Is it Really Necessary to Winterize Your Boat?

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Why is it Important to Winterize Your Boat in BC

Not exactly “winterized”!

For most British Columbia boat owners, boating season has come to a close. Autumn is in full swing, winter is en route, and the lakes and waterways are far less enticing than they were in the spring and summer. Should you leave your watercraft docked “as is” at the local harbor so that it’s ready to launch when seasons change? Not if you want to avoid the potential for costly damage and disrepair. Let’s review.

Why It’s Extremely Important to Winterize Your Watercraft in BC and What You Need to Do

Most Insurers Won’t Cover Unprotected Boats

Winterization references a set of “best practices” that must be employed to protect watercraft from the elements when temperatures drop below freezing. At temperatures below 0°C (32°F), liquid water freezes, and when it does, ice will form on the surface along with the nooks and crannies of watercraft. The buildup can result in the fracture of boat hulls and other appendages. In addition, a boat’s engine block may freeze and crack. Even worse, is that much of this won’t be known until you return to your boat in the spring and take it out for a spin. You and your passengers may face peril on the open water at that point.

In BC, most insurance companies will not cover damage to boats that have not been winterized, as harm resulting from being left unattended and exposed to below freezing temperatures would not be considered sudden or accidental. Damage and disrepair may not be covered by your insurance policy leaving recreational boaters and fishers alike on the hook for repairs.

How to Winterize Your Boat

You’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s important to winterize your boat. You probably have some idea of how to do this, but may be missing some important action items. Here are some important steps to consider:

  • Drain and remove water from the engine.
  • Apply corrosion protection to the engine.
  • Add a manufacturer suggested fuel-stabilizing additive to the fuel system.
  • Change the engine’s fuel filters and any fuel/water separators in the system.
  • Drain the watercraft’s freshwater plumbing systems (sinks, tanks, and heads) and add antifreeze.
  • Drain/wipe away water from all additional systems (livewells, bilge pump, etc.).
  • Remove drain plugs.
  • Reference the owner’s manual for additional instructions specific to the make/model of the watercraft.
  • Cover the boat in either a manufacturer suggested custom-cover, or professional 8-12 millimeter, air-tight, heat-sealed polyethylene shrink wrap.
  • Store the boat in a safe, secure, climate-controlled marine storage facility.

For peace of mind, and greater assurance that your boat is properly protected, you can use a professional boat winterization service.

What If You Do Use It in the Autumn/Winter?

Some folks who live near the ocean (which does not freeze at 0°C) plan on using their boats all year long. On a sunny autumn or winter day it is common to see saltwater waterways and marinas packed like rush hour traffic throughout Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Are these boat owners required to store their boats for the season? Certainly not. However, everyone is expected to take every reasonable precaution to protect their watercraft from below 0°C temperatures. While saltwater may not freeze, moisture from precipitation along with condensation within the engine and other electrical/mechanical parts may turn into ice, which can lead to malfunction. After every return to harbor, be sure to wipe away water and debris, and keep the boat covered in a manufacturer suggested tarp that is custom-fit to the dimensions of your boat. View more on how to protect a boat when docked at your local marina.

There’s an old salty dog expression that states “The two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day they buy a boat, and the day they sell it.”. If you don’t winterize your watercraft you’ll realize exactly what it means. Although, you won’t have much luck selling one that has been left unprotected all autumn/winter. Don’t let this happen. Follow the best practices above, and have an independent broker review your boat and marine insurance to ensure that you have the most comprehensive coverage possible.

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