The cold weather will is upon us and while many “Fair weather skippers” have hauled, winterized and wrapped their boats for the harsh winter weather, there are those die-hards, mostly fisher folk, who boat all year. Here are some tips and reminders to keep you, your crew, and your boat, safe.
1 - Drain any freshwater and run antifreeze through the lines. Then winterize the head. You don’t want any bursting freshwater lines and doing damage.
2 - If you have a cabin and shore power; keep a small, secured lamp lit in the cabin with a sixty what bulb. This will raise the temperature inside considerably while it is in its slip.
3 - Make sure you have a bubble system or water agitator to reduce any ice around the boat. You can install a reasonably priced thermostat to turn the dock and boat hull protection system on when the cold drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember that ice buildup increases at a faster rate when it is below freezing and cold winds blow, especially for days at a time. Your bilge pumps generally are below the freezing line so most times they continue to work if there is water buildup. But in nasty cold weather-NOTHING is guaranteed, so you must avidly monitor your boat and always have an emersion pump ready to use in an emergency.
4 - Always keep your scuppers free of ice and debris. Nature does some freaky things. I have seen self-bailing boats go down when scuppers are blocked by ice and sudden, hard freezing rains filled a boat. It happened once to the Captain but I caught the situation while she could still be recovered. Some captains have not been so lucky.
5 - If the boat is staying in the water for the winter and you plan to use it, notify your insurance. You may not be covered and have to adjust your coverage. This is very important.
6 - When planning a trip for tog, ling, and cod remember that it’s safety first. Smaller boats should avoid the winter ocean. If you are blessed with a 25 foot or preferably bigger, pick the warmer days with limited winds and avoid the weeks of more drastic tidal action which can turn the inlet into a frosty and dangerous mess in a short amount of time. Your entire crew should be wearing thermal, head to foot floating survival suits. If you just wear a life jacket and end up in the water, without one you will not be with us long. Leave once the sun is up and return to the dock well before sunset. Make sure your radio, Epirb, and your fire safety equipment and medical kit are available and in order. A deployable life raft is a must and your cell phones and handheld marine radio should be in watertight containers. Leave a voyage plan with loved ones and don’t go too far. There are plenty of near shore wrecks to hit on the outside.
Stay safe and have a peaceful holiday season.