Winter is coming… Yes, even for us Floridians too. While you don’t have to batten down the hatches to prepare for Old Man Winter to coat your yard and waterway with snow and ice, Florida does bring its own seasonal changes. For many boat owners, the question is to store or not to store?
Storing Your Boat
For most, Florida “winters” allow for year-round boating. However, if you’re one of those who can’t stand the thought of enduring the temperatures below the brisk 70 degrees, you may consider storing your boat for the winter. If you do choose to store it, here are a couple of tips:
- Make sure holding tanks are empty and fuel tanks are 3/4 full.
- Remove all perishable food and beverages.
- Remove all valuable items including portable electronics.
- Open all lockers, drawers and compartments and clean thoroughly.
- Open and clean the refrigerator and freezer.
- Consider purchasing a mildew-free product to protect against moisture and mildew.
- Turn your cushions on the edge to allow air to circulate or take them to a climate-controlled space.
- Inspect your lines, fenders and other mooring gear and replace if necessary.
- Inventory all safety equipment: PFDs, fire extinguishers, flares, etc.
- Make sure your boat storage facility has the proper insurance coverage for their facility – and your boat – should any damage occur.
Braving Our Harsh Winter Months
If you’re one of those water-worshippers who can’t even bear the thought of storing your vessel for the winter, remember winter weather windows can be small, and you need to act fast if you want to make the most of a day on the water. Your reward will be a low sun, flat water and sparsely populated cruising grounds. Here are some things to keep in mind if you plan to take the boat out this winter:
Keep your fuel tanks topped off
Not only does this reduce condensation in the tank, but fuel berth opening hours are likely to be reduced, and hoses may freeze or the water supplies may be turned off to protect the pipes – which makes it tricky to refill your tanks!
Protect your engine
For boats left afloat in saltwater, it’s unlikely that the temperatures will dip low enough to cause any water left in the engine to freeze, but it’s worth attending to if a particularly cold snap is forecast. Make sure the coolant is topped up with the correct mix of antifreeze, and if you’re really worried, run some antifreeze through the raw-water system.
Preserve your batteries
Starting a diesel engine from cold in winter temperatures will require more power than it does in the summer, so it’s worth making sure your batteries are charged up.
Inside the cabin
If you’re keeping your bedding on board so you can make a quick getaway, consider storing it in a vacuum bag. You may also want to keep a few items of clothing in there for quick weather changes. Blankets, coats, sunglasses, gloves, scarves and hats can come in handy if that scheduled cold front arrives early on your day at sea.
One more thing about winter boating in Florida – migrating manatees. Manatee numbers are up and the bulky aquatic mammals are on the move. The annual migration of Florida manatees begins in November, as the weather cools. The FWC asks that people in boats and personal watercraft slow down and watch out for manatees swimming in Florida’s rivers, bays or coastal waters. Keep in mind this time of year manatees are searching for warmer waters to help them survive winter’s cold, as are you!
As always, be sure to consult your boat insurance policy to make sure your limits and deductibles are in order and enough to protect you while you enjoy your winter!
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