Posted on October 5, 2023
The weather is cooling down, the leaves are changing colors, and the kids are back in school. For the seasonal boater, it’s time to start thinking about winding down for the season and making sure you store your boat and waterfront accessories properly before winter really starts.
It’s not the most fun part of being a boat owner, but seasonal tear-down and boat winterization are part of the deal for seasonal boaters. Your winter storage solutions might not look like someone else’s in another place, but it will come down to your unique waterfront — from the shoreline to your dock and lift set-up — to determine how and when winterizing will go.
Yes, you really do. It might seem like a ton of work — and no one wants to think about the boating season coming to an end. However, unless you want to deal with major repair and maintenance projects instead of being able to get out on the water right away, preparing for the winter months is the best choice. The elements that can cause damage to your boat during the summer months will take new forms in the winter. Winter storms, ice formation, and other hazards unique to wintertime can all wreak havoc on your boat and anything that sits in the water.
With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about the steps you need to take in order to properly winterize your boat, boat hoist, and other waterfront gear until next year.
As long as you’re winterizing your entire system anyway, this is a great time to perform detailed checks on anything that might need to be repaired or replaced so you can get that boat lift maintenance done before spring and summer come around again. Check over all parts, no matter how large or tiny, to ensure that everything is in good shape and ready for storage. Frayed cables, loose brackets, and other problem areas should be addressed now. If you have to order any new parts, get that done now rather than waiting until spring, when everyone else will have the same idea.
The bulk of your work is making sure that everything is properly cleaned, maintained, and stored until next year. Put any loose equipment, toys, and anything else you keep on your dock in the summer in storage where the snow and ice can’t damage it. If you have wooden or composite decking, clean and seal it to keep it from getting damaged while you’re storing it in the off-season. Don’t forget to blow air through your water lines.
You can either perform service now or wait until closer to next year, but be mindful that waterfront dealers and manufacturers get busier closer to boating season, so it pays to get those items checked off of your list as soon as possible.
Whatever else you do, don’t keep your boat on your boat hoist for the winter. Store your boat somewhere else while you’re not using it to avoid exposing it to the elements and subjecting your boat lift system to added strain during an already stressful season.
People in areas with a lot of ice flow and movement, as well as strong winds or winter storms, probably need to remove their boat dock and boat lift systems from the water completely. While there are dock systems that are designed to withstand or respond to the challenges of winter, simply avoiding the risk might be one of the best solutions if you live somewhere that is a realistic option.
The important thing to remember about removing your system from the water for storage is that you need to be organized. Keep the small parts together, labeled, and securely stored when you disassemble it. No one wants to kick off the boating season with the realization that they’re missing a bag of bolts or other small but essential parts. If you’re storing your boat lift on the shore and get a lot of snowfall, make sure that the area is marked off with brightly colored flags and other warnings so snowmobilers and other vehicles won’t run into the system.
If removing your boat lift is impractical or you’re in an area that doesn’t have a lot of water freezing or ice movement, it might be feasible to keep your system in the water for the winter. This requires some extra preparation and diligence to ensure that your system remains in working order for next year’s boating season.
Ice will be one of your greatest enemies here, between the potential for formation, movement, and expansion. Multiple deicing solutions on the market that help create an ice-free area around your system by moving warm water to the surface and preventing ice from forming. Check with your local dealer to ensure that your planned solution complies with any local guidelines.
Your other greatest enemy is going to be winter storms. Once your boat is off of the lift for the season, you’re going to want to secure the beams to keep it from swaying in the wind. Even if you can’t remove your entire system, get your motor, gearbox, and any electrical power systems off of the lift so that they can be stored somewhere dry. If you have a floating dock system, ensure your shoreline connection is secure to keep your dock from floating away when the weather turns sour.
Remember that storing your boat hoist doesn’t mean sticking it somewhere and forgetting about it. The system will last longer if you operate it occasionally even when it’s in storage. This doesn’t have to be anything major — simply operate the lift while it’s in storage to ensure that all of the parts are moving the way that they should. You should also perform some light maintenance in the off-season, such as cleaning cables with fresh water, lubricating grease points, and checking on the bearings and rollers to keep the dirt and downtime from damaging your system.
Don’t forget that your local waterfront dealer is a great source of information on winterizing your boat lift! From advice on how to approach the process to recommendations for dealing with ice and snow to sending out professionals to remove your waterfront system for the winter, your local dealer is an incredible resource for all things waterfront.