Many boat owners (sail and power) store their boats for the winter, thinking they will be safe and sound until spring.
But, there are many good reasons why you should check your boat periodically over the winter to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises, when you visit in the spring to prepare for launch.
Forgetting to check it regularly over the winter months, whether it is tarped, shrink wrapped or stored inside, could be a costly mistake.
There are some things you need to know.
for boats stored at marinas, the staff there will usually check it for you. Marinas don't promote boaters whose boats are stored inside coming to see them, because they have to do a double check to make sure everything is unplugged and all lights, heaters, battery chargers etc. are turned off. If you do want to check on your boat, call your marina and talk to them. You may not have to make the trip.
However, for boats stored outside elsewhere, she's totally your responsibility. You should check often.
A few things to check for:
Four legged critters often find boats to be the perfect winter residence enjoying the opportunity to destroy the interior and leave a huge mess for you to clean up. Finding out early and dealing with it sooner rather than later, will save you time and money in the spring. (All food and paper products should be removed before storing)
During the fall, winter and early spring, check for leaks in the tarp or shrink wrap. Build ups of water and ice will freeze and re-freeze over the winter and could stain fabric and crack fiberglass where it pools; for example, in cockpits and cabin floor molds.
On sailboats with masts left standing, halyards can come loose and often the clanging in the wind will either wear the line through or vibrate it enough that your knot comes undone. As a result, your halyard whips itself to death after beating holes in your tarp and possibly your neighbor's tarp .
Cradle pads push against the hull on a small surface. If the pads and/or blocking shift as a result of vibration caused by the wind or unstable ground, increased pressure will be put on your hull. Check your blocking and pads to make sure all forces are equal and placed below bulkheads.
Water leaking into the inside of your boat will create humidity which encourages mold, mildew and rot; as the temperature fluctuates greatly on a daily basis—especially in the spring. Early detection will prevent a lot of damage. Open the lockers, doors and drawers to promote air flow within the cabin.
Check for snow weight. After a heavy snowfall, sweep or knock off any accumulated snow; otherwise, the snow becomes heavy ice. Then, the weight and wind will rip the tarp on the top of the stanchion posts and any other unpadded or poorly padded wear points. Holes grow and in the relentless winter winds, leaving tarps shredded to ribbons. By spring, your tarp could be in the next county, leaving your boat totally exposed and full of ice. Check yours regularly and repair small tears, before they grow.
If you live a long distance from your stored boat, have a friend who is closer, check your boat and report back to you--a boat-check buddy.
Early next spring, if you find your tarp damaged, walk around the storage yard, and pay close attention to how undamaged tarps on other boats were installed. Were the ridge poles higher? Were all the wear spots padded differently? Was the tarp large enough to prevent the wind from getting under it? Was the tarp fitted or just a rectangle? Learning from others, could save your tarp the following winter.
Avoid the costly mistakes of forgetting your boat, while in winter storage. Check it regularly.
Fitted covers (left) and shrink wrap (right) when properly installed, survive wind and snow.
Still, both should be checked periodically by you or your fall boat-check buddy.
Don't Forget Your Boat this Winter.