ELLSWORTH — Christmas and New Years are now long past and spring seems a long way away, just the time to check up on how boats in storage are faring during their long winter naps.
At the least, a timely mid-winter visit to the boatyard (or door yard) may go a long way toward ensuring a timely and easy launch come spring. In some cases, that checkup may prevent serious and expensive repairs and launching delays.
Checking on a boat of any size during the winter requires safeguards, according to the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that January has the highest number of boat-related fatal accidents.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning a winter visit to the boat.
In Maine, most boats are stored ashore during the winter. If that’s the case, be extra careful when using a ladder to board a boat stored in the boatyard or on a trailer. Make sure the ladder is firmly planted and secured with a line at the top to avoid shifting. If possible, have someone hold the ladder while in use, and use a bucket and line tied to a cleat to move tools and supplies to keep hands free for the ladder.
Even a few inches of accumulated snow can have tremendous weight. Make sure that any tarps or other coverings haven’t been loosened and enough pitch remains for snow and ice to slide off. As during boating season, always “keep one hand on the boat” when adjusting covers or lines that are difficult to reach.
If the boat is stored on jack stands, check to be sure they haven’t moved, but never attempt to move or adjust one yourself – that’s the boatyard’s job. Do not tie off tarps to stands as winds could pull them out.
If yours is one of the relatively rare boats in Downeast Maine that spends the winter in the water, when you head down to visit don’t go alone. There’s a good chance that in the dead of winter no one would hear a call for help if you slipped on the dock or the boat and fell overboard.
If there’s ever a reason to wear a life jacket, and there are many, a winter boat visit may be the ideal time, especially if you’re solo. A little slip could have big consequences, and a life jacket could buy enough the time for self-rescue especially if you know where the dock ladders are located.
Fluffy snow can be deceptively slick, so save the smooth-soled boat shoes for the summer and wear something with traction. According to BoatUS Marine Insurance, slip and falls are a common claim occurring in a marina.
Shoveling or chipping away ice on your boat may cause damage. A stiff broom is best to clear a path.
For more tips on winter boat storage, additional information can be found at https://www.boatus.com/expert-advice/how-to-diy/winterization.