SPRINGFIELD, Virginia – Storms have hammered the U.S., and many recreational boats are sleeping away the winter under a layer of ice and snow.

If you store your boat outside and haven’t checked up on her lately, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) has five tips for a midwinter checkup that could help prevent an insurance claim, help keep you safe, and also make spring commissioning easier.

If your boat is stored in the water over the winter, never visit alone. Also, let the yard know you’re there. If the boat is stored on land, ensure the ladder (if required to board) is on a solid footing clear of ice, and have a friend hold it while you’re ascending/descending. Securely tie it off at the top.

When aboard, remember the mantra “one hand for yourself” – keeping one hand securely attached to the boat to steady yourself and prevent a fall. Decks may be extremely slippery. Bring a soft broom to help you remove snow.

Tarps and covers put on months ago have had a chance to sag or loosen, potentially allowing moisture aboard. Keeping a tight lid is critical to a smooth spring commissioning and preventing water damage. In a worst-case scenario, mama raccoon can sneak under a loose cover and may be dining on your upholstery.

Most insurance policies do not cover vermin damage. For those who DIY cover their boats, ice and snow need to shed easily and not add tremendous weight that can damage stanchions, windscreens or trailers.

Go under the winter cover and check enclosed spaces. Replace desiccants with fresh material. Keep lockers and compartments open to reduce mold. Ensure any scuppers and drains remain clear – if your tarp or cover does get damaged by storms, water needs a way out. Using an electric heater in winter can present a significant fire hazard.

If you notice that any jackstands have settled, call the yard or marina. Don’t attempt to move or adjust them yourself. Also ensure winter cover lines are not tied off to the jackstands as they could be pulled out from under the boat during high winds.

About Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS)

Celebrating more than 50 years, BoatUS is the nation’s largest advocacy, services and safety group with more than 800,000 dues-paying members. BoatUS is the boat owners’ voice on Capitol Hill, fighting for their rights. On the water when boats break down or run aground, our 600+ vessel, 300+ location nationwide TowBoatUS fleet brings our members safely back to the launch ramp, marina or dock, and on the road, we are The Boat Owners Auto Club to help ensure a roadside trailer and tow vehicle breakdown won’t slow you down.

BoatUS offers GEICO boat insurance policies that give boat owners affordable, specialized coverage and superior service they need. BoatUS Magazine is the largest circulation recreational marine publication in the US with engaging content that speaks to the passion for boat ownership while our 501(c)(3) nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water offers the nation’s only free online boating safety course and many other programs that keep boaters safe and our waters clean. Visit BoatUS.com.

The Life section is supported by Brethren Care Village in Ashland.

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