Winterizing Your Boat...What are you Missing?
It’s that time again…
For those of us not living in an ‘endless summer’ - it’s that time of year where we stow away the gear and get our vessels ready for winter. Anyone who’s gone through this change of seasons at least once has their own list, with many familiar items which include:
Treating your fuel system with a stabilizer additive (if not completely drained!)
Clear out your bilge of any standing water & clean well
Drain water from any storage systems / heads and purge their respective lines
Send your vessel off to storage at your local yard or property, sealed up and ready for the off season
Many of the above are habit we follow season in and season out. One question I’ve heard raised often is ‘what am I missing?’. Are there items not on the regular list I should keep an out for so I’m not caught off guard in the spring?
The following are a list of items sometimes overlooked in winterization you may want to review prior to putting your boat up for the off season:
Batteries: This falls into two camps: your primary engine battery as well as any other batteries found aboard. For your engine battery, take stock of its condition prior to sealing up for the season. Many types of batteries (particularly deep cycle marine batteries) generally do well if not used for some time. That assumes however your battery is in good shape and prepared to go the distance. If your battery is already on the way out, the long time between use mixed with potentially freezing temperatures can knock your battery out come spring time. If you’re not sure of your batteries condition consider removing it for warmer storage - say in a garage or basement - and consider a trickle charger if needed. This can save time and headache when you get ready for next season. Similarly look for any batteries left aboard as auxiliary or primary power sources for devices (fish finders, radios, EPIRBS, etc.). Like we do with seasonal decorations, think about removing those batteries altogether to save them from going bad or worse corroding out pricey electronics mid-winter.
Cushions: I’m sure all of you have a cleaning ritual for your seat cushions and covers - and that’s a great start! Beyond just cleaning prior to storage consider how you store your cushions. Rather than keeping them in place, consider tilting them to the side or removing them from their usual spot to allow air flow in and around the areas they cover. If there are storage areas or other comportments underneath seats, the trapped air could lead to moisture buildup and mold over a long winter. Even better, if space permits consider taking removable seat cushions back to your home or basement for long term storage. If needed this could also be a prime opportunity to repair or resurface cushions you would not otherwise have time for on the on season.
Food & Personal Care Items: It may seem like a no-brainer, but oftentimes leftover food, suntan lotion, and other items can left in compartments lost for the winter. Liquid items can be prone to freezing, cracking, and leaving a mess in their wake to be found during opening. Furthermore, any leftover food can attract pests who may be searching for a mid-winter snack. Take extra care to shake out all lockers, compartments, and the spaces in between where items can be lost during regular cruising.
Lines & Sheets: While generally kept onboard during the offseason, it’s a good habit to inspect any lines and sheets for signs for wear. Items that need replacement should be identified and lined up during the long winter months to ensure all gear is seaworthy at the start of the year.
Drain Plug: Another ‘it seems obvious’ item - but this should be looked at on two fronts. The first is to remove the drain plug if you feel there could be water accumulation you don’t want sitting in your bilge and potentially freezing. This is dependent on how and where you plan to store your vessel during the off season. The second is to take the time while your boat is out of the water to inspect it and ensure you won’t have any issues rethreading or holding a seal when the time comes to use it again. When in doubt, use the time to address while you’re not waiting to get back on the water.
Moisture Absorbers: Even the best job at cleaning up moisture will inevitably leave some behind. This coupled with a tight shrink wrap and the ‘greenhouse’ effect during winter will lead to moisture getting into the air inside your vessel. Consider using some moisture absorbing containers to draw in any excess water and holding it until you can open up in the spring.
Many of the above items are generally done throughout the year, but often overlooked or not reviewed in depth during the winterization process. Take advantage of the extra time at season’s end to ensure a solid start to the next one.