blankets, or linens on the boat, or better yet remove them completely. These items can easily attract and hang onto moisture which can quickly lead to the growth of mildew. Allowing the air to move freely through these items can help minimize this risk, so always prop up cushions and allow circulation around all sides if you decide you cannot remove them from the boat.

After you have taken all of the necessary steps and precautions, it’s time to cover the boat. Opting for a canvas or shrink-wrap winter cover not only will keep precipitation out during the winter, but it will also protect the deck, which is susceptible to cracks from the accumulation of moisture. By covering your watercraft with a durable, winterized material, you can protect your boat and extend its life for many seasons to come.

Safely Store Your Vessel

No matter where you decide to lay up your boat, make sure to take safety precautions to prevent theft and vandalism. Boats can be easy targets because many criminals assume there is limited visibility. Choosing proper security systems like alarms, cameras, and locks can help prevent unwanted visitors from trespassing, damaging, or stealing.

In the event this occurrence does happen, you will want to also make sure you have the proper insurance coverage to protect your boat. Our team is happy to help you find the right protection for you, including coverage for damage, theft, vandalism, and more during the lay up period. Contact us to learn more!

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