A boat faces serious risk of damage when exposed over time to harsh weather conditions, and these could affect its performance and cost hundreds of dollars to repair.
Therefore it is very important to properly prepare and store the boat for winter, a process often referred to as winterizing a boat.
Fortunately, there are many options for storing your boat during winter. Each option comes with its own pros and cons,and with all varying in cost, affordability, availability, and convenience.
You have to decide and choose an option that you will not only feel more comfortable with, but one that also favors the longevity of your boat.
The options include boat storage units, dry stack storage, indoor storage, and storing outside in your yard.
In getting your vessel to storage, you can read our how to tow a boat guide for information.
In-Water Storage: This involves storing your boat in the water throughout the winter season. This is usually considered an acceptable practice in temperate areas where winters are relatively mild, but very risky for regions where winter is more pronounced.
The hull could become frozen in place and risk of ice damages to the boats abound. In such regions, leaving your boat to pass the winter in the water is very risky and not recommendable at all.
Doing so will-expose the boat to the harsh winter conditions. Your boat might even sink if you don't keep monitoring it closely and often. It is also vulnerable and open to thieves.
Dry Boat Storage: Dry outdoor boat storage is relatively safe and protective for the boat. It is also more inexpensive compared to almost every other options.
You can easily locate inexpensive outdoor boat storage facilities where you live. Most marinas and boat yards offer this service, as do commercial storage facilities.
One potential down-side to outdoor storage is security.Your facility should be fenced, locked, and have some form of security system or video surveillance.
Indoor Boat Storage: Although indoor boat storage is a more expensive option, it offers the most protection for your boat. However, it can be very difficult to find indoor boat storage services.
If your garage is large enough for your boat to fit into,then keeping your boat right there at home is your best option.
Before putting the boat in for storage, take it out for one last ride. Pay close attention to any sign of an engine problem or other issues that may need repairs or replacement.
Check the hull for cracks which could grow worse over the storage period if left unattended. It’s best to make these repairs before putting the boat up for the winter.
Before washing your boat for storage, it is wise to remove items such as fabrics, leather, canvases etc. from the boat and store them inside your garage.
This will help keep them free from mold, as well as securing them from getting lost. Remove loose electronics items from the boat as they are prone to damage from extreme weather conditions.
Thoroughly scrub the entire boat with boat washing soap and water, right from the hull to the interior. Remove any scum line around the waterline of your boat by applying some hull cleaner.
You can read our boat hull cleaning guide for specific details on doing this.
Follow the instructions on the hull cleaner packaging and be sure to protect yourself by wearing gloves and a respirator. Thoroughly wet down the boat with fresh water before applying the hull cleaner to your boat in order to avoid damaging the galvanized coating.
Check out our cleaning a dirty boat guide for specific details on getting your boat spotless before storing it for winter.
Scrub your boat clean with a quality boat wash and a soft brush on an extension pole. Rinse the soap off and wipe dry with a clean dry towel or a microfiber cloth.
Allowing the boat to air-dry will leave water marks, especially on stainless steel fittings, windows, clear and dark colored hulls, and so it's best to wipe dry with a cloth.
Inside, wipe hard surfaces clean with an all-purpose cleaner to remove salt and dirt marks.
Clean your vinyl seats with a specialty vinyl cleaner and a soft brush or microfiber cloth. Vinyl is very vulnerable to mold and mildew and hence it is a good idea to top up with a good quality vinyl guard/protectant.
Clean out refrigerators, lockers, drawers, and-freezers as well, and repair any blistering if yours is a fiberglass boat.
Once your boat is thoroughly cleaned, both inside and outside, it is time to cover the body with wax. Applying wax to your boat will help prevent rusting and corrosion.
This is particularly important if you intend to store your boat outdoors. Apply a coat of wax on both the hull and the superstructure, and polish evenly.
Rinse and flush the outside of your boat and trailer thoroughly with fresh water to get rid of excess salt accumulated over time. Pay particular attention to the leaf springs, wheel hubs and brakes, which are constantly submerged in water.
When rinsing your boat, try and flush out with fresh water the salt water trapped in holes on the trailer frame, as such are avenues your boat risks corrosion on the inside.
Flush the engine with freshwater to remove salt,dirt and corrosion. Flush the cooling system with fresh water to minimize corrosion and overheating issues when next you want to cruise your boat.
After you've flushed it, drain and refresh the coolant system with anti-freeze to prevent freezing and corrosion of the engine. You can follow the step by step instructions in our how to winterize your boat engine guide.
First warm up the engine to loosen the impurities, change the engine oil and the filters. By changing the boat oil before storing you can avoid any long-term damage during storage.
Not changing the oil will expose the engine to risk of corrosion from any acids or water that might gotten into it. Make sure the filters are changed and flushed out, with no water left, before you add the new oil.
Turn over your boat engine without actually starting it and then apply fogging oil into the carburetor and spark plug holes,or as instructed by the manual. This will help to protect your engine during the winter period.
Loosen and store away drive belts to stop them from snapping due to tension.
Condensation can build up in an empty tank and cause corrosion or a worse damage if the tank freezes. To avoid this, top your engine with a full tank of fuel mixed with a fuel stabilizer.
Run the engine for about 15 minutes to make sure the additives reach the fuel lines. You can read our cleaning a boat fuel tank guide for ensuring there's no dirt inside over the winter.
Grease the steering and other controls properly. This will ensure that your boat runs smoothly when next you need to steer it. Lightly apply moisture-displacing lubricant on all moving metal parts such as hinges, latches and linkages.
You need to keep your boat batteries properly maintained during winter storage so as to have them alive and ready for use after winter. You can disconnect and remove the batteries from your boat and store them in your garage.
First connect the batteries to a compatible battery charger that will give them a good initial charge and then automatically switch to a float charge to keep your batteries going.
Make sure your charger matches the type of battery you are charging.
Another option is to keep your batteries still mounted in the boat and connect them to a solar trickle charger. This charger will keep your batteries topped up and spare you the stress of removing heavy batteries from your boat.
It is important to charge disconnected batteries at least every once in a while in order to prevent them from draining out and dying off.
Ascertain that your boat is completely dry both inside and out, and then cover it up to protect it from dust, pollutants and UV radiation. Cover as tightly as possible to prevent bugs other animals from making a home inside your boat over winter. Use a boat cover made of breathable fabrics or with vents sewn in order to keep molds at bay.
It is recommended to place one or two moisture absorbents inside your boat to absorb any excess moisture and significantly minimize mold growth.
If you plan to store your boat inside your garage or a storage facility, consider using mouse traps to catch the rodents before they get on board.
You can put scented laundry fabric sheets or mothballs around the boat to serve as deterrent to rodents.
Check on your boat every few weeks and fix any problem you noticed over the winter. Inspect your boat for new problems that might arise during storage.
Check the battery to see if it is still charged and drain off any water that might have pooled in lower areas of the boat.
You can also check out our boat winterizing guide for some more tips on preparing for the winter.
You can seek the services of commercial boat stores, if you can't figure out how to store your boat. The exact cost of boat storage will depend on your location and the size of your boat.
To get a general idea of the potential costs, you can figure on spending somewhere between $50 and $200 per foot of boat indoors and $20 to $50 per foot of boat for outdoor storage, per season.