Check your list twice before winterizing
If we lived in Florida we’d still be cruising, fishing, sailing and not contemplating putting our boat to bed for its winter hibernation. Instead, here in New England, we are getting ready for sitting by the fire and dreaming of next summer. If we want to have a great 2017 boating season, we’d better do proper planning.
First of all, make a list, and show it to an experienced boater so they can check for anything you may have missed. Pull out last year’s list from your file to double-check. Use this list again in the spring to see what you need to undo. Of course you should look at your owner’s manual, too. You might want to look at the engine first. Take your last trip of the season, tie up at the marina where it will be hauled for the winter months, and begin by changing the oil. Run the engine to heat it up before you change it. If you don’t, the acid in the oil could eat on the bearings all winter long. This is especially true for diesels. People used to recommend emptying your fuel tanks for the winter, but that leaves a big air space that is prone to condensation. The accumulated water will go into your engine when you start it up next year. Many people add a fuel stabilizer to the full tanks. Check fresh water coolant on the engine, and check to see you have chosen antifreeze of the proper strength for our cold winter temperatures. Pump antifreeze through the saltwater side by running the engine and check to be sure antifreeze comes out the exhaust.
As far as your fresh water systems, you want to avoid leaving antifreeze in your tanks so they don’t pick up a bad taste for next year. Drain them well! For the lines, put the suction side of the pump into the antifreeze and pump it through the lines. Do this for the wash-down, toilets, fish wells, etc. Have your holding tank pumped out and rinse, then pump again.
How about covering your boat? It’s always better to do it. Water or snow laying on the deck around any hardware or handrails can freeze, melt and refreeze, causing damage, especially for fiberglass. A wood hull itself can naturally expand and contract. Fiberglass can delaminate or develop blistering with water freezing and melting repeatedly. You can easily develop overhead leaks for next boating season. If you are not going to cover your fiberglass boat, at least clean and wax the hull for protection against the sun. Sunlight breaks down plastic.
For either fiberglass or wood, ensure that your bilge is dry. You might use some antifreeze left over from winterizing your freshwater system and pour some into the bilge. In all of this, do use the most environmentally friendly product you can.
Inspect all your seacocks. Make sure they all turn easily. If they don’t, now is the time to take them apart and lubricate them. Next year, if a hose ruptures, the ability to turn off the seacock is a vessel-saving and maybe lifesaving procedure.
So much more to do, but make sure these are on your list.