Boats in the Marina

Saltwater vs. Freshwater Boating: Do They Mix?

While people tend to gravitate towards their most convenient body of water, there are those occasions when the opportunity arises to boat outside of your normal territory and you trade in a day on the lake for a cruise in the bay. But while all water is wet, it’s not all equal, leaving many boating enthusiasts to wonder if they can drop their freshwater boat in a salty body of water.

Simply put, Gilligan, the answer is “yes.” While the vast majority of boats are either ran in salt or freshwater exclusively, there are few differences that would devastate a day trip to the ocean.

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Most boats, especially those commonly used in freshwater, have a hull strength that was designed to be close to shore. Thus, most any boat can go into salty, ocean waters. Boaters, however, must be aware that rough waters and rocky shores can pose danger if the hull strength of your boat is not rated for such. I know what you’re thinking: people have made it from Cuba to the beaches of Florida in little more than a floating barrel. However, there’s no sense in taking your chances. If you do venture into ocean waters, stay near enough shore to avoid large waves, yet far enough away to not be washed into rocky cliffs. This is one of those situations where a good dose of common sense can have a major impact on how your day pans out.


Boats that are docked or moored in saltwater, or used long-term in saltwater settings, cooling systems may vary slightly. For example, saltwater boats often have closed cooling systems as well as flushing systems to help remove saltwater from settling in motors after use. However, for boats that will be spending a weekend in the bay, there’s no major concern about modifications for saltwater use.

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Resale Value

Unfortunately, it seems that many boat buyers are under the impression that if a boat has been used in saltwater, it is instantly doomed to a life of rust and disrepair. However, boats that have taken occasional floats in saltwater, or even those moored in salty waters long-term can be in just as good, if not better, working condition than boats stored in fresh water. As with any piece of motorized fun, the key to maintaining resale value and longevity is in the maintenance of the vessel. By flushing out systems and washing boats after saltwater runs, boats will likely not suffer at all from the occasional saltwater trip.

When the opportunity arises to try your boat out in some salty waters, consider leaving the lakeside behind and giving your vessel a float somewhere new. With smart boating practices and quality maintenance plans, you’ll be able to transition your boat from fresh to saltwater and enjoy all that boating has to offer.