Tips For Maximizing Winterizing
It may sound counterintuitive, but extended periods of inactivity, like winter, can be harder on your boat than using it every day—neglect can significantly accelerate general wear-and-tear and cause serious complications in the spring. Without adequate preparation, often referred to as ‘winterization’ in the boating community, you’re just asking for trouble ranging from excessive corrosion to congealed lubricants. In other words, failure to properly winterize your vessel will come back to haunt you when the warm weather rolls around and you’re ready to hit the water again. Follow these winterization pointers to make sure all your bases are covered to protect your boat from the deep freeze.
1. Start Clean, End Clean: A clean boat is a happy boat—and will likewise weather winter downtime better and reduce the work you have to do in the spring. Thoroughly wash the topsides, bottom and deck and apply a fresh coat of wax on the topsides as well to protect from moisture damage. If you have a fiberglass boat, ensure there’s no blistering and treat/repair as needed. If possible, remove all canvas material from the boat and store in a dry, climate-controlled area.
2. Flush the Cooling Before the Cold: For inboard and stern drive boats featuring raw water-cooling systems, be sure to flush the engine with fresh water to remove any excess salt accumulation and consider adding anti-freeze into the cooling system if you’re in an area with extremely cold winters. Alternatively, flush outboard motors with freshwater before thoroughly draining all water from the engine before storage.
3. Top It Off: Make sure your fuel tank is topped off to prevent condensation and replace the fuel filter before storing your boat. Consider adding a marine fuel stabilizer to the tank to protect against varnish accumulation.
4. Toil on the Oil: Oil’s the lifeblood of your boat’s powerhouse—so treat it accordingly: change the engine oil and filter on stern drive, inboard engines and four-stroke outboards. During the oil change, be on the lookout for signs of water intrusion, such as the gear oil appearing ‘milky’ and discolored. This could indicate leaky seals that need to be tightened or repaired.
5. Smooth Running: Proper lubrication of all systems—large and small—is key at all times and especially before periods of extended inactivity. Apply adequate marine grease to all hinges, latches, switches, ratchet mounts and the like. It’s also a good idea to remove the propeller and inspect it for fishing line and structural damage and then apply water-resistant grease before reattaching it.
6. Get Visual: It may seem simple, but you can catch most minor problems before they become major headaches just by giving your boat a thorough visual inspection. Get up close and personal—look for signs of worn cables and corrosion, check the hydraulic steering fluid levels, and keep an eye out for signs of leakage around seals and fittings from bow to stern.
7. Moisture: Public Enemy #1: Moisture means mold and mildew. Double-check the bilges, fish holds and storage areas and remove any standing water, dirt or oil. Place commercial moisture absorbers in all areas of the cabin. Remove all cushions and fabrics and prop them up to allow air to circulate during storage.
8. Remove Clutter: If you don’t have to subject your belongings to the extreme temperatures and elements of winter, why would you? This is especially important for all safety gear, think about your lifejackets, dock lines, fire extinguishers, flares and survival gear—if worst comes to worst, you want them to be fully operational in an emergency and carefully storing them is a hassle-free way to ensure they function properly.
While this advice will get you well on your way to tucking your boat in for her winter’s nap, there will be variations depending on the make and model of boat you own and the particular climate you live in. But why take the chance you’ll forget something? To ensure all your maintenance needs are met year-round, the ABYC certified yacht service technicians here at Port Annapolis have earned a reputation as a regional leader for exceptional stern-to-stern quality care. Visit us for all your maintenance and repair needs at 7074 Bembe Beach Road, Annapolis, MD 21403 or give us a call at 410-269-1944 for friendly, reliable service.