boat storage

The boating lifestyle can provide hours of leisure and recreation each summer. But if you don’t protect your boat and store it correctly when the weather cools down, you could end up losing time and money when you’re ready to set sail next year.

Fortunately, that doesn’t have to happen. Here’s how to get your boat ready—and keep it safe—during the harsh and sometimes cruel months of winter.

1. Come Up With a Storage Plan.

The best place to store your boat is at a climate-controlled storage facility, according to DiscoverBoating.com, a site managed by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. That way, weather won’t be an issue.

However, if you decide to leave your boat outside, make sure you use a cover that fits well, says Charles Fort, director of consumer protection at the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS). Also, keep the boat’s drain plug pulled out so that if heavy rain happens to get into the boat, it won’t fill up with water, Fort said.

Finally, before covering the boat, protect sharp edges such as windshield frames, antenna mounts, and transom corners with an old towel or blanket, suggests Lenny Rudow, senior editor at Dominion Marine Media, which publishes the Boats.com blog. Otherwise, those sharp edges “may damage the cover if it shifts in the wind,” Rudow said.

2. Start Preparing Early.

The time to start winterizing a boat, or getting it ready for storage, is before the first freeze. While some people in warmer states might think they don’t need to protect their boat from the winter elements, “all it takes is one really good cold freeze and if your boat’s not winterized, you can do some very expensive damage,” Fort said.

Always check your owner’s manual for advice on preparing your type of boat for cold weather.

For more information about winter storage tips, visit www.sparefoot.com/storage-tips/how-to-prepare-your-boat-for-winter-storage.

3. Protect the Engine.

The last thing you want to happen when you pull your boat out next season is engine trouble.

Most fuel contains ethanol. If ethanol is mixed with water, it can damage the engine. Before storing your boat, fill up the tank and add a stabilizer to the fuel such as Star Tron or Biobor, according to Rudow.

In addition, make sure there’s no water in the engine by flushing it with propylene glycol, a nontoxic type of antifreeze, Fort suggests.

This also is a good time for some preventive maintenance for your engine, such as changing the oil and replacing the filter, Fort said.

4. Keep Ventilation in Mind.

Ensure plenty of ventilation in all areas of the boat and, if necessary, add a solar-powered vent with a fan, Rudow said. “Without proper ventilation, mildew will set in all over the place,” he said.

5. Remove All Valuables.

When you’re going to be away from your boat for a lengthy period of time, make sure you protect your valuables from thieves. If you keep items such as fishing equipment, binoculars or a GPS in your boat, take them with you before you store your watercraft, Fort said.

6. Do Spot Checks.

Out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind. One of the biggest mistakes boat owners make is failing to regularly check on their boats throughout the winter, Rudow said. “When a cover rips or tears, if a long period of time goes by before you notice, your boat may be in for some serious damage,” he said.

You can hire someone to get your boat ready for winter, but a marina and a gas station may have two different ideas of what “winterization” means, Fort says. To avoid unpleasant surprises, be sure to get your winterization agreement in writing.

Whether you get your boat ready for storage yourself or pay someone else to do it, the key is making a plan—and sticking to it. “Do a little preparation now,” Fort said, “and it’s going to save you a lot of hassle later.”