Boater-advocacy group BoatUS offers the following tips for checking on your boat after the prolonged cold snap experienced in the Northeast. It’s good midwinter advice even in mild conditions.
1. If your boat was left in the water, check to see that all of the above-water through-hulls are still well above the waterline. The weight of snow and ice can submerge above-waterline through-hulls, including the exhaust (inboard boats), so start shoveling if you notice she’s sitting lower in the water. It’s also a good time to check on your bubbler system
2. For boats stored on trailers, jackstands or cradles, make sure the boat hasn’t shifted. Boats on stands/cradles should be level, while those on trailers should be slightly bow up. Boats over 26 feet should have at least 3 jackstands per side, with plywood under each if the boat is on dirt or gravel. Check to see that they haven’t moved and are chained together to prevent them from being pushed away from the boat. You know the stands are in the right place when there is no hull deformation at the point of contact. If you see any problems with a jackstand, don’t try to adjust it yourself; contact marina staff
3. It’s never a good idea to store a boat outside without a cover, and never tie a tarp to a jackstand as strong winds can get underneath the cover and yank the stand out. Also, a poorly fitted cover can sag, allowing huge amounts of water to pool, freeze and add substantial weight, so be sure they remain taut to allow snow and rain to easily slide off.
4. Water or ice in the bilge means a leak. Try to find the source of the water during your walk-through and look for a temporary fix to plug the leak that will buy you time until the spring. Rock salt and nontoxic antifreeze may help you break up and remove any ice in the bilge, then dry it completely. If that’s impossible, or the leaks aren’t patched, add a few cups of nontoxic antifreeze.
Article by Tom Richardson, the director and host of New England Boating.