How to Store Your Boat in the Off-Season

A boat sitting on top of a trailer, covered by a tarp

You hear that? It’s the sound of waves splitting beneath the bilge of a boat, and the spray of water launching into the air around you. It’s a familiar sound, isn’t it?

Of course it is, especially because it’s your boat, and you’ve been using it for months, enjoying the summer as it was always intended: amongst the waves and laughter of your favorite people.

We hope you have the best of times. Once you’re done and the last excursion to the water has wrapped for the season, we want to take a moment to help you with a less fun, but extremely important element of boat-ownership: storage. Specifically, The Storage Manager wants to walk you through our best tips to prepare a boat for winter storage, including the steps you should take to cover all your bases, and the types of storage options available to you.

Tips to Prepare a Boat for Winter Storage

A boat on a trailer covered by a tarp, surrounded by snow

It can be daunting, figuring out how to store a boat for the first (or second, or third) time, especially because there are quite a few ways to do it wrong.

Don’t worry, we’ll help you avoid that. Here are our tips to prepare a boat for winter storage.

Storage Options

First and foremost, let’s talk about the storage options for your vessel. It goes without saying, but before committing to any particular storage choice, make sure the accessibility, security, and climate control of the storage location are up to your needs and expectations.

There are two primary modes of storage: keeping your boat in the water, and keeping it on land.

How to Store a Boat in Wet Storage

Storing a boat in “wet storage,” an industry term for storage that is built over water, so the boat is never actually removed from the water, requires specific considerations to keep the vessel in good condition. What you’ll want to do then, is choose a marina or slip (the stall in a marina) with suitable facilities for long-term storage. Install a boat cover or use shrink wrap to shield the boat from the elements, such as sunlight, rain, and debris.

You should regularly check the boat and cover for signs of damage or wear, and address any compromises as soon as possible. Do this even in the off-season, so you don’t come back after a season away from the water to find out that the bilge or hull has accrued damage or unsightly tarnishing.

Over the winter, prevent freezing and harm to the engine and water system by filling them with the appropriate chemicals and abiding by proper winterization.

How to Store a Boat on Land

Storing a boat on land is a very different process. Your first step is to select a suitable trailer or cradle that provides adequate support to your model of vessel. Your cradle should be the right shape and integrity for your boat’s weight, and you should block the boat securely to prevent movement using sturdy boat stands or jack stands.

Cover the boat with a secure, breathable boat cover to protect against the elements, keep pests out, and prevent moisture build up.

When and where possible, store your vessel in a safe location, preferably indoors or in the protection of a storage facility that offers climate control to prevent extreme temperature fluctuations that would prematurely age your craft.

How to Keep Mice Out of a Stored Boat

We previously mentioned that a high-quality, secure boat cover is essential if you want to keep pests out of your vessel. That remains one of your best protections against an infestation, but there are other insights we want to offer as well.

When trying to keep mice and other pests out of a stored boat, seal any openings or gaps that pests could enter, such as vents, pipes, or small cracks. Consider using mouse traps or other deterrents placed strategically inside the boat. For a non-lethal approach, you could repel rodents with mothballs or cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil.

How to Store a Boat Outside—Key Tips

A motorboat covered by a tarp sits underneath a metal awning

In addition to everything mentioned so far, you’ll want to make sure you check all of the following boxes on your storage to-do list, so you make sure nothing is neglected (and, most importantly, your craft stays in tip-top shape). Here are all our extra tips for how to prepare a boat for winter storage:

  • Clean properly. Take your time to thoroughly clean the boat’s interior and exterior, removing dirt, debris, and organic matter.
  • Remove personal items. Any perishable items, electronics, or other personal belongings that could be compromised by the elements or theft should definitely be removed.
  • Care for the cooling system. Drain and flush the engine and remove any water to prevent freezing.
  • Change fluids. Replace your engine oil and oil filter to ensure proper lubrication during storage. Also add a fuel stabilizer to prevent fuel degradation.
  • Remove the battery. Take the battery out of your craft and place it in a safe and dry location to maintain its charge.
  • Prevent odor buildup. Empty and clean out all water tanks, plumbing systems, and waste tanks, otherwise you’re likely to come back to some unpleasant smells, which are never fun, even when you store a boat outside.
  • Lubricate moving parts. Provide lubricants to any moving parts, like hinges, latches, and winches, so you prevent corrosion to your craft.

In addition to all of the above, make sure to inspect your owner’s manual to ensure there’s no model-specific care you should provide your boat before storage.

Where to Look for Reliable Boat Storage

The Storage Manager recognizes that finding boat storage can be challenging and storing a boat without errors can be even more daunting. With numerous storage options available, it can be difficult to determine the best choice, especially if you have no prior experience.

If you’re stressed out about your storage prospects, we encourage you to check out one of our storage facilities, or contact us at 309-421-0801 with any questions or concerns you have. We offer boat storage in Edmond, OK, Ironton, OH, Macomb, IL, and beyond. We’d be honored to help you make the right decision for your boat and show you what reliable storage looks like.

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