Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Off-Season Boating Tips

October 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Many of my particular boating stressors disappear once the temperature drops. The water becomes a serene and peaceful place without the jet skiers playing chicken with my wake, boaters cranking out loud music, and the maddening traffic.

The silence comes from an absence of boaters, which means that it isn’t all good news. There’s some comfort in having fellow boaters around should you need help. Which you might — along with the mishaps that may occur when you’re offshore, cooler temperatures and cold water present additional challenges.

Northport December 12 2015 aOff-season pleasures are decidedly different from summer’s delights. When the weather is warm, an icy drink is appealing, crashing through a breaking wave yields a refreshing spray, and you shed whatever clothing you can to bask in the glow of the summer sun. However, once that season is a distant memory, the enjoyment starts only after three goals are achieved: staying dry, warm, and safe.

During colder months, dressing in multiple thin layers of clothing is best, as those layers trap body heat (should you feel overheated, simply peel off a layer). In my experience, wool is by far the best insulator and remains warm even when wet. Headgear is a must — woolen watch caps are great, as are hooded sweatshirts.

I wear skier’s goggles to prevent biting winds from causing my eyes to tear up. I use neoprene diver’s gloves to cover my hands, as they don’t add bulk and remain warm when wet. When it comes to footwear, I recommend you ditch the boat shoes and wear deck boots instead. Rain chaps always finish off my off-season ensemble. (Even when attired properly, I always keep a dry set of clothes stored in a waterproof bag, just in case.)

Your boat needs as much attention to details as your clothing. Ensure your dock lines stay out of the water and as dry as possible. Use a radiator fluid designated for colder weather. Keep your fuel tanks topped off to mitigate water condensation. As cold weather zaps batteries’ starting power, keep them charged.

Considering the use of an electric space heater for your cabin? They draw a lot of power so best to use them only when you are running the engine so as not to tax the batteries (and follow manufacturers’ directions as to placement and use to the letter). Kerosene heaters are a no-go because of the dangers of carbon monoxide buildup, especially dangerous during times when the boat is buttoned up tight to keep out the cold.

When I seek off-season nautical serenity, I take along warm beverages such as tea, coffee, and hot chocolate in a thermos to ward off the chill. Since we dehydrate quickly in cold weather, bring along and drink plenty of water, too. For meals, I bring along sandwiches or other suitable finger foods so I don’t have to waste time prepping anything. I keep granola bars on hand for a quick snack as well. Contrary to popular belief a little “nip” of hard liquor will not warm you up, so don’t try to justify consuming alcohol while operating a vessel.

Anticipate the possibility of higher winds and bigger waves during your boating adventure, so be diligent about consulting the forecast before setting out, and then monitor the weather on your VHF radio throughout your time aboard. Fall and winter bring higher tides, so check the tide charts and plan accordingly.

As previously said, fewer boaters being around to assist absolutely requires you to keep your towing contract in place during the off-season. Also, always “file” a float plan before you set out. Let others know about your boating plans by writing up, texting, or using a float plan app to share a summary of your planned boating location and timetable with a friend, family member, or marina staff. Specify your boat’s name, type, length, color, and the location of its towing vehicle, if applicable. Sharing this info ensures that there’s no delay in getting help if your tranquil day goes a bit astray.

One last note: never boat without wearing a life jacket.

By Paul Knieste


is an R.N. in psychiatry and a professional photographer. He is an avid boater and fisherman in the waters of East Rockaway Inlet and Montauk Point, and loves cooking. Contact him at paulfish358@yahoo.com.

Comments are closed.