If you don’t live in a place like Florida where people boat year-round, it’s important to store your watercraft during the winter. However, many new boaters face a dilemma when choosing whether to store their boat outside during the cold months.
So, can boats be stored outside in the winter?
You can keep boats outside in the winter if you provide adequate protection against harsh weather. But you can’t simply park the boat on your driveway as most people do during the boating season.
Leaving your boat outside during the cold season can damage the boat.
In fact, there are multiple factors to consider when storing your boat outside during the winter.
We’ve researched this problem to provide actionable tips to help keep your boat safe during the winter.
In this article, we show you top considerations for safe and effective outdoor winter storage for your prized watercraft.
11 Things to Remember When Storing Your Boat Outside for the winter
If you store your boat outside for the winter, it’s crucial to take adequate measures to protect it from humans, animals, and the elements. You want to consider:
1. Neighborhood Regulations
If you are planning to store your boat on the driveway through the winter, make sure your neighborhood supports it.
Some localities prohibit residents from parking their boats on their property for extended periods for safety and other considerations.
Check with your local authority to ensure you are not breaking the law by storing a boat outside your home.
2. Full Winterization
The winterization process is essential regardless of where you are storing your boat. It involves these steps:
- Check for any engine issues for the last time and repair them before storage.
- Fill the gas tank and add a fuel stabilizer. Some manufacturers advise that you drain the tank because the ethanol in the gas can damage the tank. It’s important to add a fuel stabilizer to the tank.
- Replace engine filters and check the engine oil, clamps, belts and hoses. Flush and drain the gear case and apply a new lubricant.
- Check the cables and lines.
- Drain and flush the coolant system and apply antifreeze as necessary.
- Remove all electronics, fire extinguishers, kitchen utensils and anything that would best be taken off the boat while in storage.
- Check the spark plugs and replace old ones.
- Before storing the boat, add fogging oil to the cylinders and the carburetor.
- Drain and clean the head, bilge, and any part that can hold moisture.
- Where practical, keep hatches and drawers open for ventilation and lubricate door hinges and clasps.
- Wipe down the inside and outside of the boat thoroughly to get rid of moisture.
- Clean the hull of debris and barnacles.
- It is important to drain the engine and ballasts before storage as winter can cause the water in them to expand.
3. Cover with a Tarp or Shrink Wrap
The best way to protect your boat from the elements is to cover the entire vessel with a polyvinyl or tarp cover.
Whether you are using a tarp or shrink wrap, use a cover made to fit the boat.
This will ensure a snug fit that will keep moisture and dust out of the boat’s interior.
Saggy boat covers will have pockets that collect water and this can weigh down the material.
It’s important to secure the boat wrap with lines to prevent severe weather from blowing it off.
Once you have covered the boat, check it after severe weather. This is because the weight of snow can collapse the tarp or shrink wrap, wreaking serious damage on your boat.
You can use a soft broom to wipe off the snow on the cover to protect its integrity.
Make sure the boat wrap is water-tight to prevent condensation and moisture buildup as this can cause rust and mold. Some intentional vents for ventilation are usually helpful.
4. Protect the Outboard and Fiberglass from the Tarp
If you are keeping the outboard on the boat, pad it before covering with a tarp. Many boaters make the mistake of covering the boat directly without placing a barrier between the outboard and the tarp.
They forget that tarp is abrasive and will wear the finish off the outboard as it shifts in the wind.
It’s almost impossible to secure the tarp snugly, so it does not shift. But you can eliminate the problem with plenty of padding on the cowl.
Another way to prevent this issue is to shrink-wrap the boat.
Tarps will also wear out the boats shiny gel coat. So pad any surface the tarp covering may rub against.
5. Block All Entry Points
Before storing your boat outside, it’s vital to clean all limber holes and drainage pathways to prevent the ponding of moisture and debris.
Exhaust outlets should be plugged or taped to prevent insects from nesting in them.
Once you have blocked all moisture entry points, apply absorbents to different parts of the boat to keep it dry.
6. Beware of Pests
During both the summer and winter, pests such as rodents and insects look for dry and warm places to protect them from the weather.
You want to pest-proof your boat as the creatures can damage wiring and vital parts of the vessel.
Make sure no parts of the boat are exposed and provide enough clearance from the ground so vermin can’t access it.
7. Be Safety Conscious
Even if you park the boat in your driveway, provide adequate security.
Boats are vulnerable to theft and vandalism when they are stored in the open.
If the boat is on a trailer, it makes it even easier for thieves to steal it.
So lock the trailer and remove the tires to make it difficult for strangers to drive off with your boat.
You may also consider removing your propeller or outboard if there is a high crime rate in your area. Outboards are attractive and easy targets for robbers.
Watch out for little kids playing around your boat so they don’t puncture the cover.
You should also beware of vandals in the neighborhood.
And be on the lookout for freak natural disasters such as wildfires and other incidents which can cause serious damage to your boat. Because the boat is outside, it is vulnerable to blizzards and strong winds.
8. Set the Boat Level
Set the boat level to the ground to prevent hull stress or even warping. Even if the winter will be short, it’s important that the boat sits on even ground to balance out its weight on the hull.
Otherwise, you might end up with a distorted hull that will set you back by thousands of dollars.
You can place the boat on blocks or pieces of wood, especially if it is on a trailer. If the boat is too big for a trailer, make sure it has enough support.
If you place a large boat on smaller blocks that do not provide enough support for the hull, the whole weight rests on the keel.
Over time, this can break the keel, leading to a problem marine engineers call a broken back.
9. Don’t Park Near a Sloped Roof
When storing your boat outside, make sure it’s far from a sloped roof. During heavy rainfall, the roof can pummel your boat with thousands of gallons of water.
The deluge can damage the boat wrap and flood the vessel.
The roof can throw off an avalanche of snow after a blizzard, dumping tons of ice on the boat and causing extensive damage.
The same applies if your area is prone to flooding. Severe flooding can lift your boat off its trailer and down to the nearest water body out of your reach.
Even if you recover the boat, it would have suffered tremendous damage and deterioration that will cost you expensive repairs.
If there is a chance of flash floods or heavy, unpredictable rainfall, secure your boat.
Prepare the boat for natural or human-made scenarios that can cause physical damage.
10. Regular Checks
After doing all the above, check your boat frequently.
It’s important that you monitor the boat even if everything appears alright from the outside.
As said earlier, check the boat after heavy rain or snow. Ensure snow does not accumulate over six inches on the cover for a long time.
Inspect the cover for tears and anything that can let in moisture.
Once a month, remove the cover and check the boat. Then refasten the cover and tighten it with lines.
Walk around the boat to see whether the weight is evenly distributed. You may use a good number of blocks to support the boat. But the vessel’s weight can sink the material and create an imbalance that could damage the keel and the hull.
11. Cost Efficiency
What is the cost of storing your boat outside compared to indoor storage? Consider the cost of a full winterization, tarps, absorbents, security, and others.
Will you have saved money and efforts by storing the boat inside?
Take a critical look at this to help you make a better decision.
Storing a boat outside for the winter is attractive to many people because it is typically cheaper. However, outside storage exposes your boat to theft, vandalism, pests and the harsh elements.
It is vital to consider the factors listed in this article to keep your boat safely through the winter. We hope this piece will help you cut costs and preserve your boat for many boating seasons.
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.