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Everything You Need to Know About Owning a Boat (Part 7)

Congratulations!  You made it through your first season with a boat but now the weather is changing and the high temperatures are in the 60s on a regular basis.  You've extended the season as long as you can but it's just getting too chilly to be out cruising around, and definitely too chilly for a swim.  It's time to put your boat into hibernation for the winter.  So, where do you start?

We live aboard Cygnet all year so winterizing is very different for us.  But we had Two Wrights for years and took her out of the water every fall and put her back every spring.  Our winterizing routine wasn't much different than most.  What you'll read below is a general winterizing program.  You may have a different requirement based on your boat and that should be found in the manufacturer's manual or online.  Don't take our word for it, find out from your boat builder what you should be doing.  It's a good idea to make a check list and use it every year.  This can include fluid capacities, filter numbers, oil types, etc.  It's good to have this information handy when you're at the store, keep it on your phone, not just as a paper copy in the engine room.
A frame is made to keep the bow open enough to fill our water in winter, plus it makes an angled surface that allows rain, snow, and ice to shed off the cover.
Where are you going to keep the boat?  Will it be stored in a heated garage or yacht yard?  Will it live on its trailer in your driveway?  Will it be spending the winter in the water?  Each circumstance is different but the basics are the same.  We've touched on some of this in the maintenance post too so check that out.  If you are keeping the boat in heated storage you can get away with not doing some of the water related winterizing but we recommend it as a "just in case."

Icy winter takes a lot out of a boat if not protected.
Wash it, wax it.  Getting it clean before storage will help it stay as clean as possible through the winter.  It'll also help the finish last longer since less grime will be rubbing on the boat from wind and contact with the cover.  Wash the carpets, sheets, blankets, drapes, etc. and store them someplace clean, dry, and warm until Spring.  If stored outside put moth balls all around the interior to help keep insects and critters out.  Don't make your boat into a great place for them to spend the winter, close it all up (try to have some venting if possible) and make it nearly impossible to get in.  Depending on where you store the boat you will have critters get in, make sure they don't want to stay.
Boat engines can be hard to work on, but it needs to be done to protect them from freezing.
Winterize your engines.  This consists of a couple things, first you should change the engine oil and filter.  Some people change oil in the fall and again in the spring just in case condensation formed inside the engine over the winter but most manufacturers recommend one oil change at the end of the year.  Get the old stuff out and put new stuff in using a fluid transfer pump.  Next you'll want to clean any air intakes or spark arrestors.  It's a good idea to clean the entire engine compartment at this time anyway.  Now, change the drive oil.  Boats vary in how to do this, check the manufacturer's recommendations and YouTube for your specific drive type.  Now put antifreeze in the engine.  We use the pink RV water line antifreeze by getting the engines up to operating temperature, closing a valve to keep outside water out, and pouring the antifreeze into the water intakes until the pink fluid runs out the exhaust.  Do not forget this step, we've seen it happen to two boats in our harbor in five years.  One sank and the other has thousands of dollars of damage.
Water will get in if you don't take care of winterization.  This boat started sinking because a battery cable was detached,  it's funny how the boat next to it had the same problem on the same day and sank.  Sabotage?
Now winterize the water lines and anywhere that holds water on your boat.  The bilges may look dry but you never know where water might come from, pour some of the pink stuff in just in case.  Find the water pump intake and pour the pink RV antifreeze in until every faucet, shower, and toilet has pink liquid coming out.  Hot water heaters are notorious for holding the antifreeze in the spring but it's better to flush them out than to have the lines freeze.  Remove anything on the boat that could freeze, things like soda, beer, sunscreen, hairspray, anything that can freeze.
You can take it with you.
Cover your boat.  Even if stored inside it'll get filthy over the winter and if anyone is sanding, painting, or doing work on their boats near yours you won't want to have to clean that up. A thin sheet of plastic will do inside.  Outside you may want a tarp or to shrink wrap it.  If you use a tarp you want to make sure there are no low spots.  Use wood, boathooks, bungee cords, or anything else to shed the rain and snow off the cover.  Professional shrink wrapping is great, in fact we do it yearly even though we live aboard.  Transparent is great if you want to do work on it through the winter and get the most sunlight but it won't block the UV rays.  Get the opaque kind to keep it best protected.
We thought furniture blankets would help insulate, which maybe they did, but the UV rays ate them over the four months and they were a mess to clean up.
Bottom paint if needed.  Perform any repairs now, change the water intake impellers and thermostats before winterizing the engines too.  Check the spark plugs, wires, and distributor and adjust or replace if necessary.  By taking care of all this in the fall it makes it much easier to get the boat out in the spring when those first warm days come around.

All this can be done by you but if you don't want to or don't have the time there are plenty of boat storage places that'll do the work for you, for a very healthy fee.


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