The fun of summer and playing in your boat slowly draws to an end and as Mid October arrives it is probably the time to start to think of winterizing your boat. Packing it away for the winter is not want we want to think about but it is an important of boat ownership and the last thing we want is at the fall of Spring we decide it’s time to use our boat again, only to find it damaged due to the icy winter temperatures. So Unless your selling up your house, packing up the kids and moving to the Caribbean a few simple steps, and a little bit of tender loving care, your boat will be ready to hibernate and you can look forward to a new year of fun and frolicking in the spring.
One More Trip on the Water
The first and I suppose last thing you should when starting to prepare to winterise your boat is take one last trip out on the water. This time though, instead of speeding about and enjoying the sun, make notes of all the jobs that need to be done. Jobs you said you would get round to but haven’t. Do you need to modify the electronics, replace bulbs, fix the hole in the wooden bench and so on. Once you have completed your list, you will have reasons to spend time with your boat and also you won’t have to worry about them next year.
If you haven’t already thought of this, you should have. Where will your boat be over the winter months? This will depend a lot on the size of your boat, so make sure you have done your research. Will it be moored up? On your drive, or do you need to find a storage facility? Storing a large boat indoors will have its costs, but hopefully you have already accounted for these and are all prepared. If it is to be stored outside then ensure that you have a correctly fitting cover. This will prevent water from leaking in and subsequently causing structural cracks when it freezes. If the boat is to be stored in the water, ensure the ropes have enough slack to handle any extreme rises or drops that the berth could encounter during the winter.
This sounds pretty obvious to some, however some people forget that the safest way to leave your boat is empty. By removing boxes and plates, not only does it allow you to clean the boat more thoroughly, it also stops the chance of any creatures getting on board and hibernating in dark warm corners. Take your bedding home to be cleaned and aired and fire extinguishers to be checked. Cushions, bedding, clothes, sponges, cloths, towels, food and the like all attract damp that leads to mould.
Clean your Boat
Exterior – To start work on the outside of the boat – steam clean and scrape any barnacles or other wildlife from the hull before sanding off any residue. Keeping on top of these things will reduce the time you need to spend working on the boat in the future as well as ensuring it looks its best at all times. Pull out your anchor and rinse the mud off the chain and rode. Clean that dirt out of the scuppers and clean the lazzerette with a scrub brush. Lay your sails and lines out on the lawn and wash them with warm soapy water. It might also be a good time to give the exterior a good polish, as this will help protect it against the elements.
Interior – Now the boat is empty and outside clean, it is the best time to give your interior a really good scrub. Get in every nook and cranny. Oil down the wood, polish the floors, rub down the floors and clean any carpets and curtains. Once the boat is cleaned, remember to leave the interior doors and lockers open so air can circulate. For larger boats, winterising should also include servicing and frost protection for the domestic systems, such as hot/cold water systems, generators, foul water systems and domestic electrics. Clean out your toilet and drain your water tanks. You can add non-toxic antifreeze directly to your water tank and pump it directly through your hot and cold plumbing.
This is the best time to service your engine as they will change your oil and oil your plugs as well as all other mechanical issues that need to be done. If you do not want to service the engine then you can do a few things yourself which will help it over the winter. Start by topping off your tanks (not more than 7/8 full to allow for expansion in the spring) and stabilizing your fuel. Change your engine oil and replace all the filters. Check the coolant in closed cooling systems for the proper degree of protection. Check the hoses, belts and clamps. Make sure all your thru-hulls open and close, and then leave them open. Clean your strainers. Now is a good time to drain the coolant system. Flush it through with clean water and then top up with antifreeze. Not only will this stop the waterways freezing and cracking the engine, but the antifreeze acts a corrosion inhibitor so when the engine is going to be standing up, it is best to make sure the antifreeze is fresh and diluted to the engine manufacturers recommended ratio. The steering and control mechanisms should all be checked and greased thoroughly. Work the grease in to the joints and ensure everything moves freely.
Visit your Boat
Once you have stored your boat, do not forget it exists. Visit it regularly and check all is how it should be. Check the covers, and remove any standing water if need be. Check signs for mould or mildew and check the bilge pumps work fine. With good preparation your boat will not suffer in the winter months and the spring will be back before you know it.
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