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What do I need to know to winterize my boat and dock?

What do I need to know to winterize my boat and dock?

Shorter days and cooler temperatures may signal the end of weekend boating for some. If your water activities are over until spring, you will want to prepare your watercraft and dock for the winter. 

Winterizing boats, jet skis and docks are sometimes overlooked as a necessity due to mild winter temperatures in Texas. However, a cold snap could happen, and if your watercraft or dock is unprepared, it could cost you a lot of money and time to repair. 

While Texas may not experience extremely harsh winters and long-lasting, deep freezes, your watercraft 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.

Neglecting to winterize your watercraft and dock can cause premature wear and tear, as moisture, acids and corrosion can cause damage. 

If you've not gone through the process in the past, winterizing your boat may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't need to be a complicated process. According to boats.com, you'll need to consider whether or not to pull your watercraft, how to cover them, care of the fuel systems and batteries, and how to winterize the plumbing, air conditioning, sanitation system, and outboard engine. 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. 

Winterizing Your Boat

Winter boat storage starts with draining your boat. Remove water from the bilge, tanks, and any place water may gather, especially the engine. Water freezing in engines could cause serious damage. Raising the bow will help to accelerate the draining process. 

Cleaning is the next step. Scrub the entire boat, hull to interior, with soap and water. Open all storage bins and clean them as well. Once the boat is dry and cleaned, apply a coat of wax and polish it evenly. 

To winterize the engine, flush the engine with fresh water to remove dirt, debris and corrosion. Have the oil changed and fill the gas tank. 

Removing and storing the battery in a warm, dry place is also essential. Make sure it's completely charged or add a trickle charger to keep it in shape while stored. 

Wherever you choose to store your boat, be sure to remove lifejackets, fire extinguishers and any sporting equipment (skis, fishing supplies, etc.) to prevent mildew deposits. 

If you plan to continue using your boat during winter, it's still essential to clean, drain and dry to prevent the spread of Zebra Mussels. In the winter, it takes longer for the boat to completely dry than in the summer, so the time between visits to other reservoirs should be extended.

Whether you store your boat during winter or use it all year long, clean, drain and dry should be a common practice. Boating Geeks offers a complete list of steps to take to winterize your boat here

Winterizing Your Dock

Winterizing boat docks is essential to dock and waterfront property ownership because it preserves your structures and minimizes environmental damage. Winterizing will help protect it from long-term damage and save you from expensive and time-consuming fixes in the spring. 

The best method for winterizing your boat dock depends on what type of dock you own. If it's a floating dock made of polyethylene material, you don't need to do as much work to prepare it for the season, and they're easy to relocate. Permanent docks and docks made of wood or metal require a little more work.

According to EZ Dock, you should 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 you aren't sure what to look for, consider hiring a professional to help you evaluate and maintain the 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.

Then, you will want to remove all accessories (chairs, ladders, benches, etc.) and find a secure place to store them until spring rolls around. Don't store dock accessories anywhere that is exposed to moisture or extreme cold temperatures.

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. 

Taking time to see how your dock is withstanding water can pay off in the long run, whether it stays in the water over the winter months. 

Robert Maxwell, Family Handman blog writer, offers a complete list of steps to take to winterize your boat dock here

Bottom line, if you aren't sure what to look for, consider hiring a professional to help you evaluate and maintain the structure of your dock and the storage of your boat. Dock builders can also provide expertise in making repairs and offering advice on how to avoid problems with your structure. Boat dealerships can also offer tips when winterizing your boat. 

For a listing of dock builders that hold permits to operate on BRA reservoirs, please contact your reservoir office. 

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