One of the main concerns of anyone involved in boating is the maintenance of their valuable boat during the off-season. Ensuring these expensive boats are kept safe and secure can mean big savings on boat dealer insurance, not to mention repair costs.

A wide range of navigation-specific information is available, including a variety of information on boat maintenance, safety and loss prevention, from hurricane preparations to tips for preventing theft. Here are some safety tips for yachts and boats that have been docked during the winter months.

Maintaining a boat during storage

  • Marinas are a target for thieves in winter. Be sure to remove all valuables from any boat, including electronics, tools, binoculars, fishing gear, and small outboard motors, and take them home or store them safely ashore.
  • Make regular inspection visits to the boat to make sure the bilges are dry, the drains are clean, the mooring lines are secure and not rubbing, and the batteries are charged. Post emergency phone numbers on one of the boat’s windows that face the dock. If you are away for an extended period, arrange for a friend or neighbor to check the boat.
  • Close all sea intakes. If left open, a short period of frosty weather can cause a hose to snap or a strainer to crack, and the boat will sink when the weather warms up. In fresh water where muskrats can be a problem, cover or block the exhaust thru-hulls.
  • Make sure bilge pumps and float switches are in good condition and keep batteries charged. However, remember that bombs do not sink ships. Leaks sink ships. Inspect all hoses, valves, outlet bellows, glands, filters, and through-hulls, and make sure everything is boat-shaped.
  • Install a smoke detector and high water alarm. If there is a problem on board, a neighbor or a marine employee may hear the alarm.
  • When using onboard heaters, consider using non-thermostatic “hot rods” or “air dryers,” which are safer, use less electricity, and help fight mold by keeping the air moving. Leave the interior lockers open to provide more air circulation.
  • The accumulation of leaves, ice or snow can block the drains in the cabin, and the weight of snow or rainwater accumulating in the cabin can force the stern down, allowing water to enter through openings normally above the waterline. Inspect all thru-hulls close to the waterline. If any of them are plastic, they can develop cracks that will allow water to enter if submerged.
  • Remove sails, including furled bows, to avoid damage during a winter storm. Also, make sure the entire outer canvas is well secured.

Following these simple instructions can help maintain ships and ensure that when the time comes they are ready for the high seas.

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