Extending The Boating Season
The summer season is long over, but there are ways you can go about extending the boating season! If you currently reside in an area with a short boating season, you might wonder how to extend your boating season. There is something daring, peaceful, and inviting about having the calm, untouched water all to yourself. The beautiful thing about boating off-season is the quiet tranquility you can’t find in the summer. There are no hoards of water skiers, jet skiers, tubers, wakeboarders, or anglers. Feel the freedom of untouched open water once, and you’ll be eagerly waiting for next year’s off-season.
While boating in the off-season has an appeal and adventure all its own, it runs the risk of being uncomfortable and dangerous for your boat. Luckily, our expert team at Rocket Marine is here to share some tips and tricks for you to extend your boating season, keeping it comfortable, fun, and safe. So, without further ado, let’s talk about how you can keep enjoying your boat long after everyone else has put theirs away.
1. Change Your Mindset
In order to stay safe and comfortable when extending the boating season, you need to change your mindset. No longer is the water a place for a cool, refreshing dip. Water pulls heat away from the body 25 times faster than cold air. So you want to mentally prepare that it is cold out on the water in the off-season!
2. Dress For A Swim
Even though you don’t plan on swimming, it is important to dress for a swim! Opt for clothing that helps protect your body from heat loss.
First, choose your base layer carefully! Synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester won’t absorb water, making them perfect options for a base layer.
Next, put on a warm sweater, preferably made from wool. Merino wool is a wonderful option as it is lightweight, wicks moisture, and helps insulate your body heat. You can also wear neoprene. Neoprene is a closed-cell foam that not only provides terrific insulation but also cushions the body from impact. It also offers extra buoyancy to help you float higher.
Next, put on a water-proof breathable outer layer with a membrane or coating that repels water while allowing sweat to pass through. The splash layer will protect your base layers from rain and spray. A pair of dry pants will also block any water, even if you were to fall overboard. Always think in terms of layering. You want the option to adjust your insulation depending on what the weather is doing.
Then, take some time to find a pair of goggles. Think of the goggles worn by snow skiers and motorcyclists. Boating sunglasses are perfect for the summer but don’t always make the cut when boating in cold weather. The cold wind makes your eyes water and impairs your vision. You want to make sure you can see so you can keep yourself and your passengers safe.
We do want to note that cotton is a wonderful material. However, it is not ideal for boating as it absorbs water and dries slowly, resulting in it losing its ability to insulate your body heat.
Finally, always wear your life jacket. It is vital to wear it any time you go out on the water, but it is especially important for your survival if the water is cold. Check out the video “Cold Water Bootcamp” to observe exactly what happens to the human body when dumped into cold water without a lifejacket.
3. Take It For A Test Drive
After you decide on your protective layers, you will want to test them to see how they respond. First, get in shallow water with a similar temperature to the water that you will boat in. Unless this water is in a safe and controlled space (i.e., your bathtub), always have someone there for backup—experience what it feels like going for an unplanned swim. If you think your layers are inadequate or don’t add enough protection enabling you to rescue yourself or get to safety, you might want to switch out a few of your choices.
4. What Kind Of Boating Are You Doing?
Your choice of apparel will depend on what type of boating you are doing and the conditions you are boating in. You will obviously need different attire if you want to paddle in your kayak on a quiet lake or venture offshore into the open ocean waters.
Prepare Your Boat
You want to enjoy your boat longer by extending your boating season. You do not want the cold to cause costly accidental damage to your boat. Even if you are storing your boat in the water for the colder months, you must winterize your boat. It is imperative that you adequately prepare your boat if you hope to take it out in more frigid waters. Take a guess at what states have the highest number of freeze-related insurance claims. If you guessed Montana or Minnesota, try again. States like Florida and California roll in the claims. Mild climates often lull boaters into a false sense of security. It is crucial always to prepare your boat for the cold! There are several tricks and tips to follow to keep your boat from experiencing freezing water consequences.
1. Heat The Engine Compartment
An engine compartment heater is an excellent way to avoid engine damage from freezing temperatures. They will turn on and off when the temperatures hit between 40 and 55 degrees. As a result, they are safer than space heaters and pose less of a fire hazard.
They work better when you cover your boat’s bilge blower vents. You can easily go to a canvas or upholstery shop (or find some online) and grab an inexpensive set of snap-on covers to fit over the vents. When you are ready to use your boat, remove the vent covers. Once you leave the boat, snap them back on. The covers will help keep the damp, cold wind out of your engine compartment.
Keep in mind that your boat is better insulated in the water than out of the water. This is because water provides better insulation than air. If you opt to have your boat stay in the water, you can use a de-icer in order to protect your boat from damage by freezing in the water.
2. Heat The Cabin
You want to stay as cozy and warm as possible when boating in cold weather. While you can plug in a space heater, we recommend something a little safer: an onboard heating system. We won’t get into all the step-by-step details on how to install an aftermarket heater. But heaters like Heatercraft are excellent options to send warmth where you need it in your boat. It works similarly to the heater in your car. First, the engine coolant circulates between the heater and your inboard or stern-drive engine. Then, it uses fans to push the heat where you need it – pretty simple, right?
3. Drain The Water From Your Outboard
You have a yearly routine that you perform to winterize your boat. However, you might not perform this entire routine if you plan on extending the boating season. For example, you might not want to completely winterize your boat if you are simply waiting out a cold front. One of the essential things to do between launches is to remove the water from your outboard. You’re already doing this at the boat ramp to avoid the spread of invasive aquatic species. Every time you pull your boat up from the launch, make sure to tilt down your outboard engine and drain all the water.
In addition to draining your engine, if the temperature is hitting below freezing, you will want to drain the bilge pumps, lines and pumps associated with live wells, and all other water lines aboard. These lines will freeze in lower temperatures which can cause freeze damage. Hit the switch on all pumps for a few seconds to ensure all the water is gone.
4. Your Boat Trailer
You want to perform yearly maintenance on your boat trailer to ensure nothing will break down at an inconvenient time or place. Cold weather will amplify everything that goes wrong. For example, a fried bearing on the side of the road on a balmy July night is nothing compared to the same situation on a frigid November night. Make sure to perform your yearly trailer maintenance and check the lighting, tire pressure, hubs, tread, and sidewalls. Our expert team is available to help with any maintenance or repairs that your trailer needs to help get you and your boat to and from the launch safely.
We know you love being out on the water. We do too! Now you can safely go about extending the boating season and spend even more time out on your boat! From our team at Rocket Marine, stay warm and boat safe!