First-Time Boat Owner's Off-Season Checklist



One of the biggest surprises of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the number of people rushing to become boaters. From kayaks to pontoons, center consoles and ski boats, dealerships are reporting a buying frenzy. As a result, a lot of new boat owners are just now finishing up their first boating season and starting to ask the same question: What next? You Just Finished Your First Summer with a Boat. Now What? Truth be told, each year, the boating season is kind of like the holiday season. We eagerly anticipate its arrival, we immerse ourselves in it to the point that it takes over almost every aspect of our lives, and then, after we’ve squeezed every ounce of joy from it that we possibly can, the season comes to its predictable end. The difference between the boating and holiday seasons, though, is that nobody thinks about the “holiday off-season.” There is such a thing as the boating off-season, and it can be nearly as glorious as the boating season itself. In fact, if done right, the boating off-season can help to make the next year out on the water even better than the last one.

Here’s a look at five things you can do to make the most of your boating off-season this year.

Basic Maintenance The boating off-season is a great time to do the maintenance projects that tend to get put off during fun summer cruising weekends. Not only is the off-season a terrific time to make sure things like oil changes and filter replacements are completed, but it’s also a great time to correct problems that popped up out on the water.

  • Did a restraining strap break where you stow the water skis?

  • Could you use a better tie-down for the cooler you liked to bring out on the boat every weekend?

  • Did the kids break one of the steps in your rope ladder while climbing back up and into the boat from a swim?

  • Big maintenance projects for boats tends to come on a predictable schedule, as with automobiles, but using the off-season to do smaller maintenance projects like these can really enhance your time out on the water next year. Take the time to think about the little things that annoyed you on board, and use the boating off-season to eliminate those issues before hitting the water again next year.

Boat Storage & Winterization One of the best lessons that new boat owners can learn during their first off-season is how to properly winterize and store the boat. Different boats come with different manufacturer recommendations, but generally speaking, you’re going to want to make sure that your engine, tanks and heads are free of water that might cause corrosion or freeze.

  • You’ll need to drain various lines;

  •  Add stabilizers as required; 

  • Ensure that the boat is properly covered to keep moisture out and everything else protected.

Proper storage and winter will make the start of your second boating a whole lot easier. If everything is done right during the off-season, then the fun of the next boating season can start a whole lot faster. Everything will be in good working order on Day One, and off you’ll go. Upgrades Similar to proper off-season maintenance, upgrades can really improve the boating experience—and the off-season is a great time to get new products that will enhance your boat for years to come. The benefit of having finished a first season out on the water is that you have a good sense of how you actually use your boat. Maybe you got into boating with one idea of how you’d spend your time day cruising, and you realized that you prefer to do something else. Perhaps you thought water-skiing and tubing would be your family’s favorite boating activities, so you invested in great tow ropes and toys, but it turns out they prefer snorkeling or fishing, and you need a better fish finder at the helm to find the schools of fish under the hull.

The boating off-season is a great time to invest in some boating education. No matter whether it’s taking an online course about basic safety and rules of the road, or reading a “boating bible," additional education will only enhance your time on the water when the next season arrives.


Some other ideas include:

  • Reviewing manuals for everything on board, to learn about features that you may not even realize you already have on your boat;

  • And studying charts of your local waterways or downloading a boating navigation app to become more familiar with your surroundings the next time you fire up the engines and head out for a day of cruising.

Plan for Next Boating Season While you have those charts out for a look, take some extra time to think about where you might want to cruise next season that you didn’t have a chance to cruise this season. A lot of lifelong boaters use the off-season to read cruising guides and charts, and to noodle with cruising apps, looking for interesting itineraries they can attempt the following year or years. Before you know it, your second boating season will arrive. And if you’ve done all of the above, it will be yet another season to remember.

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