Great snow brings great responsibility

Port Director advises boat owners to stay vigilant by removing snow, maintaining drains
Bryanne Rounds shovels snow off her sailboat in Harris Harbor on Thursday. The Docks and Harbors office is encouraging owners to remove snow from their boats.

Boat owners in Southeast Alaska need to remember to shovel more than their driveways and sidewalks when heavy snow blankets the area.


“When there are forecasts for 12 inches of snow people should be concerned,” Juneau Port Director Carl Uchytil said. “They have to make sure all their deck drains are open and not clogged.”

New boat owner Aaron Nefwald, 26, and his roommate Jackson Bucanan learned that lesson the hard way when the first round of heavy snow hit Juneau earlier this year.

“I wasn’t aware you were supposed to be shoveling your boat, so we took on a bit of water,” Nefwald said. “It’s scary how fast the boat can fill up with water.”

Nefwald and Bucanan live on his 26-foot bayliner with Nefwald’s dog, Ladyberg. They realized there was trouble that night when the water began seeping through the carpet.

Total repairs — including replacing the carpet — amounted to just under $100, but other Juneau boat owners haven’t been so lucky.

A sailboat sank in a private Auke Bay-area marina earlier this week because no one was removing the snow, and last month another vessel partially sunk in a Douglas harbor for the same reason.

Because the Douglas incident happened in a public harbor, the city contracted a diving operation to save the boat. The $1,000 bill will be passed along to the boat owner.

“(Boat owners) should pay attention to their boat if it’s in the harbor or pay for somebody to watch it for them,” Uchytil said.

Still, a handful of boats sink every year because owners forget to shovel off the snow, he added.

The economic ramifications can be significantly less for sail boats than for motorized vessels, Uchytil said.

“A sailboat is more forgiving than a vessel that has a lot of electronics and engines, but with saltwater anything submerged in that corrosive environment is not good,” he said.

For people who live on their boats, there are extra challenges like navigating unplowed and icy docks while removing snow in the dark of night, Nefwald said.

“I have tarps over my boat that cuts down on the snow thing, but you still have to get out in the middle of the night when you feel the snow getting heavy,” he said. “It’s not fun waking up in the middle of the night to do that.”

Nefwald added that he or his roommate remove snow from his 1970’s-era boat at least every other day when the snow is falling.

“It’s a chore living out there in the winter,” he said.

• Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at Follow him on Twitter at


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