Boating is a wonderful American pastime. Both individuals and families have come to relish summers spent on the water. In fact, look at these statistics from the United States Coast Guard: in 2011, 29% of American households reported that at least one member went boating that year. In total, that’s 34.2 million households!
But as more people take to the water, the logistics of boat ownership need to be addressed. And for the purpose of this guide, we’re turning our attention to protecting your boat from the weather – especially during the winter. Boat shelters, covered boat storage and other solutions for storing your boat outside at home are important topics for any boat owner, as they will help ensure that your boat stays in peak condition season after season.
So join us as we explore covered boat shelters and other winter boat solutions.
Why Do You Need to Store Your Boat During the Winter?
Before we tackle specific boat storage solutions, it’s important to fully understand why boat storage is such a big deal in the first place.
While leaving your boat moored at the dock all winter may seem like a convenient and affordable option, there are four main reasons why it’s a risky and less cost-effective approach in the long run.
Risk of Sinking
When you visit your boat regularly, you notice the little things. A slow leak with get noticed on deck. You will see that your boat is floating lower and lower in the water.
Unfortunately, if you leave your boat alone for the winter, these small leaks will go unobserved. A small underwater fitting may have failed. A micro-fissure might have widened. Imagine coming back to the dock in the spring only to find your boat underwater.
Risk of Storm Damage
Over the winter, there is a high likelihood of inclement weather. High winds, rising water levels, torrential rain and the potential for a blizzard – depending on where you live – can all do significant damage to your boat. Even if you have a heads-up about an incoming weather event, the logistics of moving or securing your boat make dealing with the issue impractical.
Risk of Barnacles
Depending on where you live, these water-borne pests want to make their home on the hull of your boat. And they are more than just a nuisance. They can cause significant physical damage, which will then require a costly repair.
Risk of Theft
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), there were over 5,000 watercraft thefts in 2015 alone and 24% of those thefts took place just in Florida. Finally, only 42% of those boats were recovered, meaning over half are lost forever!
Leaving your boat unattended over the winter will greatly increase the risk of it being stolen. Furthermore, even if your boat is well-secured, a savvy thief could opt for stealing electronics or other components that could then be resold on the black market.
Risk of Blisters
Finally, there are purely physical reasons to get your boat out of the water during the off-season. In fact, the kind of wear and tear associated with a winter in water can become costlier than the price of storing your boat on land.
Blisters on the hull are the primary concern for a boat that isn’t properly wintered. If your hull gets the chance to dry out for a few months, blisters are far less likely to develop.
Why Can’t I Just Pull My Boat Ashore?
While there are risks associated with leaving your boat in the water over the winter, there are also significant risks associated with leaving your boat unattended and exposed on land.
Because air temperatures fluctuate more than water temperatures, leaving your boat exposed to the winter air can be equally damaging. Furthermore, many of the winter weather risks associated with leaving your boat in the water over the winter can be equally risky if your boat is exposed on land. Additionally, the sun can do a number on your boat’s paint job. Your paint can fade, chip and crack if left out in the open.
In the end, the bigger issue isn’t whether your boat is on land or in the water over the winter – it’s that your boat is properly winterized when you aren’t using it during the offseason.
Can I Park My Boat in My Driveway for the Winter?
This is certainly an option – one that is chosen by many boat owners across the country. Considering you don’t need to pay yourself rent on your own driveway, it’s certainly affordable.
If you are going to store your boat on the driveway all winter, however, you must have a boat cover. Leaving your boat uncovered all winter would expose it to the risk of damage as well as increased wear and tear. Boat covers are affordable, especially if you have a reliable boating or outdoor supply store in the area.
However, there are some concerns associated with storage on your driveway. First of all, many neighborhood ordinances prohibit driveway storage. If that’s the case, you run the risk of annoying your neighbors and incurring a stiff fine.
Additionally, even with a high-quality boat cover, weather events could still pose a risk. A harsh storm or a falling tree would still do significant damage even if your boat is wrapped up tight. Also, most boat covers leave the bottom of a boat’s hull exposed, meaning sun damage is still a factor.
There’s also a lack of security when your boat is left outside. Your home security system won’t encompass your boat, and considering the number of valuable components stored on most boats, it could become a tempting prize for thieves.
Finally, pests can infiltrate even the most tightly wrapped boat. In fact, the shelter provided by a covered boat makes it a great home for mice, rats and other rodents. Once there, vermin could chew on cables or do other damage, resulting in costly repairs.
What If I Pull My Boat Into My Garage?
Pulling your boat into your car garage improves upon the issues affecting driveway storage. You don’t have to worry about pests, weather or nosy neighbors.
You still want to use a boat cover, as a garage will still experience temperature fluctuations. Plus, try as you might, your garage may still have a few rodent visitors over the course of the winter. But like your driveway, your garage is free.
That being said, you still need the space to store your boat. If you normally use your garage to park your car and you don’t have an empty port, that means leaving your car in the driveway all winter. Instead of exposing your boat to the elements, you’ll be exposing your car, which is simply trading one problem for another.
Are There Facilities Where I Can Store My Boat?
If you want to keep your boat in a place designed for boat storage, you have a couple of options. Each one has both pros and cons associated with it:
Dry Rack Boat Storage
These storage facilities are typically found in regions where there is a significant boat-owning population. As such, they are predominately located in coastal areas. They maximize the number of boats able to be stored while also taking efforts to protect those boats from the elements.
Essentially, professional storage staff will use a forklift to place your boat in a designated spot on an enormous rack. These racks will often stack boats three or four levels high!
Because they are designed to store a large number of boats in one small area, they are typically found close to the water, meaning transferring your boat from the dock to the rack won’t be too difficult.
They also come in both indoor and outdoor varieties. While outdoor racks will usually have a roof to protect the boats from the elements, they will still be exposed on the sides, meaning weather can still be an issue. Indoor dry racks are obviously more protected and secure, although they tend to be more expensive to rent.
Which gets us to one of the most significant drawbacks for this kind of storage. First of all, a spot on a dry rack is expensive. In fact, in high-demand areas, this is probably the most expensive rental option available.
Secondly, while their location may be convenient, getting access to your boat after it’s gone into storage is a lot more difficult. Remember: these facilities use a forklift to place your boat in a rack slot. That means if you want to get to your boat, you need a forklift driver to pull it down. You won’t be able to pop by and access your boat on a whim. Instead, you will have to contact the administrator of the facility and get access that way. But even if you do give your administrator a heads-up, they might not be able to access your boat quickly, especially if you’re trying to get it during a busy loading or unloading season.
Third, if you don’t live in a high-demand area, it’s likely that a storage rack facility will be hard to find. If you do find one, it is less likely to be conveniently placed, meaning you might have to drive a long way just to get there.
So, while there are definite advantages to dry rack storage, especially when it comes to keeping your boat in good shape, there are also drawbacks, meaning there’s a chance that this option just won’t make sense for you and your lifestyle.
If you can’t keep your boat in your driveway due to neighborhood ordinances and a dry rack isn’t available, you might be able to keep your boat in a self-storage facility. Like dry racks, there are definite advantages and disadvantages associated with self-storage.
On the positive side, self-storage is typically more readily available regardless of where you keep your boat. They don’t require special equipment and structures, so they’re easy for landlords to set up, even if they aren’t located in a boat-heavy region of the country.
They are also very convenient. If you have your boat moored at a dock during the summer, there’s a very good chance that there’s a self-storage facility nearby built just for your boating community. Plus, because you don’t need a forklift to put your boat into its designated space, you can drive up and drop off your boat whenever you need to and access it over the winter as required.
Plus, like a dry rack, many self-storage facilities come with security features. If it’s a small facility, there will still likely be cameras installed to make sure thieves aren’t trying to access the boats during the night. If this is a larger facility, it may even have a dedicated security staff.
Finally, self-storage facilities come in a wide variety of forms. Some are indoors, meaning your boat will be protected from the elements all winter long. There are many self-storage facilities that are multi-use, meaning if you’re also an RV owner, you store your RV right next to your boat, making it even more convenient.
However, like dry racks, self-storage facilities can get pricey. If they are outdoors with minimal features, they will be more affordable, but will also lack some of the protections, such as high-security and indoor protection from weather events. If they are indoors, they will likely be just as expensive as a dry rack. While you may save on the cost of repairs associated with wear and tear, you will also pay a premium in rent.
Moreover, while many will be conveniently located, that’s not a guarantee. Depending on where you live and what you’re willing to spend, you may end up paying expensive hauling costs to get your boat to the self-storage facility for the winter.
What If I Just Build My Own Boat Storage Facility?
More and more, home and boat owners are looking for a solution that combines the convenience of home storage with the protection of dedicated storage facilities.
Luckily, outbuildings designed for a wide variety of purposes have become more readily available and more affordable, meaning placing a boat garage on your property is more feasible than ever.
By building your own dedicated boat garage, you will be able to ensure that it’s properly sized for your boat. Furthermore, you won’t have to kick your car out just to make space and you can add whatever type of security features you want to make sure your boat is safe all winter long. Moreover, because you won’t need to open the door very often, a dedicated boat garage will be much better at keeping critters out.
However, more than the security and convenience, the best thing about a personal boat garage is that it is an investment, not a rental. You will be adding to the value of your property. And if you plan on keeping your home and boat for a long time, you will be saving money in the long run, as the dedicated garage will be a free place to park your boat once you’ve paid it off.
Finally, your own garage will be customized for you, your boat and your needs. If you need a place to park both your RV and your boat, you can build the perfectly-sized garage. If your boat is especially tall, you can make sure your garage is equally tall.
In the end, if you’re a dedicated boat owner and you’re committed to the boating life for years to come, the most convenient, cost-effective and secure option is a dedicated boat garage on your own property.
What Are My Options for a Personal Boat Garage?
Once you’ve decided to build your own boat garage, you need to find the perfect partner.
If you’re looking for a long-lasting, cost-effective and versatile structure, steel buildings are your best bet. They have the durability to stand up to the elements, they come in a wide range of design options and they can easily be designed to meet your particular specifications.
But if you do decide on a steel structure for your personal boat garage, you need to turn to a manufacturer you can trust.
Luckily, here at MBMI Metal Buildings, we have the experience and dedication to make sure that your garage is perfectly suited for your boat storage needs.
Consider some of our premium construction features:
- Premium lifetime fasteners: All of the fasteners we use in construction are guaranteed not to rust. We use these fasteners on all of our roof and wall panels
- 40-year warranty: We know you’re making an investment with new garage construction. That’s why we only use high-gloss, high-luster painted panels that are guaranteed for 40 years. You won’t find similar promises from the other guys.
- Premium trims: Because a tight seal against weather and critters is essential for the purpose of your garage, we are committed to making sure we only use premium trim on all of our structures. Door jambs, eave trims and base trims are all designed to keep the outside out and the inside in.
- Cable bracing: You boat garage is there to protect your boat from weather-related disasters. That’s why you need to make sure your garage is equally well-prepared to withstand the elements. Cable bracing adds strength and rigidity to the structure – and it comes standard with any MBMI steel building.
- American-made: This is a country where we take pride in our craft. That’s why all of our structures are American-made. We believe in the American worker and the resulting quality.
- Trouble-free: Finally, we pride ourselves on providing expert craftsmanship and attention to details for all of our customers. We want the purchase and construction of your boat garage to be as painless as possible. But don’t take our word for it – look at our customer testimonials as evidence of how committed we are to making sure your experience is trouble-free.
Since our founding, we have remained committed to being the best steel building professionals we can be. By employing state-of-the-art technology with an old-fashioned commitment to craft, we build beautiful, durable and structurally versatile steel buildings for both commercial and residential applications.
If you’re ready to make the switch to a personalized boat garage – one perfectly designed to your needs and specifications – request a quote today. We look forward to partnering with you and helping you find the best way to keep your boat safe all winter long. Your boat is an investment, so do everything you can to keep it safe year in and year out.