When you’ve gotta say goodbye for the season.
(aka: winterizing your boat)
Thanks to our good friends at Minnesota’s Crestliner boat company, we have some excellent advice on making sure our boats and motors are as ready for winter as we are. Get a pencil. Take some notes. Or, just print out this column and take it out to your boat when you’re ready to winterize.
For some people, winterizing a boat means adding fuel stabilizer, draining the engine and adding antifreeze. But to the tender and compassionate boat owner, it’s more like a loving, traditional rite. Especially if you’re tucking her in for a long Minnesota winter.
Appearance matters: Face it. You won’t have your hands on her all winter long. Now’s the time to give her some tender loving care, and show her just how much she means to you.
• Check the hull for stress cracks and have a professional take care of anything that looks serious.
• Remove all barnacles and other tagalongs from the bottom of the boat.
• Use a pressure washer to remove dirt and sea scum.
• Touch up paint nicks to prevent corrosion.
Pretty on the inside: Do we have to say it? Don’t neglect the interior! You’ll want to use a boat cover that’s well-ventilated for good airflow to minimize moisture and avoid mold. But before you even think of putting on the cover, take some time to prepare the interior features for that long Minnesota sleep:
• Use vinyl cleaners or gel protectants to prevent vinyl from drying out and cracking.
• Any removable electronics should spend the winter in a kinder location.
• Spray all exposed electrical connections with moisture-displacing lubricant.
• Do a thorough cleaning of all brightwork, vacuum/wash the carpets and deck.
• Built-in units, including sinks and showers, should be drained and pumped with antifreeze.
Maintenance matters: A few little maintenance tasks will also go a long way:
• Disconnect all batteries and clean the terminals with baking soda solution. Put Vaseline on the clean, dry terminals and store the fully charged battery in a ventilated area.
• Store the outboard in a down position, if possible. Cover the exhaust outlet to keep it from collecting water.
• Check the motor for frayed or loose wires, connections and clamps. Replace mushy or cracked hoses, and check belt conditions – adjust the tension as needed.
• Add stabilizer to the fuel tank and idle the engine for 10 to 20 minutes to distribute it throughout the system.
• Check your propeller and hub in water or through a garden house attachment. Prop blades can nick or bend during the season, and the hub can become stripped. Take advantage of the winter break to replace the propeller if needed and make any other necessary repairs.
• Make sure to check your owners manual for specific requirements for your model.
Professional help: Get it sooner rather than later. Don’t store significant structural damage or engine problems along with your boat. If you do, you’ll also give those unwelcome problems more time to incubate and compound… possibly leading to a bigger headache in the spring. Invest in professional repair early, and you won’t regret it.
Storage: If you plan to store your beloved outdoors, make sure you’ve got a proper boat cover in order to prevent ice accumulation – that nasty Minnesota event that will split open your hatches and window tracks, inviting leaks and water damage in the spring.
Finally, if the thought of all this tedious cleaning and storage preparation starts to get you down, just remember: the better condition you store your boat in, the happier you’ll both be when you reunite in the spring.