boating off-season

Extend your boat season beyond warmer peak boating months – ideas to maximize your boating season during the winter, early spring or late fall months

Boating seasons can be too short in colder climates. So if you are a die-hard boater you try to take your boat out every weekend you can throughout the summer months. But too many boaters start their boating season too late or end their boating season too early. And they are missing out on a lot of good boating advantages and experiences during the typical off season.

Boating during the off-season is a little bit cooler, but your time on the water may be enjoyable in new ways. There’s less boat traffic, waterfront towns are less congested and seasonal changes create a serene oasis on the water. So get your boat in early this spring (or keep it in later this fall) and start maximizing your boating season.

Ideas for Boating Early in the Spring Months

Depending on what geographic area you boat, most boaters will start prepping their boat as early as March or as late as May for the summer boating season. In colder climates that can still get snow and ice as late as April, you really can’t prep your boat for the spring until the weather is clear. Timing is critical to get your boat in early for the spring season.

But there are things you can do to speed up the time between unwrapping your winter shrink wrap and launching your boat. You can plan ahead for an early spring launch date by doing some of your annual maintenance in the fall (like oil changes or engine tune-ups). You can also minimize the amount of spring boat prep by using multi-season bottom paint so you don’t have to spend every year sanding and painting the hull. The boat waxing process can also be sped up by waxing up to above the water line and finishing topside work later in the water.

One of the advantages of boating early in the spring months is having cooler weather to get your boat fully prepped for the season. You can work on your boat while enjoying yourself out on the water, instead of a dirty boat yard. You can do a lot of boat prep, maintenance and small upgrades in the water. Meanwhile, when you are done your day’s project you can relax in the cockpit with a drink.

Early spring months are also a great time to cruise and visit popular boating destinations. Slip rentals are often discounted off-season and are much more plentiful. Although it may be too cool to enjoy swimming in a pool or eating outside on a waterfront dining, everywhere you go is less likely to be crowded. Spring is a great time to plan trips to small towns or big cities and take in special attractions that might otherwise be too crowded during the peak boating season in the summer.

Cruising is also enjoyable because there are fewer boats on the water. There are fewer boats to cause wakes, making for a smooth and uninterrupted ride on the river, lake or bay. Favorite fishing spots and coves are also less crowded.

Extending a Boating Season into the Fall Months

In some areas – particularly cooler climates with distinct seasonal changes – the fall months are some of the most enjoyable months of the year to boat. There is nothing more beautiful than watching autumn leaves turn vibrant colors along a coastline. And the brisk autumn air is often a welcome retreat from long hot summer days on the water.
As with boating in the early spring, cruising in the fall is very enjoyable because there are fewer boats on the water. There are also fewer people dining at waterfront restaurants and visiting attractions in waterfront towns and boating destinations. Marinas will welcome you as a transient boater with ample slip availability and off season rental discounts.

Most boaters have less maintenance to do on their boat in the fall months, so it’s often easier to extend the boating season into the fall. The biggest trick is deciding when to winterize the boat and making sure it is done before it gets too cold. Unfortunately, winterization typically means the end of boating season for most boaters. But you can still winterize parts of the boat as the weather gets colder and continue to stay on your boat. For example, you can winterize the heating and cooling system of the boat and just plan to use a ceramic space heater. A space heater is typically strong enough to keep a boat cabin warm. If you are just staying at the dock and no longer cruising you can winterize your engines. Many marinas also offer bubblers for boaters that stay in the water into early winter months.

Boating in the Winter Months

If you are lucky enough to live in a warmer climate, boating in the winter is a common practice. But in more northern areas where boating is typically 6-8 months out of the year, there are few boaters that boat in the winter months. The ultimate boating die-hard is the boater that keeps their boat in the water year round – and may even be a live aboard!

Depending on your geographic area, boating in the winter months may not actually be “boating”. Keeping your boat in the water during the winter means docking at a marina that will provide protection from water freezing around your boat and will continue basic services for slip holders in the off season.

In northern areas, there are a lot of challenges associated with keeping your boat in the water during the winter. First, you’ll need to locate a marina that offers winter docking. Then you’ll want to make sure the marina offers bubblers and de-icers at the dock as well as snow removal on docks. Also make sure that they provide mobile pump-out and water tank refilling service throughout the winter (since you will likely not be able to cruise over to the pump-out facility and running water will likely be shut-off on the dock). Heating and cooling systems may need to be winterized so you’ll need to heat your boat with portable space heaters.

In other warmer climates, keeping your boat in the water year round has many advantages. Basically there is no off season for boating. You never feel obligated to go to the boat every weekend because you have many more weekends available to boat. When the weather is not so great, you can skip a weekend. And then when the weather is particularly nice you can head to the boat and enjoy a winter cruise.

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Diane Seltzer

Founder & Editor at My Boat Life
Diane is the founder of MyBoatLife.com as well as the boating lifestyle site for kids BoaterKids.com. She is also active in the boating industry, serving as the marketing director for a marine sunshade product, SureShade, and founder of Marine Marketing Tools, a collaborative site for sharing marine marketing best practices. Diane is also the author of the children's book The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl.

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