Note: Article and photos submitted by Phil McNamara, M.B.A. – CSO

The key to ensuring that your boat is in tip-top shape on launch day is to get serious about off-season boat storage. Determining where and how to store your boat can mean the difference between a pristine exterior and an engine that starts up immediately, or a long, drawn-out repair process with a high bill from the marina.

But don’t fret too much; storing your boat is relatively hassle-free, so long as you have the know-how and resources to ensure that your vessel stays protected from the elements year-round. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have an extra garage just for our boat, so a good storage facility or home storage strategy is vital.

Before You Store: Things to Know 

Before you hang up your sails for the season, it’s a good idea to perform a full boat winterization. If possible, take your boat out of the water before temperatures dip below 50 degrees (typically in late August or September for those who live in seasonal climates) to prevent damage associated with weather and precipitation. 

This will also allow you to perform some DIY winterization tasks on your vessel in a more manageable climate. Trust us, there’s nothing worse than scrubbing the hull in winter gloves! 

During this period, you’ll want to give the interior and exterior of your boat a deep clean. Make sure to let the exterior fully dry before covering to prevent rust.  

If you have a large motorboat or yacht, this is also the perfect time to change your marine water filters and perform other routine maintenance on appliances and electronics in the galley, heads, and beyond. Winterize all boats with an oil change, complete engine inspection, and be sure to replace fuel filters and add antifreeze to ensure that components and oil don’t freeze.  

No matter if you store your boat in a covered, uncovered, or rack environment, one of the most important facets to keeping your boat in its best shape year-round is a good-quality boat cover. Even during the warm, summer months when cold weather and precipitation isn’t as much of a concern, a boat cover will help keep your boat’s upholstery, exterior, and mechanics warm, dry, and protected from the elements. Choose a cover that has semi-permanent fasteners — in many cases, this means marine-grade snaps — so that it doesn’t get blown off by the wind.  

Boat Storage Options 

Boaters who live near a popular body of water already know that there are tons of unique options available for boat storage. In places where water recreation isn’t quite as common, it can be a challenge to find a storage solution that meets your specific needs, but there are still some solutions available. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of boat storage options that most people can choose from, so that you can safely protect your boat during the cooler months.

Dry Dock Storage — According to Boat U.S., an influx of boater traffic has caused marinas to create new strategies for boat storage. The problem is, there often isn’t enough space near large bodies of water.  

Enter dry dock storage. This type of storage stacks boats vertically using forklifts. In other words, it takes advantage of endless horizontal airspace to store more boats.  

This kind of storage, although it’s a bit complex, is popular for both on- and off-season storage, because operators can easily and quickly bring down your boat whenever you need it. Some facilities even offer on-site fueling and maintenance.  

Outdoor Storage — Easily the most affordable out of all the boat storage options out there is outdoor storage. Of course, you can store your boat in the open-air on your own property (although you should check your municipality’s zoning laws first), so long as you have a good, stable trailer and a quality boat cover.  

When storing your boat outdoors, you need to make sure you do a complete winterization before the season’s end. If you can’t add a shelter of some sort — such as a pop-up tent or a tarp shelter — then you should be sure to add extra protection with a tarp and some weights to keep it in place. 

Storage Units —Although it’s not cheap, some boat owners may prefer to house their vessels in a designated boat storage facility. With that being said, these units are easily some of the best options for keeping your boat totally protected from the elements, especially rain and snow. Some storage units may even offer temperature control to prevent components from freezing.  

The upside of self-storage units for boats is that they’re available almost anywhere, even in areas where water isn’t abundant. The downside is that they’re typically most appropriate for smaller vessels, especially boats under 10 feet.  

Indoor Storage — Some of the most expansive marinas are now offering temperature-controlled indoor storage for the boat owner who isn’t super-concerned about budget. In more high-tech marinas, you’re likely to see fully covered rack storage units that hold a large number of boats.  

These units aren’t the most cost-effective, but they provide a total safeguard against harsh weather and precipitation. They’re also generally manned, so there’s almost no chance that your boat will be tampered with (or stolen) when it’s not in the water.

In-Water Storage — If keeping your vessel “on the hard” — in sailor speak, that means keeping your boat on the ground instead of the water — doesn’t strike your fancy, fear not! Those who live in milder climates may want to take advantage of year-round in-water boat storage. If you love time on the water and don’t want to deal with the busy launch or vying for marina time when things are especially busy, this is the best way to go.

Of course, this is the most convenient option during the warm weather months, but it may also be useful in the wintertime. For an extra layer of protection, choose a slip with a boat lift to help keep the boat hoisted above the water to prevent hull damage.

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