While many enthusiastic mariners would love to be able to take their boats out all year round, local climate often doesn’t make that an option. As the winter months close in and the temperature starts to cool, it’ll be time to think about packing your boat in for the winter. Properly winterizing your boat can help protect it from the effects of harsh climates and inclement weather. If you’ve done the job right, you’ll be ready to set sail again as soon as the winter is over with no frustrating or expensive maintenance to be made.
The ideal place to start would be the engine. Regardless of engine type or placement, cold weather can wreak havoc on the internal mechanisms in a myriad of different ways. So begin the winterizing process by changing your oil. Remember to warm up the engine first, preferably while in the water. This will help drain the engine of dirty oil and other contaminants. Then just swap out your oil and filter before prepping for storage.
Similarly, you should drain the water from your engine otherwise it will freeze and expand, damaging the interior.
It’s also a good idea to apply a fuel stabilizer to your existing supply. This will prevent the fuel from deteriorating and gunking up your engine while it’s in storage. Once you’ve introduced the fuel stabilizer, add some fresh fuel and run the engine for a bit. This will spreading stabilized fuel throughout the system.
While protecting the engine and other internal components is of critical importance, don’t forget to plan ahead for storage. Dry storage is almost always preferable, offering a safe, insulated space during the cold winter months. However, dry storage is also more expensive and may be unfeasible for many boat owners either financially or logistically.
A simple tarp, if fit tightly, can do the job in a pinch. Before throwing the cover on, though, consider doing a quick cleaning and wax job. Residue and moisture can freeze to surfaces in cold weather, expanding cracks and peeling paint. It’s mostly a cosmetic issue but a little prep work may help you avoid looking dingy when spring comes around again.
You may also want to run an inventory of what’s on the ship and remove any valuables, particularly expensive electronics, before storing it. Unattended boats, whether in dry storage or out in the open, make for big targets. Thieves know the owner isn’t likely to discover the theft until months later, making it an ideal, low-risk crime.
The combination of low temperatures and extended inactivity can do a lot of damage to a previously well-functioning vessel. However, a little research and some prep work can go a long way. By following these simple tips you’ll be able to ensure that your boat is clean, safe, and ready to sail when the time is right.