Winter boat care

The first winter preparation for boat owners start with getting the vessel ready for hauling and storage. This will differ with the size of your boat, but preparation is mostly common sense and good house keeping. Start by removing all and any equipment such as fishing gear, personal belongings, deck brushes, buckets, and so fourth. If nothing else a less cluttered deck is easier to work around. Then the removal or folding down of any masts or antennas, gin posts, and any other objects aloft will need to be done before the haul out. Weather being lifted out by a travel lift in the marina or hauled out on a trailer and transported overland, crews will be very happy to see the vessel ready to go the day they show up for the task and don’t have to wait around for stuff to be taken care of the last minute. Fall is their busy season and most company’s lists are long and their time short, and if they have to wait for you to remove things from your boat it only holds everyone up. If you are being hauled out by travel lift be sure to have some padded blocks of wood with attached ropes to go between the lifts straps and the hull just below the splash rails if you have them to keep them from getting crushed. Blocks of Styrofoam will work in a pinch also. When setting up the boat on blocks and stands or in a cradle, be sure the bow is slightly higher so rain and melting snow will drain to the stern. If you are using jack stands, be sure they are in good working order, always place a plywood base under each stand to prevent sinkage, and always secure the stand to the one on the opposite side with chain to prevent them from popping out during the winter. Do not use rope for this as rope will stretch.
It is wise to top off your fuel tanks for the winter and to add an additive to prevent algae and other growths from occurring. This is also true for outboard portable tanks, keeping it full of fuel leave no room for moisture to condensate.
With different types of vessel there are different types of winter storage tasks.  Outboard craft are best if the engine is removed, winterized and placed in storage, if storage is not an option then winterize and cover tightly with a good tarp. Inboard-outboard need to have the outdrive removed and put in storage, then the thru hull opening where it was removed needs to be covered and made watertight. The main engine also needs to be winterized. Inboard gas and diesel engines need to be winterized, gas motors have to have proper coolant for cold weather as do diesel engines. Any water needs to be drained from heat exchangers, raw water feeds and strainers, and raw water pump housings. All raw water impellers should also be removed for the winter. The best advice I have for winterizing your motor is to have it done by a professional if you are the least bit unfamiliar with the engine room, most yards and marinas have technicians that will take care of this process once your vessel is hauled.
All boats have a plug either at the stern or in the bottom of the keel for the purpose of draining water from the bilges. This plug needs to be removed and placed in a safe place you will remember in the spring when it is time to put it back in.
Remove all electronics, loran, G.P.S., radios, radar, everything and store in a warm dry place. Electronics do NOT like cold and they will last longer if kept warm and dry for the winter. Be sure when removing to number all the connections and wires and diagram them so installing in the spring isn’t a night mare. Be sure to tape over exposed electrical connections with electrical tape to keep moisture out and prevent corrosion.
Now for the number one most frequently asked question, to cover or not to cover the boat. There are some out there that feel it’s a boat and should stand up to the elements, however the truth is boats, like cars will show signs of weathering if left to the elements all winter. My answer is without any question, cover your boat the best you can. I would prefer to have it shrinkwraped, done properly it makes your vessel almost airtight which not only keeps the moisture and dirt out it also makes it very easy to heat on those days you need to perform some off season maintenance. If shrinkwrap is not possible then use good heavy tarp to wrap up your boat as tightly as possible. Use good sturdy rope to tie it down with and here’s a little tip to save yourself some serious trouble, do NOT tie the tarp lines to the jack stands, if a big wind should work your tarp loose it will in turn pull out the stand and topple your boat. Secure the lines to the other side of the tarp by going under the boat and up the other side. If you need to anchor lines down use heavy cement blocks, and use enough of them to insure against wind overpowering the blocks weight.
Another idea to keep in mind is to request the crew blocking it up to face it bow first to the North West, this is generally the direction the real hard blows come from in the winter and if facing it the bow will shear the wind. Most yards store their boats in that manner for that reason, but if you’re storing at home it’s a good point to keep in mind.
Don’t put off any maintained until spring time, take care of the outside hull in the fall right after haul out, take the prop(props) off and store or send off for reconditioning, get the sanding done and paint it up, it beats the heck out of rushing to get it done in the spring. The long cold months also give you the opportunity for home improvement projects. Installing new hatches, put in a new deck, maybe a new galley, another stateroom, it’s a boat, the list can go forever, and the off season is the time to get things done.

If things get boring this off season and you’re looking for something new to try stop by your local archery shop and check out this sport. Almost all shops offer learning courses and have indoor ranges. There are winter league shoots every week, a lot of shops have the movie screen range where you shoot at a screen at movies if real animals. There are also 3-d shoots every week-end year round. These shoots are outdoors and feature life size 3-d targets of all kinds of critters in realistic hunting conditions. This is good fun for the entire family.


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