Now that we’re knee-deep into the off-season, cabin fever has set in for many boating enthusiasts. If you’re one of the bored and the restless, fear not! Now is a great time to make sure your boat is in tip-top shape, learn some new boating skills, or experience new kinds of seafaring adventures.
Here’s our top five list of winter activities for boaters:
1. Prepare for Safety
- Take an inventory of your safety gear and make any necessary purchases, repairs or upgrades. The U.S. Coast Guard offers a free pamphlet, “Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats,” that describes the various equipment you must have aboard your boat (contact the Coast Guard to request a copy). Keep in mind, however, that your state may have local safety requirements that go beyond the federal ones, so be sure to call your state boating office as well.
- Take a course on boating safety, beef up your boat handling skills, or learn some new ones. By continuing your boating education, you’ll not only stave off cabin fever, you’ll also become a better, safer, more responsible boater. A wide variety of courses are available, which can be taken in-person or online. Check out this list of courses compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard’s boating safety division. Or find a class near you using the BoatU.S. Foundation’s Courseline search tool.
2. Fix Up Your Boat: Does your boat have any broken gears? Does the hull need paint? Have you been planning to install new equipment or upgrades? If you’ve been putting off any repair or restoration jobs, take these winter months to get them done. If you’re planning to have some (or all) of these tasks done for you, now is the time to find the right professionals and ensure everything is in ship-shape by boating season.
3. Update Your Nautical Charts: Because GPS is not foolproof, having paper charts on board is critical to ensure boating safety. But in order to be reliable, your charts must be up to date. And each year NOAA issues over 11,000 corrections to their suite of over 1,000 charts! Take some time this off-season to apply any needed updates to your nautical charts. Here are some resources for determining what changes you may need to make:
- Review the Notice to Mariners, issued weekly by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to provide timely marine safety information for the correction of nautical charts.
- Review the Local Notice to Mariners, issued weekly by the nine district Coast Guard offices to provide timely marine safety information including the correction of nautical charts, the US Coast Pilot, and the USCG Light List.
- If you don’t want to go through the effort of manually updating your chart (or you’re too busy with your boating safety class or your boat restoration projects!), you can simply order new, up-do-date charts at oceangrafix.com.
4. Attend Boat Shows: Boating off-season is the best time of year to catch an indoor boat show. Whether or not you’re planning to make a purchase, you can spend many joyful hours feasting your eyes on beautiful boats, checking out the latest marine gear, and hobnobbing with other like-minded boating enthusiasts. Here’s a jam-packed list of upcoming boat shows.
Get On The Water: Winter doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go cold turkey! If you’ve got the time and the money, consider booking a vacation cruise. Or travel to a warmer location and charter a boat. Looking for a less pricey and less time-consuming way to get on the water? Go fishing! Here’s a top ten list of best winter fishing locations.