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5 Tips for Safe Late Season Boating in Ontario

Posted in Safety Tips on Jan 14, 2021.

Fact is that in Ontario, winters mean it’s the end of another season for boaters. When the temperatures drop, that’s usually when boats are put into storage. However, this isn’t to say some don’t enjoy those chilly days in the Fall - in fact, there are plenty of boaters who enjoy nothing more than a brisk run across a lake to watch the sun go down with a hot thermos of tea. Late season boating does require more preparation and safety considerations than warm summer trips, so make sure to do your research first and always follow your manufactures recommendations as well as your insurance information regarding your lay-up requirements for winterization. Proper storage is key part of boat maintenance and if not stored properly, it could end up costing you more than you bargained for. To get you started, we’ve put together five chilly weather boating tips to help you get started.

If There’s Snow, It’s Time to Shovel: Snow presents several problems for your boat. If you’re looking to put out to the water, one of the most major complications is the fact that snow, while composed of water, will not allow your scuppers to drain properly. It’s also heavy, which can weigh your boat down and make it easier for frigid water to slosh in (and not drain out). Before you even think about putting your boat in the water, hop on and clear out the snow.

Prep Your Engine: Ideally, you’ll want to check your engine on a regular basis to ensure that it’s in good working condition. However, cooler temps mean you should check your engine prior to heading out each time. If you have an external cooling system with a heat exchanger, preparing it with antifreeze will help make sure that your trip on the lake doesn’t come to a frozen halt.

De-Ice First: When water and below-zero temperatures combine, the result is ice - and plenty of it. Ice will form on your deck, dock, mooring, pontoons, and rigging. Ice can be incredibly dangerous and can make both loading and unloading dangerous. Save yourself the headache (and busted tailbone) of trying to skate your way across and instead, arrive early to de-ice your boat and your entry dock. If you have seawater handy, a splash of that and a good scrub-brush will do the trick. If you’re at one of Ontario’s freshwater lakes, you may need a non-toxic, environmentally friendly de-icing solution to help get things going. If you’re bringing a guest with you, de-icing will help keep them safe, too. For an extra measure of security, an Ontario boat insurance policy will cover you against liability that might arise as the result of an accident.

If the Weather’s Bad, Don’t Go: One of the tried-and-true rules of winter boating is that you should dress in preparation for the water, not the air. When the weather is warm and inviting, a bit of lake spray isn’t anything to worry about. In the winter, the combination of freezing water and icy air is a recipe for hypothermia, and if your hands are cold and numb, it’s much harder to steer back to shore when a storm whip’s up. Check the weather forecast before you head out. If there is a storm on the horizon, just stay home. In any weather, make sure you’re wearing an approved life jacket, and if you’re surprised by a sudden snowstorm, get back to shore as quickly and safely as you can.

Keep Your Trips Short: Not only is the weather much colder than usual, but winter days in the Northern Hemisphere also mean fewer hours of sunlight to work with. Once the sun goes down, it gets a lot harder to safely navigate your way back to the dock, so plan ahead and leave yourself plenty of time - and daylight - to make a safe return. As with any boating excursion, make sure you let a friend or family member know where you’ll be going, and when you expect to return. That way, if you do need help, they will know precisely where to find you.

When it comes to choosing marine insurance, Ontario boaters can’t do better than MD Marine Insurance. The policy benefits and coverages you’ll find are specially tailored to the unique challenges that Canadian boat owners face. Plus, every insurance policy we provide comes complete with the MD Advantage, which includes emergency towing, a dedicated claims specialist, and coverage for loss of use (with the exception of PWCs).

Remember when it comes to winterization always follow your manufacturers and storage facility recommendations to ensure your boat is put away correctly and safely for the season. Always check with your insurance provider to review your winter lay-up period requirements to ensure that you are covered in case something happens while in storage.

For more information on marine insurance in Ontario, give us a call at (877) 627-4633. You can also contact us online or use our free, instant quote calculator.