By Bruce Claflin, Scuttlebutt Magazine

Yep, it’s that time again. While there are still some quality boating days left this year, the window of opportunity is going to close. We count the days and none of us gives up easily. Having said that, it’s also a time when we must deal with the reality of our short boating season here in the Upper Midwest. It’s time to start the process of getting our equipment winterized and put away for what we all hope will be a short winter followed by a glorious and early Spring. For many, it’s just a matter of getting on the Marina’s schedule for haul-out, winterization, and storage. For many others, it’s a process of taking care of the winterization work and determining where a suitable place of storage might be. Let’s explore the options, and briefly visit the costs and some of the perils of whichever method you might choose.

Dry Stack

One of the best options and also one of the more costly, is Dry Stack storage. Dry stacking is a form of storage whereby boats are stacked on racks horizontally and vertically in rows, typically in an indoor and usually heated facility. It is a usually a very safe and secure form of storage albeit among the most costly. Dry Stack facilities are most times proximate to water, and require the operator’s assistance moving in, out, or at any other time access might be required. The only problem is that while Dry Stack facilities are prevalent along the coasts, they are harder to find in our area. Couple that with high demand and if you don’t already have space reserved, you will probably be exploring other options. Dry Stack facilities also won’t take your trailer either, so that will need to be stored elsewhere.

Indoor Secure Storage Facilities

There are certainly more options than Dry Stack. The next best option is storage in an indoor facility. Secure Storage Facilities are available in many forms. Many boat dealers, marinas, marine equipment providers, etc., offer storage at or near their businesses where boats may be stored. Ask around the areas where you boat to find the closest options for you given your boating protocols. Because of high demand, there are more and more options popping up from self-storage facilities to old barns and everything in between. Given the value of your investment here, you should pick an option that matches your budget and your desire to protect that investment. Most indoor facilities will take your boat and trailer and secure it in what is usually a heated and clean environment. In almost all, you (or your service provider) could have access to do any winter work that might be required. There are really only a couple of real adversaries to protecting your boat during our winters, water and vermin. Indoor storage eliminates the need to be concerned about water entering the equation so you would be wise to evaluate the building for the possibility of critters moving in. Since access can usually be arranged, a mid-winter visit may be in order to check for rodents. Last but not least of course is to store it in your own garage. Depending on the size of your boat, this may or may not be an option. Yes, you’ll always know right where it is–it’ll be in your garage taking up space that you would normally be using for something else. It’s cheap, but it’s not free. The cost will be in sweeping off the snow and scraping the windshield of the car that’s been displaced. Let’s face it, it’s not the way to go.

Outdoor Storage

There are also many options here, including in your driveway. Many boat owners utilize outside storage yards as an approach to solving the winter storage puzzle. Many facilities are fenced and gated to deter trespass and many offer video surveillance. While these facilities typically charge much less than indoor facilities, there are additional costs in preparing and protecting your boat for the winter. First and foremost, your boat will require shrink wrapping to protect it from the elements (water from snow melt) and to keep vermin out. Shrink wrap services are also available in many places but my word to the wise is to hire a professional that has the experience that the job requires. I’d hesitate to hire someone off a homemade, roadside sign for this job–it’s just too critical to leave to anyone. Also remember that water creates problems for boats stored outside. Get the plugs out and keep the boat tipped higher in front for easy drainage should any leak happen. Make sure that you have access to the site as you will want to keep show from accumulating on top. Our shrink wrap experts say that anything over about 6” should be removed regularly, and be careful! Tears or punctures in this material will negate its effectiveness. Maybe the only option for you is storing your boat somewhere on your own property. If you have the room great! If your neighbors don’t mind looking at it, or your association doesn’t have a rule–go for it! Just remember what you’re up against–water and vermin. We still recommend professional shrink wrap, it’s the best defense. Almost all other types of covering are too abrasive for finishes on your hull or outboard motor. Shrink wrap is also the best defense for rodents and won’t flap in the wind. Just remember–don’t park it under trees, as limbs fall in winter. Don’t park it next to a sloping roof where it will be susceptible to snow and water run-off–and for goodness sake, put a lock on that trailer hitch as well!

Hopefully our winter will be mild and short, it just makes things easier. Follow our advice on storage and your equipment will be ready to go next March. As this is our last issue of 2018, we will wish you all good winter and hope you will stop and see us in January at the Minneapolis Boat Show, January 24th-27th at the Minneapolis Convention Center. We’ll be in Booth #1307. See you there!