Ice in the Water? Here’s How to Safely Boat Around It

Depending on where you take your boat this winter, it’s possible that you could end up encountering some ice on your journey. With ice in the water, it is especially important that boat owners are equipped with boat insurance and the right techniques for navigating around and through it. Boating in, or rather through, solid water presents some unique challenges. While it can be a unique and unforgettable experience, it can also be a dangerous one without the proper knowledge.

What to Expect

Late-season ice commonly forms in marinas, basins, and small protected coves. From a distance, ice looks like very calm water. It also reflects light differently, and, of course, ducks walking and waddling where they should be swimming is a sure sign of frozen water.

Often, these iced-up marinas and coves are covered with wafer-thin skim ice, which really won’t do much structural damage. But depending upon its thickness, it can scrape or scratch your boot stripe. Approach the edge of the ice as you would a dock or ­bulkhead and assess its thickness.

If it’s skim, you can choose to idle through it, or have a crew member on the bow break it up with a boat hook as you “stop and go.” If the ice is thicker you will need to implement the following strategies. And before all else, secure proper boat insurance. 

Rise and Slide

One is to approach the edge of the ice slowly and to allow the bow to slide up on the ice. Just put the bow and first few feet of the boat up. You don’t want to crash your running gear against solid ice. Allow the boat’s weight to break the ice, back up, and repeat until you reach the ramp.

The Wave

This technique depends upon the local geography, the presence of other boats, and your experience. Use your own judgment as to when it’s appropriate.

Get on plane and begin running in circles at the mouth of the cove or basin. The wake you kick up will travel under the ice. At first, the sheet will undulate. But soon enough, the ice will break up into a bunch of little floes, small enough to be pushed aside as you proceed slowly to your slip. The sound of your props grinding chunk ice into bits as you idle through is unnerving, but there is no reason to be alarmed.

Other Tips

Here are a few additional techniques for boating through ice:

  • Tilt Down – It’s counterintuitive, but in freezing weather, it’s warmer below the water’s surface. So keep your outboard trimmed down in the water to minimize freezing the gear case.
  • Shovel Out – Snow doesn’t drain like water. And even if it melts during the day, chances are good the runoff will freeze in your scuppers by night. Use a shovel (plastic, to avoid gouging fiberglass) aboard.
  • Charge Up – Make sure your batteries are in good working condition, and consider wiring in one or two more. Winter storms knock marina power out which means your battery charging capabilities as well. Secure boat insurance to best prepare for an outing. 

About Mariners Insurance

Mariners General Insurance Group was founded in 1959 to protect boat owners and marine business clients. We are marine insurance experts and insure boats worldwide – in every ocean on the planet. Marine insurance is critical if you own a boat or nautical business. Trust the professionals with all of your Boat Insurance needs – trust Mariners Insurance. Call us at (800) 992-4443 any time you have questions or concerns about insurance for your vessel or marine business.