Shorter days and cooler temperatures signal the end of warm weekends on the water and the beginning of winter. While Texas may not experience extremely harsh winters and long-lasting, deep freezes, your boats and docks still need protection from the winter elements. Fortunately, there are things you can do before the cold weather hits to make sure your watercraft and dock will be in good condition when spring rolls around.
If you don’t plan to head out on the water during the winter months, you need to winterize your boat and even your boat dock. Why? Snow and ice storms can cause costly damages to these expensive investments. Neglecting to winterize your boat and dock can cause premature wear and tear as moisture, acids and corrosion can cause damage. Winterizing your boat may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be a complicated process.
Winterizing Your Boat
Winterizing your boat can be as simple as draining any water on board and adding antifreeze in case of a cold snap. The Boat Owners Association of The United States explains that freshwater expands in volume by about 9% when it freezes and can even push outwards. The push can have a force of tens of thousands of pounds per square inch, which can cause cracks, splits and general damage to your boat.
A good first step to consider for winterizing your boat is where (and how) you want to store your watercraft. Popular options include moving it to an indoor climate-controlled unit, removing it from the water, leaving it in its slip or keeping the boat in the water.
If you decide to leave your boat in the water, there are several things to consider. If you don’t consistently check on your boat, underwater fittings can become vulnerable to failure causing the vessel to sink. Leaving it in the water year-round can cause blistering because it doesn’t get a chance to dry out.
To avoid problems with storing your watercraft in water, protect the thru-hulls by closing seacocks and gate valves. Thru hulls are fittings designed to accept pipes and valves that allow water to pass in or out of boats.
Dock lines can cause the watercraft to sink if strong winds push it under the dock. It’s best to center it in the slip and use long dock lines and spring lines to help maintain distance between the boat and the dock.
Even though there are some risks to keeping a watercraft in the water during the winter months, there are also some advantages. Water retains heat longer than air, so boats surrounded by air are more susceptible to sudden freezes caused by rapid temperature drops.
Watercraft kept ashore should be winterized earlier than those kept in the water. The key to successfully storing a vessel on land is resting it on something that will provide adequate support. In addition to covered storage areas, there are multiple options for storage out of the water:
- Custom-made cradles
- Jack stands
- Dry storage racks
Besides having your vessel laid up properly, covering it while on land can help prevent damage. But simply placing a plastic tarp over the vessel may not be enough to protect it if strong winds damage the tarp. Moreover, if ice forms on the tarp, even more damage can occur. Using a canvas material to cover the vessel would be beneficial to a classic tarp.
The best covers are custom made from canvas material coupled with a wood or aluminum frame to promote air circulation and prevent water pooling on the surface. Vents in the cover will help with air circulation and will also help prevent mildew.
Winterizing your dock
Your boat isn’t the only thing that needs protection from the winter elements. Winterizing your dock will help protect it from long-term damage and save you from expensive fixes in the spring.
EZ Dock Texas recommends starting off by inspecting your boat lift for loose parts and bolts and checking dock cables for wear and tear. Check the anchors on land to ensure that they have not moved out of place. If you aren’t sure what to look for, consider hiring a professional to help you evaluate and maintain the structure. Dock builders can also provide expertise in making repairs, as well as offering advice on how to avoid problems with your structure.
Next, clean the surface of your dock to remove dirt, debris, algae or fungus. If you have a warm day, take the opportunity to see if water beads on the wood’s surface. If the wood doesn’t adequately repel water, you may want to consider resurfacing it.
Finally, consider purchasing a bubbler or agitator to prevent ice from forming near the dock. These devices create small bubbles to create continuous movement, which stops ice from forming.
For a complete guide on how to winterize your boats from Boat US, click here.