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The Quick & Easy Guide To Winterizing Your Boat

Winterization, or winter lay up as it is sometimes known, doesn't have to be the chore it is often made out to be and instead should be looked at as a chance to give your prized boat a deep and thorough clean and to ensure that it will be well protected against the cold weather conditions it may face.
 
Many think that winterizing their boat isn't always necessary, especially those who live in the more temperate states. Our friends at BoatUS however recently reported that California had the most freeze-related claims of all 50 states. 
This is often because boat owners in the deep freeze states take the winterization of their boats much more seriously. They are expectant of the cold spells, snow and ice and take the necessary precautions, which stop them having to claim on their insurance over the winter and ensure that they can get out on the water quickly and problem-free in spring.
 
 If you weren't already persuaded, here are our top 3 reasons to winterize your boat:
  • Boats are expensive assets that, when working correctly, can bring endless joy. They need to be cared for correctly to ensure that they hold their value and can continue to provide you with many more great days out in the future.
  • Most insurance policies don't cover the damage to a boat that is caused by neglect. We have heard of lots of cases where this has happened due to an owner not winterizing effectively. Note our point above about winterizing properly even if you live in a warmer state too.
  • Once you've done it, you can sit back and relax, knowing that your boat is protected and you can also be sure of a smooth running boat the day the conditions are right again in just a few months.
Within the boat owners manual, (if you don't have these  for whatever reason, you can generally download them online as PDFs), you will be given the manufacturers recommendations for winterization. Certainly act on these recommendations. 
If you're new to winterization, ask a friend with knowledge of the subject or for a reasonable price you can often get  a professional from your local yard or a dealer who can help you. It is worth doing well and investing in the necessary products. 
 
Winterizing your boat can be broken down into the following easy steps:
 
CLEANING
Start by removing as much as you can from your boat, including clothes, cushions and electronics. Use this new found space to give your boat a good clean from head to toe. Remove any visible dust and treat teak, carpet and vinyl with the appropriate products. Make sure that all surfaces are dry before you eventually store the boat, if they're not you could be encouraging mildew. 
Give the topsides a good scrub with warm, soapy water and use a non skid deck cleaner if necessary to remove the dirt. 
Clean your brightwork with a suitable product then use a quality acid based bottom or hull cleaner to get rid of any fouling. 
Once the inside is clean, we recommend leaving open any available windows and vents to enable the air to circulate briefly before storage. You should also leave a moisture absorber in the boat. 
 
WINTERIZE THE ENGINE & LOWER UNIT
Freeze damage here can certainly prove very costly which is why it's worth investing in some good products and getting expert advice where necessary.
Firstly, treat any fuel that is still left in the tank with fuel stabilizer. When the temperature changes so dramatically, the gasoline will absorb with the condensation which causes the ethanol to un-bond with the gasoline an makes the liquid explosive.
When the engine is running and warm and the cowl is removed, spray some fogging solution into the air intakes then change the gear oil in the lower unit. 
Once you have done all of this, give the engine a good wash with soap and warm water and then be sure to rinse thoroughly. It's also recommended, if you have time, to polish the exterior of the engine with wax.
 
WINTERIZE THE FRESH AND WASTE WATER SYSTEMS
With the fresh water system, unless all water is removed and replaced with antifreeze you run the risk of a freeze up which can quickly destroy your equipment. Open all faucets and turn on the fresh water pump until it runs dry. Once this is done, turn the pump off and fill it with antifreeze. Close the faucets securely and check it's pumping antifreeze. 
 
To winterize the waste water system, start by making sure the holding tank is pumped. Remove the raw water intake from the seacock for each head and mix with antifreeze in a bucket. 
You can then flush the head to circulate the antifreeze through the lines and then to the holding tank. Ensure that all the raw water strainers are purged and filled with antifreeze too.
 
PREPARE THE CABIN AND INTERIOR
You should prepare the cabin and interior for a long period of inactivity. The biggest threat here is mould and mildew. As we mentioned at the cleaning stage, take home anything in the boat that shouldn't permanently be there. You can also ensure that these won't be stolen then also. 
Place mildew gas bags or crystals where possible. Remove batteries and take them home to charge. 
 
CHECK THE EXTERIOR AND TRAILER
Many people think that boats are designed to withstand the harsh marine environment. However, this isn't always necessarily true. Boats that are covered properly throughout winter will stay drier and are far less likely to develop stress cracks and gelcoat crazing. Finishes such as fibreglass and brightwork will last far longer if they're not exposed to the harsh winter elements for months at a time, every year. 
Keep the drain plug with your boat keys so that you are reminded to replace this again in spring. 
Check your trailer tyres and also for potential cracking on side walls. Grease all the necessary fittings and if needs be, give it a good clean and repaint any rusty areas. 
Make sure the boat cover is loose so that air can circulate. Also ensure that you use a support cover to prevent the pooling of water.
 
Do you have any other tips, product recommendations or advice? Drop us a line on our Facebook page.
For boats for sale in the states, be sure to visit www.boatsandoutboards.com.
 
photo credit: Under the Bridge via photopin (license)