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Old 07-11-2017, 18:11   #1
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Viability of winter boating in New England?

I live in Boston and boating life tends to shut down in the winter. Most marinas require the boats to be taken out. Everything gets wrapped up.

Is it viable to keep a boat in the water in Boston and go out during the winter on good days or would that not be viable for some reason?

The kind of boat I am thinking is an "all weather" pilot house like a Sargo.
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Old 07-11-2017, 18:22   #2
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

I know of a few live aboards in Boston...and they are not up on the hard. And I'm sure in most locations you'd need a bubbler, most of those boats are wrapped or have covers.

Relatedly, snow and ice on an uncovered boat can can wreak havoc with gelcoat and some fittings. Seems like areas where there is repeated freeze and thaw are the worst.
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Old 07-11-2017, 21:29   #3
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

There are more than few live aboards in Boston harbor. However I think they mostly shrink wrap from toe rail up - so no going out on nice days. Too hard to keep heat in otherwise. Not living aboard, boats sail all year. Boston Sailing Center has j24 racing all year long. In the harbor no bubbler needed, too much tide for freezing.
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Old 08-11-2017, 06:33   #4
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

Our marina (about 40 miles N of Boston) is nearly full all Winter. Many boats go up on the hard, but they're largely replaced with boats which normally live in marinas which freeze up (ours doesn't) or on moorings.

Lots of fishermen go out year-round, and they love having a proper dock rather than having to take a dinghy out to a mooring in Winter.

Some others shrink-wrap in the water, while some just tape over hatches and portlights with bits of shrink wrap material. Others have custom covers. We don't allow liveaboards, but some hearty soles stay overnight from time to on recreational boats, or even take them out when we get a good day.

Many believe it's better for the hull to be supported all over by water, as it was intended, rather than propped up on stands in a few spots. I've seen all kinds of warping which leaves hatches and doors hard to close after a winter ashore.

I'd say go for it.
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Old 08-11-2017, 09:15   #5
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

I think it is possible, and consider this:

Move the boat to the South Coast, like n New Bedford or Fairhaven with the handy hurricane barrier for storms, Not far from Boston and lots of good day sailing in Buzzards Bay and lots of decent destinations if you have a weekend like say Oak Bluffs.

It is also significantly warmer than Boston. ( I have lived in both places) and the dockage is much, much more reasonable.
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Old 09-11-2017, 06:41   #6
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

Used to live in Annapolis in the 60s and there was too much ice to be able to use our boats. Yet I see discussion of using your boat in the winter in New England which should be colder. Is it the difference between brackish and fresh water freezing points or is the world that much warmer now? From an ignorant CA native.
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Old 09-11-2017, 07:13   #7
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

Sailing anywhere near freezing has discomfort and challenges. True, there are those cruisers that relish the Arctic conditions, but for most it won't be any fun.

Try handling 3/8" line with gloves. Or going on deck to free a something-or-other. And as most Great Lakes sailors can attest, cold fingers often lead to "hey where's the blood from?" because you don't feel the cut on your cold, hard finger.
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Old 09-11-2017, 07:19   #8
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

True, but many boaters are also skiers (least I was). I think sometimes we wanna always wear shorts when on the boat, but that doesn't translate well into winter sailing. Ski clothes for sailing. Who knew?
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Old 09-11-2017, 08:46   #9
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

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. Ski clothes for sailing. Who knew?

I spend a lot of time outdoors in winter. I've awoken covered in snow, no tent, no protection. My fleece and layer 1 stuff goes from boat to home with the seasons. The space heater goes back and forth from boat to office.

most ski clothing isn't optimal (I said "optimal") for cold weather sailing because it's deficient keeping water out. On the boat I use military surplus ECWCS under layers, waterproof sailing shells, and expedition grade wool socks.
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Old 13-11-2017, 14:34   #10
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

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Originally Posted by waterman46 View Post
Used to live in Annapolis in the 60s and there was too much ice to be able to use our boats. Yet I see discussion of using your boat in the winter in New England which should be colder. Is it the difference between brackish and fresh water freezing points or is the world that much warmer now? From an ignorant CA native.
When I was in Annapolis last December 19 it was more like a rainy autumn day than winter. As far ad southern New England, not much ice anymore, even in the harbors. Smaller brackish coves perhaps, but almost none in Buzzrds Bay or Rhode Island sound or Vineyard sounds, so plenty of good sailing if you can stay warm enough!
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Old 13-11-2017, 15:07   #11
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

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When I was in Annapolis last December 19 it was more like a rainy autumn day than winter. As far ad southern New England, not much ice anymore, even in the harbors. Smaller brackish coves perhaps, but almost none in Buzzrds Bay or Rhode Island sound or Vineyard sounds, so plenty of good sailing if you can stay warm enough!
You must have been cruising in the tropics during the winter of 2014/2015? Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay were both frozen over. Vineyard Haven harbor the ice was so thick they had to put a large excavator on a barge and use the bucket to break a channel for the ferry.

Fortunately I spent most of that winter in Florida.
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Old 13-11-2017, 15:54   #12
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

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Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
You must have been cruising in the tropics during the winter of 2014/2015? Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay were both frozen over. Vineyard Haven harbor the ice was so thick they had to put a large excavator on a barge and use the bucket to break a channel for the ferry.

Fortunately I spent most of that winter in Florida.
Lucky for you! I was up there, I live on Buzzards Bay, ocean front, year round.

Vineyard Haven is shallow and protected from the prevailing winds by land on three sides and by a breakwater on the fourth side, so it often freezes. Still, even the USCG small SAFE Ribs were able to get in an out with the ferries except for struggling for a week or two.

It was indeed an unusually harsh year. There was ice, and lots of the coves freeze over esp where there is brackish or fresh water like around my house but generally all was navigable. The Cape Cod canal,which I can see from my house remained open, but had lots of ice and barred small vessels from passage for a short spell in the second half of Feb and the first part of March. A nice Aerial of big ice pancakes in the canal is found here: http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Portal.../april2015.pdf

Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound RI Sound, etc. are generally now all open and largely clear except for perhaps a few places in the second half of Feb. Certainly the ice piles up on lee shores,but you can sail around that. Despite the hyperbole you see on mainstream news, it was sailable then and is almost every year. Too cold for me, but doable if you really need a sailing fix....



Attached is an aerial shot from March 7 2015. No significant ice cover in Vineyard sound or Buzz Bay main waterways. Certain no fixed sheet ice. (Late Feb and early March are when the largest ice concentrations typically occur as it takes some months to get the ocean cold enough to sustain frozen water. )

I often get my boats in by March 20 and there has never been any ice left at all and I know people that stay in year round and fish or some other crazy cold weather boating activity. So whatever ice season might happen in that area is short at most and usually nonexistent.

Thanks for the reminder of a wild winter! Maybe I will eventually get smart and start getting farther south to avoid these....
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Old 13-11-2017, 18:53   #13
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

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Lucky for you! I was up there, I live on Buzzards Bay, ocean front, year round.

Vineyard Haven is shallow and protected from the prevailing winds by land on three sides and by a breakwater on the fourth side, so it often freezes. Still, even the USCG small SAFE Ribs were able to get in an out with the ferries except for struggling for a week or two.

It was indeed an unusually harsh year. There was ice, and lots of the coves freeze over esp where there is brackish or fresh water like around my house but generally all was navigable. The Cape Cod canal,which I can see from my house remained open, but had lots of ice and barred small vessels from passage for a short spell in the second half of Feb and the first part of March. A nice Aerial of big ice pancakes in the canal is found here: http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Portal.../april2015.pdf

Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound RI Sound, etc. are generally now all open and largely clear except for perhaps a few places in the second half of Feb. Certainly the ice piles up on lee shores,but you can sail around that. Despite the hyperbole you see on mainstream news, it was sailable then and is almost every year. Too cold for me, but doable if you really need a sailing fix....



Attached is an aerial shot from March 7 2015. No significant ice cover in Vineyard sound or Buzz Bay main waterways. Certain no fixed sheet ice. (Late Feb and early March are when the largest ice concentrations typically occur as it takes some months to get the ocean cold enough to sustain frozen water. )

I often get my boats in by March 20 and there has never been any ice left at all and I know people that stay in year round and fish or some other crazy cold weather boating activity. So whatever ice season might happen in that area is short at most and usually nonexistent.

Thanks for the reminder of a wild winter! Maybe I will eventually get smart and start getting farther south to avoid these....
Yes we were lucky (or smart?) to miss that winter. We're actually going backwards from the rest of the world. Instead of living in the north and retiring to Florida, we live in Florida and are retiring to the north. Just have to take it slowly since my wife is FL native and has not yet acclimated to New England winters. She thinks it's too cold to leave the house if the temp is in the twenties.

For a while we will continue spending at least part of the winter in Florida. It's the only time of year that it's really worth being here. Summers are just too darn hot and don't ask about the humidity and mosquitoes.

Didn't actually see the whole of Buzzards Bay frozen over but my daughter sent a picture showing Vineyard Sound from Lambert's Cove to Tarpaulin Cove frozen solid all the way across. What they saw of Buzzards Bay from the mainland looked pretty frozen as well but they didn't have a vantage point all the way across. Think they took the shot around Feb.
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Old 14-11-2017, 06:25   #14
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

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Old 14-11-2017, 12:14   #15
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Re: Viability of winter boating in New England?

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Couldn't resist:

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