Ahh Shucks, It’s Winter!
Yes that means a whole new set of outdoor activities (or indoor eggnog drinking) but it also means the end of boating season (and half of your friends) for a few months. No worries though, because with proper storage techniques, you’ll be back on the boat the first day your tube floats instead of slides on the water! Here are a few important things to remember when preparing your boat for the off-season:
1) Go over your policy with your insurance company. Theft and severe damage due to improperly storing your boat are some of the most common winter claims, and they are more common than you would think! You shouldn’t have to pay for your neighbors “brand new” fish finder.
2) Clean Clean Clean! I know it sounds boring but it’s extremely important. By carefully cleaning both the inside and outside of your boat, you are getting a jump-start to your summer.
- Check the hull for stress cracks, blisters and sea life. Should you find any of them, they should be treated before storing. Carefully scrape and clean the hull and sand away residue. Toss marine life back in the water and drain blisters.
- Clean the interior to ensure your boat doesn’t become an advertisement for pest control. Also, it’s a good idea to use some sort of moisture absorber on the boat to help keep it dry. There’s nothing like the smell of mildew on the open seas! Open all cabinets to improve circulation and remove everything that is not permanently mounted down. This includes safety equipment, cushions, electronics and beer.
3) Start your engines!! And then shut them down…This is one of the most important things to do and can also be very time-consuming. However, it should not be overlooked.
- Start by changing the oil and filter. You don’t want that old oil sludge sitting in your engine all winter. It could contain moisture, acids or damaging by-products that will harm engine bearings over time. You will also want to make sure you coat all bearing surfaces with fresh clean oil- critical in your preparation for storage.
- Flush the engine with fresh water to ensure all salt and grime are removed. Then fill the engine with antifreeze until the liquid comes out pink. Don’t neglect the lower unit. Any water left in the motor at all can freeze and cause it to crack.
- Make sure your fuel tank isn’t full as freezing temps could cause expansion and overflow. If you aren’t going to drain your fuels lines completely, add fuel stabilizer and run the engine on idle until it’s completely circulated.
- While running the engine, spray fogging oil into the carburetor. It should cause smoke and almost stall if it is done properly. Once done, turn off engine, remove the spark plugs and spray fogging oil into the cylinders.
- Depending on the type of engine you have, there are other precautions that should be taken so be sure to check your boat/engines manual for specific instructions.
4) Once you have taken care to remove water from your engine, take the same care to remove it from the rest of your boat. Flush and drain all fresh water systems and holding tanks in the boat. Don’t forget the water heater! Flush all systems with your favorite non-toxic antifreeze until they also run pink. Don’t forget the loo! By adding a decent dose of olive oil to the bowl, you can help prevent sticking and tearing of the vacuum seal. You will also want to ensure that your bilges are oil free and clean. It’s not a bad idea to spray with a little moisture displacing lubricant and flush with antifreeze.
5) Battery Check- If you are taking your boat out of the water, be sure to remove the battery and place it in a safe, dry location. You should monitor and charge it regularly to ensure it’s ready to use in spring. If you are storing your boat in the water, make sure you leave the battery in the boat so that the bilge pumps operate correctly.
6) Cover Up- it’s cold outside! It’s important to protect your boat as much as possible from the harsh winter conditions and damaging elements. Find a cover for your boat that fits snugly yet allows for ventilation. This will help keep sun, snow, wind, and bird “conditioner” off your boat.
7) Wet dock/dry dock- Make the right choice! Here are a few pro’s and con’s to both:
- Dry- Your boat won’t sink! You don’t need to worry about a de-icer, you can remove the battery and if stored in a warehouse, there is that extra element of protection from the great outdoors. However, it’s imperative that you ensure the boat is cradled properly so as not to distort the hull or cause serious damage to the engines, bulkheads and keel.
- Trailer- Great because you have the ability to move it to a location where you can easily keep an eye on it. If going this route, try to use jacks to support the axles and remove unnecessary weight from the tires and bearings. Also make sure you have used plenty of lube to keep things in working order.
- Water- The first day of spring rolls around and you’re in the water already! However, make sure you leave the battery on the boat to maintain bilge pumps, and a de-icing device if the water is known to freeze in your area. Also verify the float switches are debris free. It’s critical that you verify all thru-hulls are protected as well or you may have to use goggles and a snorkel to locate your boat in spring.
Although this article has a lot of great pieces of information, it’s important to remember that different types of boats and engines require different types of care and preparation. If you are seeking additional information, here are some of our favorite sources: