Another boating season has come and gone for recreational boaters in those areas where the winter weather is too cold to be out on the water. Some of us use in-water storage at marinas that are equipped with water agitator systems that prevent ice from forming around boats, docks, and lifts. Others have their boats hauled out and placed on stands in boatyards, and many people trailer their boats to home, where they have space available on their property. Whatever the choice, it is important for your vessel to be properly winterized.
Before Hauling the Boat. It is a good practice to prepare your boat for winter storage before it is hauled out. This is because it is easier to perform some tasks at the dock, rather than having to climb a ladder to access the boat’s deck and interior. I prefer to start from the inside and work my way out. In the cabin, clean out the refrigerator, and take all snacks, water supplies, soda, beer, or whatever else that can spoil or freeze home. Give entire interior a good cleaning. Wash all galley surfaces, the sink, tabletops, seats, and other surfaces. Clean the head and clean the shower if you have one onboard, drain the fresh water tank, pump out the holding tank. Vacuum rugs and mats, plus bring all removable cushions home so they are not exposed to mold that can grow in closed, damp areas of a boat. If you have beds or births, strip the linens so the mattresses can breathe. Also place moisture absorbing dehumidifiers in the main cabin and other rooms that you have on your boat. Doing this will impede the growth of mold. Also, jars of Tea Tree Oil are another way to prevent mold.
Once you’ve completed the interior, move to the exterior. Wash the decks, empty all storage areas, remove any mold that may have grown in dark/moist corners. Clean any equipment stored within deck compartments then return them into their proper place. It is also a good idea to add a jar of Tea Tree Oil, and leave the covers or doors slightly open so fresh air can circulate within. Don’t forget to clean any Isinglass and vinyl with proper cleaners and protectants. Then, when you have the boat shrink wrapped include a zippered access door.
Once on Land. It’s time to clean the hull. Power washing is the best, but a bucket of water, a brush, and boat soap is effective at removing surface salt, or dirt from the above waterline. You should also inspect the hull to look for stress cracks or blisters in the gelcoat that may need repair by a professional.
The bottom, however, is a different story. In the course of a boating season marine growth and barnacles will accumulate. This is hard to remove, so most boaters leave it to the storage yard to clean the bottom with a high pressure power washer. Following this process inspect the bottom paint. At a minimum you will see spots that will need to touching-up when relaunch preparations begin. Or, the entire bottom might need to be repainted.
Inspect all of the through hull fittings and protective Zink anodes. In the case of a transducer make sure the surface is clean. In the case of a water intake, take a tool that fits inside the fitting to remove any barnacles or other marine growth that has attached itself inside. If present, marine growth inside the intake fitting can impede the flow of cooling water which can then cause an engine to overheat. A clogged intake can also cause washdown water pressure to be weak, and effect the operation of salt water heads.
Engines. Winter weather is a risk to idle engines. If you are a marine mechanic you will likely winterize the engine yourself. However, the technology now present in newer engines requires the use of computers that connect directly to the engine and provide detailed diagnostics. For this reason I recommend always using a professional mechanic who is familiar with the make and model of the engine(s) you have.
Electronics. If possible, remove all your electronics from the boat and store them in a safe and dry place at home. Clean those that are mounted in a console, and make sure the power is off and its cover is on before you leave. This is also the time when you might choose to update the units’ software, but use caution. In some makes and models you can lose all of your routes and waypoints as a result of updating, so check with your manufacturer or service provider before you begin a software upgrade. Lastly, keep all batteries charged.