Although the weather in Texas can offer comfortable times to enjoy boating recreation year-round, there is always the danger of a winter cold snap doing damage to your property. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help ensure your property is protected during the winter both in an out of the water.
Because Texans can enjoy warmer weather even in winter months, it may be easy to overlook the benefits of winterizing. By doing this, you can avoid the headaches – and costs of repairing damage to boats and personal watercraft --caused by freezing weather.
The Boat Owners Association of the United States Marine Insurance agency notes that while most boaters in northern states are sure to take precautions against freezing winter weather, it’s in warmer locations like Texas, California, Florida, Alabama and Georgia that the highest frequency of freeze-related damage due to cracked engine blocks occurs. That’s because it can be easy to take warm weather for granted – especially when temperatures can be mild and comfortable in the 60s and the 70s in the South and West even during parts of December, January and February. But it only takes one devastating cold snap to damage a boat.
Lake Ranger Sgt. Robert Box, based at Possum Kingdom Lake, said most of the boaters enjoying recreation at PK do winterize their boats because activity on the lake is seasonal.
The biggest problem he has seen is with damaged fuel lines.
“Fuel is the big issue,” Box said. “Today’s blends don’t hold up like fuel in the past.”
Although deciding to winterize is often a personal preference, it is something Box recommends.
“We can tell those that don’t (winterize) when it’s April or May,” he said. “The weather warms up and they come out to use their boat or personal watercraft (such as a Jet Ski), and they break down due to bad fuel, battery or even damage to pumps due to water freezing in them.”
Box said he recommends people take their boat or personal watercraft to a marina or dealer for help in winterizing them. He noted that different models and sizes require different steps, and an expert’s input is valuable.
Beyond addressing the fuel issue (not leaving it in the boat during the winter) experts from the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BOAT US) recommend that if you do nothing else, at least drain any water from your boat. Frozen water creates ice, and may crack or otherwise damage your boat. Fresh water expands when it freezes, and the result can be thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. This can crack an engine block, fiberglass or other parts of a boat.
Those who do not plan to use their boat during winter months may want to consider storing it in a climate-controlled storage area, BOAT US recommends If you decide to keep your boat in the water, be aware that underwater fittings can fail, meaning the boat could potentially sink as a result of freezing weather. Your boat is also vulnerable to winter storm damage if left in the water. Finally, hulls can blister if boats are left in the water year-round because they do not get the opportunity to dry.
If you do decide to keep your boat in the water because you plan to use it during the winter, be sure to take precautions that can help keep your boat in good working condition. Thru-hulls – or fittings designed to accept pipes, hoses or valves to allow water to pass in or out of the boat – should be protected by closing seacocks and gate valves. If the thru-hulls on your boat are below the waterline and you are unable to close them, you should consider storing your boat out of the water during the winter.
Those keeping their watercraft in the water over the winter months should also plug exhaust ports to prevent pests. You should also check the bilge area to make sure it does not contain debris and is in good working condition, which will help prevent your boat from sinking.
Be aware that dock lines can actually cause your boat to sink if strong winds push your boat under a dock. To prevent this, you can center your boat in a slip and use long dock lines and spring lines, which will help keep your boat away from the dock during stormy weather.
There are a few advantages to keeping your boat in the water. Because water retains heat longer than air, it can help protect your boat if temperatures quickly plummet to below freezing.
Those who plan to remove their boat from the water should plan to cover them to help prevent damage. While some may choose to use a tarp to do this, keep in mind that storms may damage the tarp, and ice covering the tarp may cause damage to your boat.
A better way to cover your boat would be by using a custom canvas material combined with a wood or aluminum frame. This method would allow air circulation around the boat and also help prevent water from collecting on your boat cover. Vents in the cover help prevent problems such as mildew.
Another way to cover your boat is to shrink wrap it. The Boat Owners Association of the United States notes that this should be done by a professional, because if done incorrectly, it can damage your boat.
More information on protecting your boat during the winter can be found here.