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How to Prepare Your Boat for Spring and Summer Use

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If you’re preparing to take your boat out of storage for an upcoming adventure, there are a few essential steps you’ll want to follow to make sure it’s ready for the water. Whether you’re a first-time boat owner or need a refresher on what to do, this article will break down the steps of getting your boat ready for spring and summer use. From basic de-winterization protocols to decorating your boat and choosing the right storage option, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know.

In This Article:
  1. De-Winterizing Your Boat
  2. Cleaning Your Boat’s Exterior and Interior
  3. Furnishing and Decorating Your Boat
  4. Choosing the Right Spring and Summer Storage for Your Boat
  5. Final Thoughts on Getting Your Boat Ready for Use

1. De-Winterizing Your Boat

In an ideal world, you’ve stored your boat safely at home or in a secure storage facility through the winter to keep it in prime condition. Regardless of the storage conditions, you’ll still need to ensure your boat is in good shape before setting sail. The process of checking/preparing your boat is called de-winterization, and it’s something you’ll need to do every year. (Getting your boat ready for storage in the fall and winter, on the other hand, is called winterization.) De-winterizing is crucial because it helps prevent any damage that the cold and lack of use may have inflicted on your vessel.

Steps to De-Winterize Your Boat

To properly de-winterize your boat and ensure it is ready for the water, follow this checklist:

  • Engine and Mechanical Systems: The first thing you should do is check the engine, change the oil and replace the filter. Check the coolant level — adding more if necessary — and make sure the belts, cables and hoses show no signs of wear or cracking.
  • Hull and Exterior: Start by visually inspecting your boat’s hull for any signs of damage (e.g., cracks or blisters). Then, check the propeller for dings, pitting and distortion (which can affect the boat’s performance and fuel efficiency). Make sure any issues are fixed before heading to the water. 
  • Fuel System: Examine the fuel system for leaks or damage, particularly the fuel lines and connections. If you stored your boat with an empty tank, replace the fuel filter and add fresh fuel.
  • Battery Installation and Electrical Systems: If you removed the battery before winter storage, reinstall it, make sure it’s fully charged and clean the terminals. Test all electrical components — including lights, gauges and electronics — to ensure they’re functioning correctly.
  • Cooling System: Flush the cooling system to remove any antifreeze used for winterizing and replace it with a suitable coolant. Inspect the impeller and replace it if there are signs of wear or damage.
  • Lubrication: Grease all necessary moving parts, including fittings and linkages, to prevent rust and ensure smooth operation.
  • Navigation System: Test your GPS and other navigational tools to make sure they’re functioning properly. Update any necessary software and check the accuracy of your maps.
  • Communication Devices: Verify that your VHF radio and any other communication devices work. Consider subscribing to a maritime service that provides weather updates and maritime emergency contacts.
  • Safety Equipment: Check that all safety equipment is up to date and in good condition. This includes life jackets, fire extinguishers, flares and a first aid kit.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Make sure that your boat complies with local and federal regulations. Check for any new regulations that may affect your boat setup or equipment.

2. Cleaning Your Boat’s Exterior and Interior

Ideally, you deep-cleaned your boat and put a tarp over it before storing it for the winter. If not, you’ll want to hose down the exterior and go through all the cubbies and nooks inside your boat to check for pests like rodents that may have gotten in. If you stored your boat outside in an uncovered parking space, whether at a storage facility or in your driveway, there may be grime and dust inside your vessel as well. If this is the case, you’ll want to vacuum the carpets, wash any fabric items and wipe down all the hard surfaces with a multipurpose cleaner or disinfectant. Make sure the windows and mirrors are clean for maximum visibility.

3. Furnishing and Decorating Your Boat

After you’ve de-winterized and cleaned your vessel, it’s time for the fun part: furnishing and decorating the interior.

Use What You Already Own

Before you buy anything new, we recommend going through your home and storage areas (whether it’s a self-storage unit, closet, attic or garage) to find items you can repurpose for your boat. Not only will this make your boat feel like home while you’re out on the water, but it’s also a great way to save money and avoid buying duplicate items.

Maximize Space With Multi-Functional Furniture

Making the most of the limited space on your boat involves some creativity and space-conscious solutions. Here are some tips on how to create a functional and inviting environment without overcrowding your maritime home away from home:

  • Convertible Furniture: Opt for items that can serve multiple purposes, such as seats that turn into beds or tables that fold down from the walls. This reduces the need for multiple pieces and saves space.
  • Built-In Storage: Choose furniture that comes with built-in storage, like benches and ottomans with internal compartments. This will help keep clutter at bay and make the most of every available inch.
  • Vertical Storage Solutions: Use wall space and the backs of doors for storage. Hanging organizers, hooks and mounted shelves can hold everything from kitchen utensils to personal items, freeing up valuable floor space.

Enhance Your Space With Smart Decorations

  • Light Colors and Mirrors: Use light colors for upholstery, curtains and walls to make the space feel larger and brighter. Mirrors can also help to visually expand the area and amplify natural light.
  • Strategic Lighting: Install LED strips under cabinets or along ceilings to create a sense of height and depth. Even a few simple lighting changes can make cramped spaces feel more open and welcoming.

Make It Feel Like Home With Personal Touches

  • Soft Furnishings: Add soft throws, cushions and rugs that you can easily store away when not in use. Accents like these can help make your space feel cozy and comfortable while adding pops of color and complementing your interior design style.
  • Art and Decor: Personalize your space with artwork and photos using damage-free hanging strips. Opt for wall-mounted pieces to conserve space and prevent items from moving around while sailing. TVs and monitors that also act as photo displays are a great option if you’re tight on wall space.

4. Choosing the Right Spring and Summer Storage for Your Boat

When it comes to storing your boat during the active spring and summer months, you have several options — including home storage, boat lift storage, self storage and more — each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks. Choosing the right storage option for your boat involves weighing these against your specific needs, budget and how often you plan to use your boat. 

Home Storage

Storing your boat at home is the most economical option of the bunch, as it eliminates the need for monthly rental fees. You’ll also have easy, all-hours access to your boat for spontaneous trips or routine maintenance.

That said, you’ll need to have sufficient space at home for boat storage, which may require a large driveway, garage or yard. Also, storing a boat at home makes it more susceptible to theft, vandalism and damage from overhead trees or weather. If you’re parking your boat on the street, you may have to abide by street-sweeping or HOA rules.

Wet Docking

With wet docking, your boat is always in the water, ready to go at a moment’s notice. It’s the perfect storage solution for owners with waterfront properties or large vessels that are difficult to dry stack or hitch to a trailer. If you’re wet docking your boat at a marina, you may have access to additional marina amenities and a community of other boat owners.

On the flip side, wet docking can be one of the more expensive options, especially in prime locations. It’s also not great for the longevity of your boat to leave it exposed to harsh UV light, weather and water for long periods of time.

Dry-Rack Storage

Dry-rack storage keeps your boat out of the water when not in use, reducing the chances of hull deterioration and marine growth. Many dry-rack storage facilities offer valet boating services where they place your boat in the water before you arrive.

If you opt for dry-rack storage, know that retrieving your boat may require advance notice and is subject to limited operating hours. It’s also generally more expensive than home storage or self storage, but can be cost-effective compared to wet docking (depending on the location).

4. Boat Lift Storage

Boat lift storage keeps your boat elevated at the dock, preventing prolonged exposure to water and reducing the risk of hull blisters. Unlike dry-rack storage, this option allows you to deploy your boat much more quickly since it stays at your dock.

This is one of the most expensive boat storage options. It requires a big upfront investment — i.e., buying and installing the lift system itself, which can be expensive on top of boat insurance fees. Lifts also need regular maintenance and care for safety purposes.

Self Storage

Self storage offers the greatest flexibility when it comes to boat storage, as many facilities offer covered and uncovered parking spaces as well as indoor units. This lets you pick the one that’s best suited to your needs and budget (uncovered parking spaces are typically the cheapest, while indoor units are the most expensive). Storage facilities also provide security features like gated access, surveillance cameras and on-site staff to make sure your boat stays safe and secure in between uses. 

Like the other non-home storage options, self storage involves a cost. However, storage units are often rentable on a month-to-month basis without any long-term contracts. This means that during the spring and summer, you can rent a unit at a facility closest to the water and then move it back to your home (or a storage facility closer to home) in the off-season.

5. Final Thoughts on Getting Your Boat Ready for Use

If you’re ready to store your boat or learn more about different self-storage options, check out our Boat Storage Guide to find a facility near you. If you’d like to explore more resources and guides on decorating small spaces, figuring out your interior design style and creatively organizing your home, check out our blog.

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