What a beautiful October! The sun has been shining warm and bright here on the shore of Lake Michigan, but we know colder days lie not far ahead. Our thoughts turn to protecting our beautiful, beloved boats, tucking them in for their winter nap after another fun-filled summer. Behind all the warm-and-fuzzy metaphors, however, is some hard work: winterization.
Of course, you don't have to winterize your boat, if you don't mind laying out a chunk of change in the spring when your engine is destroyed, your battery is dead, and your cockpit has flooded. Here are eight ways to keep Old Man Winter from wrecking your boat.
Don't cut corners. You can do it fast, or you can do it right. Skipping boat winterization might save you a few bucks, at least until you have to pay to replace freeze-damaged boat parts come spring. Even if you're lucky enough to live where winter temperatures are mild, don't think that a cold snap can't happen.
Fill the tank. The more gas in your boat fuel tank, the less room there is for condensation to form. Water in your gas tank is not a good thing, so fill 'er up for the winter. Allow a little space for expansion and add a fuel stabilizer. Run the engine (in the water, please) for at least 10 minutes to distribute the stabilizer throughout the engine.
Don't leave the battery on board. A fully charged battery resists freezing, but unless you keep your battery on a charger all winter, it will lose charge and its resistance to cold. Remove it from the boat and store it someplace cool, but not freezing (above 40F/4C).
Don't run a space heater on it. We know you already know this, but it's never wise to run a space heater unattended. Please don't leave your boat alone with a heater going in the engine room or elsewhere on board. Your boat might be surrounded by water in its slip, but that doesn't mean it can't burn.
[caption id="attachment_554" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Photo: BoatUS[/caption]
Don't wrap the outboard engine. Outboard motor cowlings are made both to protect the engine and let it ventilate. Sealing it up can trap moisture inside, which can lead to corrosion and cracking, which leads to you - and your wallet - being very unhappy come spring.
Don't just throw a tarp on it. For a very small boat, a well-secured tarp might be adequate for winter storage, but trying to cover a larger craft with an assemblage of tarps is a recipe for leaks, mildew, flooding, and other misery. If you want to really protect your boat, use a custom boat cover and install it properly. Boat covers are designed with vents to allow moisture to evaporate, and they typically come with poles to support the cover under rain and snow. Remember to stow your bimini, too; neither the canvas nor the frame are built to stand up under snow loads, and harsh winter weather can wear the fabric out before its time.
[caption id="attachment_556" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Photo: BoatTest[/caption]
Drain the engine. A frozen block spells doom for your engine. Not flushing and draining it before the temperature drops below freezing is a sure way to wreck your motor. Store an outboard motor upright so that any water left can drain off.
[caption id="attachment_555" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Cracked engine block. Photo: BoatUS[/caption]
Close the seacocks. If your boat will spend the off-season in the water, leaving your seacocks open is a great way to risk swamping or sinking. Close them before you leave your boat for the winter.
[caption id="attachment_557" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Photo: BoatUS[/caption]