First-Time Boat Owner's Off-Season Checklist

One of the biggest surprises of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 that has continued into 2021 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?

first time boat owners maintenance checklist

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.

10 First-Time Boating Tips for New Boaters


Basic Maintenance

off season boat 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.

Learn More: Maintenance Checklist for New Boaters


Boat Storage & Winterization

off season boat storage

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 winterization 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.

How to Winterize a Boat



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.

boat upgrades and accessories

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 fishfinder at the helm to find the schools of fish under the hull.

Upgrading the boat with accessories specific to your favorite activities is a wonderful off-season way to prepare for those activities next year. And even better: Manufacturers introduce a lot of new accessories in the fall, so it’s a great time to find deals on last year’s models, or to get the newest, hottest version of whatever gadget you desire.

10 Easy, Affordable DIY Boat Improvement Projects


Education & Training

boating safety classes

How did you feel out on the water during your first season with a boat? Did you feel confident that you knew all the rules of the road? Were you familiar with all of your boat’s features? Did you know your way around the local waterways?

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.

Find Boating Education Courses and Training


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.

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.

Read Next: First-Time Boat Owner's Checklist

You May Also Like:

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in September 2017 and updated in September 2021.