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Winterize So Your Boat Doesn’t Splinterize

When ships and boats become icebound – which happens more than you probably think – it triggers a conga line of icebreakers and Coast Guard escorts, distress messages and rescue helicopters. Depending on where the ship is at the time, it can be a full-blown international incident.

This rarely (if ever) happens when icy weather descends on Connecticut waterways, but why tempt fate? It’s best to be prepared, and our many great marinas know how to do exactly that.

More than 140 marinas line the shoreline from New Haven to Stonington, with nearly 30 more on rivers flowing into the Sound. There’s a ton of business for them in the warmer months, but come winter, it all shuts down. Hardcore fishermen stay out through Thanksgiving, though most folks are in by November 1. When boats float again depends on our delightfully unpredictable New England weather. Most years, people launch by May 1, but that means the “winter” for marinas can be six months long. How they get through it depends on their size.

Mike Mackey and his wife own Port Clinton Marina, a traditional operation with 140 slips. When the season’s over, Mike counts on fees for winterizing, hauling, power washing and shrink-wrapping hulls, and then there’s spring commissioning. He also gets outside storage fees, although some customers leave their boats in. Mike explains, “We don’t have bubblers but we’re between two rivers, so the water keeps moving enough to block ice formation.”

The Boat Center in Madison is a marina and a boat dealership. Like Port Clinton, they get their last burst of income now—for hauling and winterization, plus service work that can be done outside. Manager Diane Lippold also keeps the cold weather income flowing from fees for the 700 boats they store on their 18 acres. She says being a dealer helps: “In the winter, we keep busy with boat shows and getting customers into new boats for the spring.”

Brewer Pilots Point Marina in Westbrook is large enough to stay active all winter, thanks to their extensive inside service facilities. General Manager Jeremy Maxwell told us, “We keep a year round work force of skilled technicians to do refits, modifications, new engines, restorations, any kind of major repair.” They offer outside storage at three separate yards, plus inside storage for boats up to 80’. Some of their 863 summer slips have bubblers for boats wintering in the water.

Between the Bridges Marina in Old Saybrook does indoor/outdoor winter storage too. Through the winter staffers keep an eye on stored vessels that have been serviced with mechanical and system winterization, as well as shrink wrapping.

Though marinas winterize themselves differently, they take the same approach when it comes to winterizing boats: flush water systems and fill with nontoxic antifreeze; change oil and filters; pressure wash the hull; shrink wrap and toss in a mildew bag. At spring commissioning, paint bottom and replace anodes if necessary. Do-it-yourselfers often forget to remove the drain plug or to winterize all water systems—with disastrous results. Best to leave your boat winterization to the marinas, which will surely appreciate the business.

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