Boat Storage Options

As the colder months approach, new boat owners scratch their heads as to how to store their new purchase. The answer to the question, as so much in this hobby, has a lot to do with your specific boat and needs. These simple guidelines should provide the guidance that you need to get through the winter with peace of mind.

Storage options – The easiest storage option in mild climates is, of course, leaving the boat in the water. Wet storage has several advantages, the biggest one being convenience. Not only does wet storage completely bypass the effort of winterizing and pulling your boat from the water, but a wet-stored boat is always ready for action; just climb aboard, cast off your lines, and you’re in business. Depending on where you live, it’s possible to rent or purchase a slip, often including utilities and services, making wet-storage a very attractive option.

Folks in cooler climates like mine don’t typically have the option of wet-storage. There are techniques of winterizing your entire dock or slip using various pumps, bubblers, and chemicals, but they’re somewhat prone to failure in extreme climates, and a single failure can severely damage your investment – these techniques are not recommended. Winter storage in cold environments is best done out of the water, or dry.

Depending on the size of your boat, you may be able to store your boat through the winter on a trailer. Many of us trailer our boats year-round, hauling them down to the lake or ocean every time we wish to use them what seems like a pain during the season is a pretty significant advantage when it comes to winter storage. We can winterize out boats in their yards, sheds, or shelters, cover them up, and walk away until spring. If your boat is too large for trailering, or you’re not permitted to store a boat in your yard, you’ll need to weigh your other dry-storage options – rack-storage and blocking.

Rack storage, also known as dry-stacking your boat is a service offered by boat-yards and marinas world-wide. The yard staff use specialized lifts and cranes to pull your vessel from the water and place it on a standard rack, often stacked three or more boats high. Dry stacks almost always have a roof over them, and are sometimes even housed in indoor, climate-controlled facilities. You can usually have winterization services included in your storage fees – boating professionals will completely winterize your vessel before putting it away on the rack, allowing you to just disembark and walk away for the season. The upside to rack-storage is that these professionals do hundreds of boats a year. Your boat will likely be very well cared for and secure. The downside is access – racks are often inaccessible to boat owners until spring

Blocking is storing your boat on a series of wooden blocks or jacks. Some folks also use specially-made steel or wood cradles for winter storage. The difference between this option and rack storage is that your boat is exposed to the elements, but usually accessible to you throughout the winter. If you have a lot of projects that you’d like to get done on your vessel throughout the winter, this is a good bet. If you choose to block your boat, make sure to properly support the boat. Observe the points supported by your trailer and by racks and cradles on other vessels around the yard – try to use the same points of contact on your boat’s hull. Place foam, towels, or carpet-scraps (fuzz against the hull) between your blocks and the hull to protect your finish. Place you blocks as widely as possible, providing a wide base of support in case of high winds, and look down the hull for impressions from your jacks. If your hull is at all distorted by your blocking, the boat is not well supported. Check periodically for this kind of damage, and correct, as needed.

Winter storage is also a great opportunity to take care of some regular maintenance tasks. Having the boat out of the water for a while leaves the hull easily accessible for cleaning, patching, painting, and waxing. The smoother and better-maintained your hull is, the more efficiently your boat will move though the water.

Regardless of how you choose to winter your boat, make sure that it is well winterized before you do so. There’s lots of great information online about boat winterization, or you can have the job professionally handled at your marina. Proper winter storage is an important part of boat ownership and maintenance. Once you choose how you’d like to store your boat, the rest comes pretty easily. The more care you take in winterizing and storing your boat for the off-season, the less you’ll have to do in the spring, and the faster you’ll be able to get to the good part of boat ownership – spending time on the water.

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