Jul 06 2022 All Articles

Boating in winter

Boating in winter

The words “winter” and “boating” may not go hand in hand in the minds of many, acknowledges a blogger on the boats.net website. But, the blog continues, it can actually be the ideal season as long as the conditions are safe and all necessary precautions are taken. 

How so? Well, despite being cooler the weather is usually more stable, there are fewer boaters and traffic nuisances around, smaller crowds mean fewer lines at fuel docks and boat ramps (even at popular boating destinations), marinas may offer winter rates, there’s a chance to enjoy peaceful moments on the water, and colder weather provides a chance to see more marine wildlife as many predators head for warmer environments.

“Extending your boating season into winter gives you the opportunity to use your boat to its fullest potential and prolong your nautical satisfaction. 

“A boat is a major investment, so having it sit idle for months on end seems like a massive waste of your hard-earned money. Boating beyond the typical season can provide the satisfaction of getting bonus time on the water in an off-season setting, giving you the chance to experience a different kind of adventure than what you get in the spring and summer months.”

However, those enthusing over winter boating do so while providing some words of warning.  Extra preparation and knowledge are required. Fewer boaters out and about mean fewer people to assist if things go wrong. Bear in mind that a mechanical failure in winter with nobody nearby to help is far more dangerous than during the summer when a quick rescue is more likely. Distress signals, marine electronics, safety, and survival equipment (especially a VHF radio), filing a float plan with someone ashore, a well-maintained boat and outboard all are more important than ever.

It is also important when boating in winter, to dress appropriately (multiple layers and maybe even a wetsuit) and take along some hot drinks and food. And it’s crucial to monitor the weather throughout the day and heed the forecasts before setting out. It’s a perfect time to become an avid weather watcher!

Boating mag features cold weather boating tips. These include information about survival time in winter waters, and how to dress appropriately. The need to wear a lifejacket is a non negotiable.

“While we advocate wearing life jackets any time you take to the water, we recognise that not everyone does in the steamy summer months. At this time of year, however, we say no excuses. Should you fall overboard, cold water can affect your heart, lungs, and muscles almost instantly. Wearing a life jacket will keep you afloat, even if the cold has rendered you incapacitated. Put it on and keep it on.”

Many boating websites feel the need to post information about the safety aspects of winter boating including this one. As well as covering the aforementioned points, there’s an emphasis on checking navigation lights (in case you get delayed) and paying particular attention to your starter and domestic batteries. Batteries are among the most sensitive devices to cold. If they were on their last legs in summer, don’t risk it!  You may need to take extra steps to ensure they function correctly in low temperatures. For more on this and other tips, see this battle born batteries site.

Powerboatmagazine has another idea…why not try further up into the estuaries of your favourite fishing areas? “For while your (saltwater) fishing may not be quite as prolific as it would be further out to sea, what is the saying we hear so often – the worst day out on the ‘briny’ will always be way better than the best day at your office or workplace.” True that! There are plenty of sheltered spots in saltwater areas – in tempting localities like the Bay of Islands, Milford, and Picton Sounds too. Spectacular beauty awaits.

Or, why not, change your fishing mindset altogether and give trout fishing a go? There are advantages to boating on lakes, such as the fact your boat is in fresh water.

“All your mechanicals get a good flush out with fresh water and facets such as canopies, clears, zips, domes, and all exterior fittings – get a good dousing at the same time, thereby removing the season-long build-up of encrusted salt.”

If you fish from small boats, jetskiis, or kayaks, this yarn by John Eichelsheim on the Boating New Zealand website is worth a read for caution’s sake – it highlights how winter poses some challenges. He covers rain, fog, sea swell, and wind and recommends inshore fishing if your boat is small. Read about his foggy fishing escapade.

Betterboat’s article on winter boating concludes with these words… Is winter boating a safe idea? Sure, if you're a safe boater. And can it be fun? Absolutely!

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