A heater is no substitute for properly winterizing a boat! Numerous freeze claims over the years have proven that point again and again. If you’re tempted to leave your boat with a heater running this winter rather than winterizing, consider these examples:
The owner of a 24-foot Bayliner in Portland, Oregon never got around to winterizing his twin gas engines and instead put a heater in the engine compartment. Like a lot of other people, the owner probably didn’t think about the fact that power outages most often occur right when you need electricity most — when the worst winter weather hits. An ice storm came through just before Christmas, downing power lines and cutting off power to the heater long enough to freeze the water in the blocks. The next spring, when the owner fired up the engines, instead of heading out for the first cruise of the season, he limped back to the dock with the manifolds from both engines cracked and spewing water. Because the marina was busy with launching and recommissioning boats for the season, the repairs couldn’t be completed for weeks.
This 27-foot Rinker was “winterized” by placing a space heater in the engine room. The boat, which was afloat in her slip in Alabama, caught fire when the extension cord used to power the heater shorted where it had old damage. The boat was destroyed and damaged another boat as well as the dock.
Other boats have been lost when the heater itself has caught fire, when the heater has ignited something combustible inside the boat, or when the heater has been tipped over by a large wake that rocked the boat. Even lightbulbs in the engine room have caused fires.
Don’t rely on an electric heater to keep your boat safe this winter — it may not, and it might even destroy your pride and joy. Heaters can actually increase mold and mildew because the heated air causes condensation on cold surfaces like metal portlights and hatches. Winterize your boat, even if you live in an area that seems safe from hard freezes. It only takes a couple of hours to prepare a boat properly — or to destroy an engine in a cold snap if the power goes out.