Do you take the ''winterizing'' of your boat seriously enough?
’Winterized’ boat - No, this is not what we mean
BoatUS has found that, of all the states in the US, it is sailors in balmy California who claimed more on insurance during the winter than any other state., including those states well known to be 'deep freeze' states.
They have an explanation:
While winters may be much colder in the deep-freeze states, the bitter temperatures are a fact of life and preparations for winter are taken very seriously. But in the more temperate states, like California, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia, winter tends to be relatively comfortable in most areas with only an occasional cold spell. And if the forecasts aren’t taken seriously, they can do a lot of damage.
Read on for some excellent tips for storing your boat for the winter: (If the information below leaves you with more questions, the BoatUS Seaworthy Magazine website, which contains a wealth of detail and assistance, should be your next reference point. Better still, subscribe to the magazine!)
In some parts of the country, where winter means several months of bitterly cold weather, storing boats ashore is the norm. In warmer climates, however, ice and snow may occur infrequently, and the choice between storage ashore and storage in the water is open to discussion.
Storage in the water means you might get a jump on the boating season next spring. On the other hand, boats stored ashore (on high ground) won’t sink. If you have a choice, storage ashore is a safer bet. Storage ashore may also be less expensive over the life of a boat, since a hull surrounded by air for several months each winter is less likely to develop blisters than a hull that remains in the water. These blisters, the fiberglass equivalent of rot, occur on many boats when water soaks into the laminate below the waterline.
One note of caution: The vast majority of the claims in temperate states involved boats that were being stored ashore. Since water retains heat longer than air, boats surrounded by air are more vulnerable to a sudden freeze than boats surrounded by water. Even a brief cold spell that lasts only a night or two can do considerable damage. In temperate states, boat owners must winterize engines and freshwater systems, especially when boats are stored ashore. In deep freeze states, boats stored ashore must be winterized earlier than boats stored in the water.
Storage in the Water:
A boat in Maryland sank when it's plastic thru-hull was shoved underwater by the weight of the snow. The intake was broken by ice (the surveyor who inspected the damage suspected that it was already cracked) and water flowed into the boat
If the boat must be left in the water, the thru-hulls have to be protected by closing all seacocks and gate valves. Leaving a thru-hull unprotected over the winter is like going on an extended vacation and leaving your home’s front door open. Failure to close thru-hulls is a major cause of loss in the BoatUS insurance program. In a recent study of 40 winter-related claims, seacocks or gate valves left open caused or contributed to the sinking of seven of the boats in the sample group. It should be noted that raising and refurbishing a boat that sinks, even at a dock, is a daunting job that can keep the boat in the repair yard for many weeks over the spring and summer. Whenever a boat is stored in the water over the winter, all thru-hulls, with the exception of the ones for cockpit drains, must be closed or it could be on the bottom next spring. And all thru-hulls, especially the ones for the cockpit drains, must be double-clamped with stainless steel hose clamps at each end. This is critical. When water freezes it expands and will lift a poorly secured hose off of a fitting. The hose itself is also important. Lightweight hose and PVC tubing can rupture or crack. Use only a heavily reinforced hose, especially at cockpit drains.
If your boat has thru-hulls below the waterline that can’t be closed, either because they are mechanically frozen open or have broken (typical with gate valves, which is why they are not recommended), it should be stored ashore for the winter.
Seacocks are closed by moving the handle down so that the handle is parallel to the hull. Gate valves are closed by turning the wheel clockwise. After the seacock or gate valve has been closed, remove the hose so that it drains and then use an absorbent cloth or turkey baster to eliminate any residual water, which can freeze and crack the nipple. (Taking off the hose also assures you that the valve has closed properly.) Reinstall the hose immediately and secure the two clamps.
It should be noted that thru-hulls above the waterline are not required to have seacocks and most don’t. That doesn’t mean that these thru-hulls aren’t vulnerable. Ordinary plastic thru-hulls deteriorate in sunlight and have been broken when they were shoved underwater by the weight of snow and ice in the cockpit, which then sinks the boat. Plastic thru-hulls near the waterline are especially vulnerable and should be replaced with bronze or Marelon (the latter is the only type of plastic approved for marine use by U.L.).
Click on the links below for more information about storage in the water:
Other Thru-hulls Exhaust Ports Docks and Docklines Batteries
With a winterizing contract, make sure that everything is spelled out. Does the contract specify covering the boat or winterizing the head? How about closing the seacocks?
'I Thought the Yard Would Take Care of That!'
A casual agreement to take care of the boat, or worse, an assumption that a marina or boatyard automatically protects boats from an unexpected freeze can have chilling results:
Example: The skipper was seriously ill, so he called the boatyard and casually asked if they could winterize his houseboat. No problem! The boat was hauled and blocked. The engine’s cooling system was drained and non-toxic anti-freeze flushed throughout the freshwater system. Unfortunately, an expensive winter cover that had been stored below was left untouched in a locker and the boat was left to endure the harsh Minnesota winter au natural.
Engines don’t like to be idle, even for three or four months over the winter. BoatUS Marine Insurance claim files contain many stories of engines that froze and failed after skippers failed to winterize their engine properly. Generally, engine blocks that freeze and crack are not covered by a boat’s insurance policy.
But even if the engine makes it through the winter, a half-hearted winterizing effort will come back to haunt you as the engine gets older and wears out prematurely. Unless it is winterized properly, moisture, acids and corrosion will continue unabated. Winterizing the engine is one job that is truly critical; follow the steps below and consult your manual for specifics.
Most marinas are like floating ghost towns over the winter, with little to deter prowlers. Electronics and other valuables that can be dismounted should be taken home for safekeeping. If you have an EPIRB, make sure it won’t be activated accidentally.
Besides electronics, all flammables--spare cooking fuels, charcoal, paints, thinners, and varnish--should be stored ashore, preferably in a tool shed away from the house. All are fire hazards. Portable propane canisters should never be stored below on a boat, even during the season, as the canisters can rust and leak. Leave at least one fully charged fire extinguisher in clear sight.
Take home all food stuffs, including canned and bottled goods. Bunk cushions should be propped up, or better yet, taken home. Open various locker doors, hatches, ice box lids, etc., to circulate air and inhibit mildew. Metal zippers on cushions will benefit from a