by Mike Tontimonia
It’s time. Time that is, to put boats and motors to sleep for the winter. Do it right and your boat will last for extra years. Do it wrong or don’t do it at all and watch that prized piece of gear deteriorate dramatically.
Clean the boat inside and out, scrub it, vacuum it, and remove every stain. Use a marine polish to bring the hull back to life and break out carpet cleaner for the floor.
Work on the seats and other upholstered areas with vinyl cleaner. If you don’t remove stains and dirt before storing the boat you may never be able to remove them. Mildew is especially tough if left over the winter.
Take a little extra time to be sure no food is left in compartments or the mice will surely find it. Remove pillows and life jackets or store them in a rodent proof container.
A couple trays of moth balls will also help to keep critters at bay. Be sure to drain the bilge and leave the plug out in case water finds its way in. And don’t forget to add an additive to the fuel tank to stabilize the gasoline. Without a stabilizer, stored gas may not be useable in a few months.
In fact, old gas can damage an engine or at the very least prevent it from running properly.
Use a spray lube like WD-40 to protect springs, hinges, and other moving parts such as the winch. It’s also a good idea to repack the wheel bearings at this time.
And it’s the right time to touch up scratches and chipped paint. Check for any other damage such as light lenses, loose nuts, bolts and other fasteners.
Tires are most often damaged the least from road miles and most from exposure to the sun’s rays. Some boaters support their boats for the off-season on blocks or wheel jacks then remove the tires. Others follow the same support plan but simply cover their tires with black plastic or garbage bags.
Engines too, must be treated with care. Talk to your marine dealer about winterizing your engine. It’s not hard but it does take some mechanical ability and an understanding of the systems.
Assuming the boat has a fitted mooring cover, make sure it is snapped tight and supported properly. If the boat will be stored outdoors, add a second cover such as a plastic tarp, which will add protection and prolong the life of the more expensive cover.
I suggest a silver “over tarp” because it will tend to reflect the sun’s rays and won’t be as unpopular with neighbors as a blue tarp. Be aware that snow is heavy so be sure to place plenty of support under the covers.
Shrink wrap has become increasingly popular with boaters who must store their boats at a marina or other storage facility. The cost is based on the length of the boat. Insist that the marina wrapping your boat participates in a recycling program with salvaged wraps.
Winterizing a boat is a chore, a pre-freeze job worth doing correctly.