Fall is time to prepare boats for winter season


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.

Remove all stains

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.

Now tackle the trailer

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.

Tire care

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.

Cover it up

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.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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