The weather has turned cold and snow flurries are on the way. While there may be a few days when floating is a possibility, the majority of floating enthusiasts will put away their paddles until next spring. While snow drifts pile high, we can dream about the day when we can get back to the water.
Until that day, we have to be content with knowing that we’ve stored our equipment properly in order to prevent damage over the winter that could jeopardize our springtime plans.
Floaters have a love/hate relationship with water. In the spring, summer, and fall, we love it. It’s a recreational release from everyday stress. But in winter…? In winter, water is not our friend.
Water is one of the most damaging components to our kayaking, canoeing, floating gear. Storing equipment for the winter without properly draining the water first can cause serious, sometimes irreparable damage. As water freezes and thaws, it expands and contracts. It seeks out the thinnest of openings to occupy, causing seams to split and small cracks to enlarge.
Before putting away your equipment, open the drain plugs and stand your kayak on its end to allow water to completely drain away. When emptied, close the drain to prevent rainwater or snow melt from reentering. Clean out the storage bins and bow, eliminating all water guns, sport bottles, and coolers. Drain these as well.
Remove all tanning lotions, bug spray, aloe or what-have-you. Do not leave these in your craft unless you want to find a ruptured bottle and a thick coating of whatever it contained inside your boat next spring.
Canoe owners flip the canoe upside down to prevent water from pooling, cover it with a tarp, and wait for spring. Kayak owners can store some equipment inside the kayak, but will need a cockpit cover. If stored outside, the kayak should be flipped as well.
If placed inside a storage shed, it’s not necessary to flip the kayak or canoe, but be forewarned that vermin like to use these places as cozy winter homes. If you suspect mice, don’t leave anything stored inside that can be ruined by gnawing.
It doesn’t take much time or effort in winterizing your floating gear, and it’s a great payoff for the amount of time invested as it dramatically extends the life of your water toys which were costly enough to begin with. Consider winterization as a way not only to preserve your watercraft, but as a way to preserve your warm weather fun.