Winterizing Your Boat

Winterizing Your Boat

Canadian Power & Sail Oakville Squadron



It has been a while since we last reached out to our members after summer break. Today I would like to touch on winterizing your boat and some steps that are recommended by many organizations and mechanics. The steps listed are by no means all that you have to do as each boat is unique in its build and accessories on board. It is a sad time of the year as you put your summer fun away for the winter, but is it so important to get your systems looked after before freezing temperatures make an appearance and do damage to your boat.
1) Replace the Engine and Generator Oil It is very important to change your engine oil at layup so as to rid it and it’s by products of the combustion. Used oil becomes acidic and can cause corrosion. Oil over time can when exposed to humidity absorb some moisture which can lead to excessive wear and potentially harm your engine. Don’t forget your transmission fluids and generator as well. Be on the look out for milky oil as that is a sign of water intrusion that must be located and fixed.
2) Winterize your engine and generator. Some skilled do it yourself folks can set up systems to replace the fresh water cooling with anti freeze ensuring that the water in the engine is replaced by an anti freeze rated usually for -40 degrees.
Myself, I prefer to pay a pro who will ensure the work is done properly and will warranty their work in case something goes wrong over the winter. They can even check the engine, generator and if equipped the transmission anodes for wear and replacement. Damage due to a cracked engine block can cost you tens of thousands dollars to fix and you may lose a years worth of boating while the engine is repaired.
3) Fog your Engine Fogging of carbureted engines helps prevent corrosion of both inboard and outboard engines. Fogging oils and sprays have special properties that are designed to penetrate deep into the engines moving parts to cover them with an anti corrosive compound which protects over winter.
4) Add a reputable fuel stabilizer to your fuel tank There are 2 schools of thought on wether you fill your fuel tank or leave it near empty. I like to fill my tanks to reduce the chance of moisture being absorbed into the fuel. Diesel fuel will also need an additive to kill the growth of algae. The choice is yours but make sure you use a fuel stabilizer to the fuel for winter to stop the fuel water separation that may occur.
5) Check your Hull  Check your hull at layup and again before launch.Look for condition of bottom paint, does it need to be repainted? Are there any dings to the fibreglass that needs touchup? You may get a warm day in the fall or in the spring to do the fibreglass repairs. How does the hull look? Is it ready for another wash and waxing. Waxing your fibreglass makes your boat beautiful and will offer some protection from the suns UV rays. There is nothing better than looking at a mirrored finish on a hull! You can do the waxing or hire a detailer. Make sure if you are hiring a detailer to understand everything that will be done such as compounding then waxing or wash and waxing so that you will have no surprises when you pay the bill. Don’t forget to check the topsides for stress cracks near the cleats and bow eyes if equipped and in the curved spaces near doors and windows.  Hatches and the insulation trim should be checked for replacement.Hopefully you were able to pressure wash your bottom sides and running gear to remove zebra muscles. It is also the time to scrape off any remaining critters that bonded to your running gear. Check your anodes on the shafts, trim tabs, rudders and thrusters and replace them at 50% wear.
Some boaters like to plug the through hulls and exhaust ports with rags, wool, foam or tape, to deter animals from nesting over the winter in the bowels of the boat.
6) Grease your gears and fittings Your owners manual should indicate where that should take place. Usually you will find the steering mechanism after the summer’s usage can use some greasing. The grease will help prevent the moving parts from rusting or seizing over winter.
7) Drain your Fresh water system Sinks, tanks, A/C, heads, water heaters, taps, wash down spigots, and water lines that have the potential to retain water that may freeze should be drained and an antifreeze for plumbing installed. Again sometimes it is best to have a professional do this for you to ensure that it is done properly and warrantied. Don’t forget to remove all fluids from your bilge areas. If you remove a bilge plug place it on your dash or tie it to your boat keys so that you do not launch you boat until it is reinstalled.
8) Batteries,  Before dealing with your batteries for winter make sure your battery chargers are off and all electrical systems are shut down. The batteries should be fully charged before disconnecting them for winter storage. it is also recommended that all wet cell or flooded lead acid batteries have their cells topped up with only distilled water ( $1.50 at your local grocery store). Sealed maintenance free batteries (AGM, Gell) should be inspected to ensure no damage to the exterior case exists and that they are securely fastened if left on the boat or readied to be removed to a dry warm location on a piece of wood or shelf for the winter.
Take care to look at the top of your battery with safety glasses on, with a flashlight, to ensure that the top is dry. If the top of your battery is wet, be careful as it may be acid. An overcharged wet cell battery will have the acid bubble up through the caps and may be visible on the top of the battery. I always have a box of arm and hammer baking soda on hand. I sprinkle a little bit of the baking soda on the liquid, if it sizzles the baking soda is neutralizing the acid. I add soda bit by bit until the sizzling stops. You will need to wear latex gloves as well to protect yourself and use paper towels to soak up the residue once the sizzling has stopped. Be sure to place the contaminated towels in a bucket to be properly disposed of later. Take a flash light and inspect each of the 6 cells by carefully prying off the caps. Let the air above the vent air out for a few seconds as you may notice the strong odour of the acid which is not good to breathe in. Look into the cell for the fluid which should be just below the circular tube that the cap sits in. If the gap is large then I recommend using a previously dried water bottle filled with distilled water to carefully fill the cell to just below the circular tube. Special water containers can be purchased on amazon for about $20.00 which automatically stop filling the batteries when they are properly topped off.
If you happen to see the top of the lead plates then I would suggest that you may need to replace the battery in the spring as that cell will be damaged and will not be able to produce the minimum of 1.75 volts need for a 12 volt battery to work. A proper wet cell should, when fully charged, produce 2.2 volts. Yes sometimes when battles go below 10.5 volts battery chargers will not charge the batteries. Sometimes a car charger can reused to bring up the voltage to 11 volts where the boat charger will work again.
When disconnecting the cables from the batteries, I label each cable so in the spring I know where it goes. Now some folks disconnect only the positive, some disconnect the negative cable, I disconnect both and clean corrosion off the cable lugs and inspect the cable connections for looseness. After removing the cables I clean the battery posts and spray the post with corrosion block and cover the posts to prevent inadvertent shorts. I then clean the cable lugs and spray them with corrosion block as well and zip tie the cables to a safe place.
9) Install dehumidification devices. You will need to take steps to prevent the formation of mould and mildew on your boat. It presents a bad odour when you open your boat in the spring so try to have vents installed in your shrink-wrap or tarp. Open all hatches and cupboards and cabinets to allow air to circulate. Some say wiping surfaces with pines before layup helps slow down mould and mildew build up.
Dehumidifier devices from boat supply companies can be purchased and deployed throughout your boat. They have special crystals that absorb water from the air and should be inspected every 2 months during layup for replacement.
If you have access to A/C power while on your boat for winter inspection turning on a fan to move the air in the boat is good while you are on your boat. Be sure to turn off all electrical devices when you leave the boat. If you are charging batteries while away, perform item #1 inspections when you attend your boat over the wintertime. Look for signs of overcharging of your batteries.
10) Remove fire extinguishers and flares and valuables from the boat. Sometimes curious young folks have been know to explore inside a stored boat and fires have resulted when flares have been fired. A discharged chemical extinguisher is miserable to clean up so leave nothing on board.
11) Shrinkwrap or tarp your boat protect your boat from the elements by shrink-wrapping or tarping. That thin layer of protection goes a long way in blocking the severe elements from causing damage to your boat. Always visit your boat after big snow storms to knock the snow off of the cover so it doesn’t turn to ice and fall off your boat to cause injury or damage to those stored near you.
This list is not inclusive of all the necessary actions that you need to do as each boat is different. If you are not sure then call a marine mechanic to do your winterizing for you. Most reputable Marine Mechanics or yards warranty their work and will be on hand to summarize your boat when you launch in the spring.
Take Care
Stay Safe
Mike Johnson
Oakville Power and Sail Squadron

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