One of the main concerns for anyone involved in boating is the upkeep of their valuable craft during the off-season. Ensuring these expensive boats are kept safe and secure can mean big savings on boat dealers insurance, not to mention repair costs.
There is available a wide range of information specific to boating, including a variety of boat maintenance, safety and loss avoidance information, from hurricane preparations to theft prevention tips. Listed below are a few safety tips for yachts and boats that have been docked during winter months.
Maintaining a vessel during a lay up
- Marinas are a target for thieves in the winter. Be sure to remove all valuables from any boat, including electronics, tools, binoculars, fishing gear and small outboard motors, and take them home or store them safely ashore.
- Make regular inspection visits to the vessel to ensure the bilges are dry, drains are clear, mooring lines are secure and not chafing, and batteries are charged. Post emergency phone numbers in one of the boat's windows facing the dock. If away for an extended period, arrange to have a friend or neighbor check on the boat.
- Close all seacocks. If left open, a short period of freezing weather can cause a hose to split or a strainer to crack, and the boat will sink when the weather warms up. In fresh water where muskrats may be a problem, cover or block exhaust through-hulls.
- Make certain bilge pumps and float switches are in good condition, and keep the batteries charged. Remember, though, that pumps don't sink boats. Leaks sink boats. Inspect all hoses, valves, outdrive bellows, stuffing boxes, strainers and through-hulls, and make sure everything is ship-shape.
- Install a smoke detector and a high water alarm. If there's a problem onboard, the alarm may be heard by neighbor or a marina employee.
- When using heaters onboard, consider using non-thermostatic "hot sticks" or "air dryers," which are safer, use less electricity and help fight mildew by keeping air moving. Leave interior lockers open to provide more air circulation.
- Accumulating leaves, ice or snow can block cockpit drains, and the weight of snow or rainwater collecting in the cockpit can force the stern down, allowing water to enter through openings normally above the waterline. Inspect all through-hulls close to the waterline. If any of them are plastic, they can develop cracks that will allow water in if they become submerged.
- Remove sails, including roller-furled headsails, to prevent them from being damaged during a winter storm. Also, be sure all exterior canvas is well secured.
Following these simple instructions can help maintain vessels and ensure when the time comes that they are ready for the high seas.