Keep Your Boat Ship Shape

Now that the Polar Vortex is in our rearview mirror, it’s time to give your boat a once over to make sure that the cold temperatures, high winds, snow, and ice hasn’t created problems. A thorough check this time of the year won’t take long, but if problems aren’t detected now then they might create issues later on. A stitch in time so the saying goes….

1. Boats in the water need the most attention. The weight of the snow, rain, and ice push vessels close to the water line. Any gust of wind or chop in the seas can slowly fill up the boat to the point where it may actually sink. As odd as it sounds, a shovel can be used on a work boat while a broom and a dust pan works better on pleasure boats (to avoid scratches and scuffing).

2. Low temperatures drain batteries, particularly if you’re not regularly running your boat. The problem for boats in the water comes if the bilge pump isn’t getting enough juice. Water and ice will fill up the boat which adds additional weight and can ultimately sink the ship. Trickle chargers solve problems and while you’re charging the boat check to see that your pump is working.

3. If you kept your boat on the trailer, reposition the trailer.  The boat’s weight causes a flat spot to form on tires, and by moving the trailer around you’ll avoid those spots. Check the tire pressure, too, and if it’s getting low then trailer it to the closest gas station for an air fill.

 4.Cold weather can cause caulk to shrink. Look at any caulked areas on your deck that could let water in and refill before the damage is done. Areas that are greased (like your steering cable) should be moved around so they don’t get tight.

5. One issue that I just learned about concerns boats that are stored on jackstands. The constant wind and weight of snow and ice can cause these boats to shift around and settle, particularly if they’re stored on sandy soil or gravel. Extra weight puts pressure on the stands, too, and the extra weight on a focused point can cause hull deformation. Make sure that you’ve got the proper number of jacks for your boat’s size and that there is a piece of wood between the stand and your hull. The wood will spread out the focused weight). 

6. One of the reasons that shrinkwrap is so popular is that it remains tight and doesn’t blow around in the breeze. A quick check to ensure that a falling branch hasn’t punctured the wrap is easy to do; if there is a hole patch it before more damage is done. For tarps, clear all snow and water. The water weight makes tarps sag and put pressure on consoles.

Find more information on winter storage and maintenance for boats here.

Tom Keer is an award-winning freelance writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Visit him at or at

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at