Boating season can never be long enough for boat enthusiasts. Harsh winter conditions and freezing temperatures eventually force boat owners to pull their watercraft out and store it until next spring.
What does it mean to winterize a boat?
Winterizing is the process of properly storing and protecting your boat from winter conditions. It’s critically important for preserving the condition of your boat and preventing any costly damage from happening.
What happens if I don’t winterize my boat correctly?
If left in the water, your boat could face irreparable damage or even sinking, and you could be dealing with hefty fines or liability claims.
If your boat is taken out of the water, but not winterized correctly, it could still face serious damage. Ice and snow can be deadly on water pipes, upholstery, and engines, so neglecting this process can leave you dealing with cracked engines, frozen pipes, and deteriorated engine components.
Here are some of the consequences you might face if you don't winterize your boat:
Plumbing System Damage
Fuel System Problems
Mold and Mildew
Hull and Exterior Damage
Deck and Hardware Damage
Electrical System Issues
Sails and Rigging Damage
Resale Value Decrease
Insurance implications for not winterizing your boat
Most boat insurance policies in Canada require winterization as a condition of coverage. Failing to winterize your boat may result in a loss of coverage or denial of claims related to damage that could have been prevented through proper winterization.
You could also be held liable to any damage that occur to other people’s property due to improper winterization, which can happen when a boat is left in the water and iced in over the winter, potentially getting stranded or sunk offshore come spring.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to winterize your boat:
1. Make sure you have everything needed
Before you begin, make sure you have all the necessary supplies and tools, including quality antifreeze, engine fogging oil, a fuel stabilizer, a water pump muff, a boat cover, and basic hand tools.
It’s a good idea to check your boat's owner's manual or consult with your local marine mechanic for specific winterization instructions tailored to your boat's make and model.
2. Clean and inspect
Thoroughly clean your boat, both inside and out, to remove any dirt, salt, or debris. Inspect the hull, engine, and all components for damage or wear. Note down any damage you see.
3. Change the oil and filter
Following your boat owner’s manual, change the engine oil and oil filter. Did you know that used oil contains contaminants that can lead to corrosion over the winter?
4. Stabilize the fuel system
Add a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank to keep the fuel from breaking down and forming deposits. You’ll want to run the engine for a few minutes to be sure that the treated fuel reaches the engine.
5. Flush and drain the cooling system
If your boat has a closed cooling system, flush it now with fresh water to remove any salt or debris. Always drain the cooling system to prevent freezing, which is one of the main causes of winter damage for boats.
6. Drain water systems:
You’ll want to beware of ice here, too! Now’s the time to empty the freshwater tanks, water heater, and any plumbing systems to prevent freezing. Use a non-toxic, marine-rated antifreeze to protect the plumbing system.
7. Remove and store batteries
Remove the boat's batteries and store them in a cool, dry place. You may even choose to take them home with you to the garage, where you can charge them periodically throughout the winter to keep them in top shape.
8. Lubricate moving parts
Using marine-grade lubricants, you should now lubricate all moving parts, such as steering systems, throttle controls, and propeller shafts.
9. Fog the engine
Follow your specific boat manual to fog the engine with a fogging oil. This helps protect internal engine components from rust as the boat sits unused until next year.
10. Check belts and hoses
Inspect all belts and hoses for signs of wear or damage. Replace them now instead of waiting for next year.
11. Cover and protect
Most important of all, be sure to cover your boat with a high-quality boat cover. It’s well worth paying an extra buck to be sure your boat stays safe and dry. Make sure the cover is snug and secure to prevent wind damage. When storing your boat outdoors, consider shrink-wrapping it for ultimate protection.
12. Store properly:
Store your boat in a location that is safe, dry, and secure. If storing it in the water, use proper dock lines and fenders to protect against ice and changes in water levels.
13. Schedule maintenance:
If you're uncertain about any steps or require professional assistance, schedule a winterization service with a qualified marine mechanic or boatyard in your locale.
14. Regular checkups:
You’ll want to swing by to check on your boat every now and then throughout the winter, especially if you're storing it outdoors. Keep track of what you find in case you need to submit an insurance claim.
What do I need to know about submitting an insurance claim for my boat? Do marine insurance policies cover winter damages?
Always Store Your Boat in a Secure Location: Boat insurance typically covers your boat whether it's in use or in storage. If you store your boat on your property or in a storage facility, it should remain insured throughout the winter. However, if you fail to store your boat appropriately, it may affect your coverage.
Know Your Lay-Up Period: Some boat insurance policies have a lay-up period during which the boat is not in use and is typically stored for the winter. As such, your winter coverage may be reduced to comprehensive coverage only, so be sure to check your specific plan. Comprehensive coverage means your boat is covered for damage resulting from events like theft, vandalism, or weather-related incidents, but not damage while the boat is in use, as it’s expected that you won’t have it in the water during the winter months.
Check Navigation Limits: Check your policy for any navigation limits. Some policies may restrict coverage to specific geographic areas or bodies of water. If you plan to use your boat in a different area during the winter, ensure it's covered.
Know Your Winterization Requirements: Some insurance policies have specific requirements for winterization, so check with your insurance provider to see if there’s anything you need to keep in mind while putting your boat away.
Explore Additional Coverage Options: Depending on your insurer and policy, you might be able to purchase additional coverage for winter-related risks like damage from ice and snow accumulation or freezing temperatures.
Be Aware of Mandatory Notifications and Inspections: Does your insurance provider require you to send a notification when your boat is placed in storage? Do you need to provide proof of regular inspections over the winter? Double-check this.