Can You Boat in the Winter? 10 Important Tips

In areas with cold winters, most boat owners put away their boats at the first sign of cold and store them until the weather warms up again in spring. And to be certain, it’s much more pleasant to take a boat on the water when it’s bright, sunny, and warm than when it’s chilly enough to warrant a coat – or even worse, snowing.

But is it possible to boat in winter? Is it allowed? And if so, how can you ensure you have the best experience?

The Short Answer

The good news is that you can boat in the winter, but depending on where you live, you may have to take some extra precautions. First, some areas don’t experience harsh winters at all; their winters are associated with a cooldown, but nothing that would prevent you from enjoying the water like you do in spring and summer. You could always consider moving to an area like this if you want to capitalize on year-round boating.

Otherwise, much of your planning is contingent on the physical limitations of your surroundings. If you live near a lake, and the lake freezes over in winter, you can’t take your boat out. But if the lake is resilient to freezing, if it’s early in the season, or if you live by a larger body of water, like an ocean, you’ll have an option to move out and enjoy the water.

In fact, some marinas and docks offer reduced rates during winter. And you certainly won’t have to deal with as many other boaters competing with you for space.

Important Tips for Boating in the Winter

If you decide to boat in the winter, there are some important tips you’ll need to follow:

  1. Plan (and think) ahead.
    Don’t improvise a trip to the middle of the lake in winter; put together a plan first. Does this body of water typically freeze over? What is its current state? How long are you going to be gone? What are the biggest risks you face?
  2. Choose a day with good weather.
    Even in a harsh winter, you’re going to see days that are perfectly acceptable weather-wise. If you time it right, you could enjoy a sunny day at 21 degrees C – even in the middle of the season!
  3. Dress warmly (and take extra clothes).
    One of the biggest risks of boating in the winter is hypothermia. If it’s cold and windy, you’ll be especially at risk, and being on the water can make things feel even colder. On top of that, if you get wet, heat will leave your body even faster. You have to be prepared with several layers of warm clothes, including a hat, gloves, and a coat. Take extras of all these items, and some towels and blankets just in case you need them. If you want to stay warmer, consider bringing along hand warmers and other tools to facilitate greater comfort.
  4. Double-check the batteries.
    Cold winter weather has a series of effects that put extra strain on batteries; motor oil becomes thicker, which makes it harder to turn an engine over, and cold batteries have lower cranking power. Before you go out, double-check your battery to make sure it’s functioning properly. If you struggle to turn the engine over, consider replacing it.
  5. Be wary of icy surfaces.
    If your local body of water is frozen over, be extra cautious of icy surfaces. The ice on the water may look thick enough to walk on, but that doesn’t mean it is – if you venture out and break through the ice, you could put yourself at risk of drowning or suffering hypothermia. Additionally, you should know that ice is slippery; all it takes is one misstep to result in an impactful fall.
  6. Don’t get iced in.
    Keep your eyes on your surroundings and pay attention to the ice around you; you don’t want to get iced in. If your boat wedges itself onto a shelf of ice, you may not be able to get it back on the water easily. Additionally, you don’t want to spend so much time on the open water that new areas of the lake freeze over by the time you head back.
  7. Consider the fish.
    Not everyone loves the idea of winter fishing, but depending on where you live, there could be some great species to catch that are harder to find in summer. For example, you might find muskie, red snapper, or bass in the winter months. If you do decide to fish, capitalize on a net to keep your fish over the side before bringing them in; this way, dripping water won’t freeze inside the boat.
  8. Have a plan for an overboard situation.
    Staying in cold water for too long can be a death sentence. Make sure you have a plan together in case someone goes overboard. Do you have the proper lifejackets, life preservers, rope, and other equipment to get someone out of the water quickly? Do you have a plan to warm this person up? Be sure to have plenty of towels and blankets on hand.
  9. Let someone know where you’re going.
    Before you leave in winter, tell someone where you’re going and how long you plan to be gone. This way, if something goes wrong and no one can get in contact with you, they’ll know when and where to send help.
  10. Be prepared for an emergency.
    It’s always important to be prepared for a potential emergency, but it’s even more important in winter, when more things can go wrong. Check your radio, bring flares, and recheck your understanding of how to handle various maritime emergency situations.

Are you interested in getting a boat that can hold up in winter and still give you everything you need in summer? There’s no better place to look than TheYachtMarket. Browse our selection of new and used boats for sale today!

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