Installing a modular floating or permanent dock system is a great way to make the most of your waterfront property or lake access, providing a place to dock boats and personal watercraft or simply lounge on the water all summer long. Of course, you still have to figure out what to do with your dock in the winter.
Strong winds, surging waves, storm activity, and freezing temperatures can all conspire to damage both permanent and floating dock systems. While you’re diving into a pumpkin spice latte, your dock could be bowing under the weight of snow and ice, and pilings could be getting roughed up by ice floes before the surface has fully frozen over.
What can you do to make sure your boat dock, gangway, PWC ports, or other docking structures remain in good condition throughout the winter months so that they’re ready for use when warmer temperatures return? Here are a few guidelines to prep for cold weather and winterize your dock.
Floating Dock Removal
Floating docks are an expedient way to get out on the water and moor your watercraft, and they can save you money when compared to the installation cost of a permanent dock. However, because they’re held in place by anchors, inclement weather can be a real problem.
Suppose you live in an area that experiences severe winter storm weather, including high winds and waves, or the lake freezes over during the colder months of the year. In that case, your best bet is to remove the dock, either by yourself or with the help of seasonal dock installation and removal services.
The same goes for lakes where the water level gets low enough in the off-season that floating docks could come into contact with rocks below, along with docks in municipalities where the lakes are drained during the winter.
Where should you store your floating dock? Modular docks with interlocking sections should be removed to an enclosed storage area for the winter if at all possible. A boathouse, shed, or another outbuilding on your property is ideal.
If you have no other option, you could always secure sections on the shoreline, perhaps covering them with a weighted tarp to stave off damage from the elements throughout the winter. Just make sure that they are clearly marked so that it doesn’t pose a hazard to skiers, snowmobilers, or other winter-weather enthusiasts.
Leaving a Floating Dock in the Water
There are instances in which you can save yourself some trouble by simply leaving a floating dock in the water during the winter. If it doesn’t get cold enough for water to freeze solid, your dock area will be sheltered from wind and wave activity. If the water level remains high enough that dock sections won’t come into contact with rocks below, you may be able to safely leave it in the water year-round.
However, you should still take precautions to keep it as safe as possible when you leave it sitting for the winter. First, remove all ramps and ladders that could come loose in a storm. Next, account for potential shifts in water levels by adding some slack to the anchor lines. This could also help the dock to shift if it gets hit by ice floes.
You might also want to secure the dock to a solid object on land to keep it from floating away if anchor lines become damaged. Finally, make sure your dock is clearly marked, ideally with lighting, so others on the lake can avoid running into it.
Winterizing a Permanent Dock
Not all docks can be pulled from the water during the winter months. If you have a permanent boat dock, the best thing you can do to avoid ice damage is to install a de-icing or dock bubbling system. De-icers and agitators work best in deeper waters (usually 12 feet or more). These submerged systems pull warmer water up from the lake’s bottom to warm the frozen surface around your dock, keeping ice from forming on the pilings or the dock itself.
Dock bubblers, which rely on a shoreline air compressor system to force air bubbles out of a diffuser line situated along the dock’s length, are better for shallow waters. This system maintains water flow in order to prevent freezing. You may want to put up signage warning that a de-icing or bubbler system is in use.
Servicing and Repairs
Before you get back on your boat dock after winter weather, it’s a good idea to schedule seasonal maintenance to make sure that all components have survived the season safe and sound. With annual dock servicing, you can complete repair or replacement in plenty of time to get out on the water and enjoy warmer weather.
To learn more about the best dock options for your area or to schedule seasonal dock removal and installation services, contact the experts at Regatta Dock Systems today at 860-302-9182 or visit us online.