Pier Removal and Winterization are Key to Surviving Another Chicago Winter

As temperatures drop and the leaves change color, fall reminds us of that most iconic Game of Thrones quote: winter is coming. There’s a lot of preparation that needs to be done. Warm clothes to buy, holiday plans to make, money to start saving for gifts… but what about your boat? And your dock? Winter means the waterways are going to ice over. If you don’t adequately prepare, it could potentially damage your assets on the water.

That’s why right now is the best time to start putting together a plan for winter. Will you get your boat winterized? Shrink wrapped? Placed in storage? As for your pier, will you go for pier removal? Or a dock bubbler or de-icer?

Here are some of the ways you should be thinking about preparing your watercraft and dock for the winter and the options available to you.

For a primer on docks and piers, start with our FAQ!

Boats: Winterization, Shrink Wrap, and StorageImage of Pier in Winter that needs Pier Removal

Winter comes. The water ices over. Now, you can’t use your boat for a few cold months. During this time, you need to make sure your boat is protected from the elements. Accomplish this with winterization, shrink wrapping, and/or storage.

Regardless of what else you decide to do, winterize your boat. What does this mean? Well, as our boat winterization checklist explains, it’s a seven-step process that involves routine maintenance tasks to get your boat’s internal systems ready for the cold.

First, disconnect the battery so that it doesn’t drain while not in use. Then, fog the motor and oil the cylinders to protect the moving parts. Stabilize the gas to prevent corrosion damage from condensation collecting and freezing, and replace the antifreeze to prevent freezing and corrosion. Finally, drain the lower unit’s oil so there’s no freezing or cracking, and remove the drain plugs.

How specifically you should go about some of these tasks may depend on your particular model of watercraft. We regularly perform winterization for our customers, so feel free to ask us any questions you might have about this process.

No matter if you do it yourself or have a professional winterize your boat though, this is only the first step in prepping your boat for winter. Next, you should consider how you want to protect the exterior of your boat from the elements. There are a few ways to go about this.

First, you could shrink wrap your boat. Shrink wrap is a thick, sturdy plastic. You stretch it over a boat and then heat it so it shrinks. This forms a tight, durable seal. It keeps out snow, sleet, rain, sun, pests, and any other environmental factors that might damage your boat, better than any tarp could.

You also might want to find a facility where you can store your boat for the winter. This ensures that the boat is safe, and frees up space for owners who keep their boats in their driveways. Of course, you’ll also need a place to keep your boat if you opt for pier removal this winter. Both outdoor and indoor storage facilities rent out spaces, but they’re often first come, first served. Start searching for the right space for your watercraft while fall is still here

Docks: De-Icers and Pier Removal

If you have your own dock, you need to prepare it for winter as well. The repeated expansion and contraction of ice as it forms, melts, and refreezes exerts enough pressure to warp and ruin a pier, and the movement of floating ice similarly can push on docks with enough force to totally destroy them.

This may be an especially worrisome problem considering many insurers don’t cover winter dock damage, a fact that catches many owners off-guard. Therefore, before you do anything else, you should check with your insurance company and verify whether or not your policy will cover you in the event of an ice-related incident.

There are a couple of options for how to deal with this threat—namely, de-icers or pier removal. First let’s consider de-icers, also sometimes known as bubblers. These devices work in one of two ways.

The first kind of de-icer, and the more common variety, consists simply of a motor powering an underwater propeller. It pushes warmer water up from the depths, breaking up ice before it can form. These are called ice eaters.

The other kind is comprised of an air compressor pushing air through a length of weighted, perforated tubing that forms a perimeter around the pier at the bottom of the water. The air flows from the perforations in the tubing in the form of bubbles which prevent ice formation. This is why it’s called a bubbler.

Don’t just go install a de-icer, though. Some municipalities regulate how they can be used. Others require signage to warn ice skaters for example that there is a de-icer operating in the water. Check the rules before you act.

De-icers work well for docks too heavy to remove or which just weren’t designed for pier removal. However, they aren’t always completely effective. Ice can still form around dock legs during deep freezes, moving ice floes can still crash into the dock during ice-out, and the de-icer can experience a mechanical failure like any other device.

That’s why, whenever possible, pier removal is the ideal way to preserve your dock. Of course permanent docks, for self-explanatory reasons, don’t require pier removal. They just need de-icers. Floating docks and pipe docks on the other hand are prime candidates for pier removal. Lift docks can usually stay; just winch them up about five feet above the summer water level.

Pier removal requires lots of expertise, time, and manpower. It’s often more than any one owner could, or should, handle. Luckily, Captain Rod’s Boat Lift and Pier Services is here to help. Our trained experts have been both building and dismantling piers for years. We’ll carry out your pier removal for you, saving you a boatload of time and hassle. Not only that, but we can also help with winterization, shrink wrap, and storage for your boat.

If you need help with boat prep or pier removal in McHenry, IL or the greater Chicagoland area, just give us a call at (815) 759-9134. We’ll take care of your preparations this fall. Then, when all the other boat owners this winter are working out in the cold to get their boats ready, you can watch them from the warmth of your home, knowing your work is done.