Off-season Cruising Tips – A Time for Solitude and Serenity
28th September 2021
The off-season cruising months offer a respite as anchorages are deserted, marinas and marine park docks become our own, there’s no jockeying required at the fuel dock and wildlife is unencumbered by the usual steady stream of boats. It’s their domain now.
Wildlife is unencumbered with less boating traffic.
After Labor Day, fewer boats are out on the water and the trend accelerates as we move through the calendar. Off-season boating, requires self-reliance, practicing safety first and being properly prepared.
Let the weather rule. Storm fronts occur in the off-season with more regularity. Be flexible, monitor the weather forecast. Whatever your float plan, include extra time for weather changes so not to put your boat and crew at risk.
Even though drenching storms will arrive regularly throughout the cooler months, so will the crystal clear and crisp winter days; cherish them for their rarity.
Not all Marinas operate during the off-season.
Poor visibility due to rain or fog is more common this time of the year, and conditions can deteriorate quickly. Radar, GPS and AIS are invaluable. Always be prepared for rough water. Secure any loose equipment on deck before getting underway. If conditions worsen, you don’t want to be on deck wrestling to tie something down.
Be vigilant when underway. Winter storms coupled with higher than normal tides drag drift off beaches and into the water, and choppy winter water can make spotting logs difficult.
A furnace will help extend your cruising season.
A source of heat is a necessity. Outdoor activities are more appealing if we can easily warm up inside afterwards.
Preplan your stops. Many marinas, fuel docks, stores and on-shore amenities will be closed or open on an abbreviated schedule.
Layering is the way to go for staying warm and dry. Both fleece and wool retain their warmth in damp conditions. Toss in a couple of pairs of long underwear, all-weather nylon pants and lightweight waterproof pants, jackets that fit over the fleece and wool hats. For footwear, choose wool socks, deck shoes, and rubber boots. For the hands, gloves with their rubber grip palms and fingers work well.
During the winter adequate ventilation is necessary. You’ll bring moisture inside with wet clothing. Indoor cooking also adds moisture to the cabin air. High humidity steams up the windows, encourages mold and impedes wet items from drying. Crack open a couple hatches on opposite sides of the vessel to facilitate ventilation.
Have plenty of books, magazines, games, and puzzles so that everyone, kids especially, can entertain themselves during inclement weather.
During cooler weather months, one-pot meals, hearty stews, soups, pasta, rice dishes and an endless supply of coffee and coco hit the spot.
Fewer boat competing for anchorage.
Off-season cruising isn’t only good for the spirit it’s good for your boat. Unused engines and pumps forget how to work. Condensation collects in the tanks and fuel lines. Everything gets cold and damp. Keep your boat running through the winter months and it’s more likely to be running smoothly right into spring.
(Deane Hislop in partnership with Freedom Marine)