Texas isn't typically known for its harsh winters but rather for its infamous unpredictable weather. While we expect drier and warmer conditions due to the projected La Niña conditions, your boats and docks still need protection from the potential winter elements.
If you don't plan to head out on the water during the winter months, you will need to winterize your boat and your dock, as neglecting them can cause premature wear and tear from moisture, acids and corrosion can cause damage.
Winterizing your boat and dock may seem complicated, but it doesn't need to be. However, there are factors that you will need to consider before the winterization process.
According to boats.com, you'll need to consider whether or not to pull your boat, how to cover your boat, care of the fuel systems and batteries, and how to winterize the plumbing, air conditioning, sanitation system, and outboard engine. And, if you are not confident in winterizing your boat or dock by yourself, local marinas often have professionals who can aid you in the process.
How to Winterize Your Boat
First, you'll need to decide 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.
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, including custom-made cradles, jack stands, dry storage racks, trailers, and lifts.
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. If ice forms on the tarp, even more damage can occur. Using canvas material to cover the vessel is more efficient at protecting your boat from the elements.
The best covers are custom-made from canvas and 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.
If you decide to leave your boat in the water, consistently checking on your boat throughout the cold months is key. If you don't check on your boat, underwater fittings can become vulnerable to failure, which can even cause 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.
Winterizing your boat can be as simple as draining any water on board and adding antifreeze in case of a cold snap. However, if you want to ensure that your boat is fully prepared for the winter season, Discover Boating shares a ten-step process on thoroughly winterizing your boat, whether or not you keep it on land or in the water.
1. Prep your engine by ensuring that all water has been drained and removed.
2. Apply corrosion protection to your engine.
3. Consult your owner's manual for specific instructions, and complete fogging, if needed.
4. Add a fuel-stabilizing additive to your fuel system, then run the engine.
5. Change your engine's fuel filters and any fuel/water separators in the system.
6. Drain your boat's freshwater plumbing systems, including its sinks, tanks, and heads.
7. Add antifreeze to your plumbing systems—check the owner's manual to see which type fits your boat the best.
8. Ensure water is removed from all additional systems such as raw water washdowns, live wells, bilge pumps, etc.
9. Remove drain plugs.
10. Cover your boat or place it into winter storage.
How to Winterize 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 and time-consuming fixes in the spring. How you winterize your dock depends on the type of materials making up your dock and walkway.
If you own something like an EZ Dock, which is made from polyethylene, start by removing and storing all the dock's accessories. Then wipe down all sections and accessories and let them dry before putting them away. Store the pieces in dry, enclosed storage spaces.
The winterizing process is slightly more complicated if your dock is a fixed, metal, or wood dock. Start 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 any bolts or screws are loose, tighten them. If any fasteners are damaged, replace them.
Even if you can't completely remove your dock from the water, place as many fixtures and accessories as you can in storage.
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 resurface it.
Then, you'll want to use 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. Then, you will want to attach a safety line, which you can do by tying a rope from your dock to a fixed point nearby. Remember to tie the rope high enough in case the water level rises. Finally, you'll then want to detach as much of your dock from the shore as you can. Even if you cannot remove the whole dock, you can reduce the contact with the shoreline by installing riprap.
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 and offering advice on how to avoid problems with your structure.