It’s always difficult to say goodbye to our beloved boat when winter comes along. Thankfully there are some easy things we can do to make sure she runs smoothly when we launch again in the Spring. Here are a few things to consider when readying your watercraft for hibernation.
Having a secure location to store your boat for winter is the most important factor. The last thing you want is to lose your vessel vandalism or theft. It’s great if you have a secure space at home, but for those who don’t have room, want the added security, or want to avoid the premium at the local marina, storage facilities provide a great alternative.
If you’ve chosen an outdoor location to store your boat for winter, you want to make sure the vehicle is protected from the harsh winter weather using a proper boat cover. After all, the exposure to snow and ice can quickly cause tremendous damage. Avoid generic tarps, as these don’t fit snugly around a boat, and are more likely to blow off in strong winds. For best protection, you’re better off using a custom boat cover or shrink wrap to ensure a tight fit around the hull. Some storage facilities may even sell covers or offer on-site shrink wrapping services.
Once you’ve got your boat storage location and protection sorted out, there are some important steps you can take to protect it from the cold weather. While it’s always preferable to have a professional conduct the engine-related service, if you’re the DIY type, you should consider the following (always consult the vehicle manual, manufacturers’ specifications and product instructions to avoid undue injury and/or damage to your boat, and when in doubt, consult a professional).
Create a checklist: to use when putting into AND removing your boat from storage, to ensure all steps are followed both in and out
Observe: during your last boat outing, take a few minutes to observe how it’s running and inspect the vehicle from top to bottom, flagging any issues or concerns to maintain before winter sets in (e.g. have any hull damage such as cracks or holes professionally repaired prior to freezing temperatures)
Drain: any excess water from the boat and the motor
Trailer: inspect prior to hauling, to ensure it is fully functional and compliant with local regulations
Remove: any food and drinks, recreational gear such as fishing rods and life jackets. and safely store any sensitive electronics
Battery: disconnect and remove the battery, store in a dry place, check the charge intermittently, ensuring it’s fully charged before you reinstall
Clean: all surfaces, and apply appropriate protection to sensitive materials such as leather, fabric and wood, and wax the body to prevent rust
Engine and mechanicals: lubricate key areas including a healthy dab or injection of grease to key points such as grease nipples, steering columns and controls, and maintain key engine fluids: change the oil, flush the coolant system and apply antifreeze where appropriate, fill the gas tank along with a stabilizer, and apply engine fogging oil to protect key parts such as the carburetor and spark plug holes; remove tension from any belts that may crack due to cold
Cover and check (see above): seal any openings such as exhaust ports and bilge pumps to prevent pests from nesting inside, then check on your boat intermittently to ensure the cover is in place and intact
Once you’ve taken these steps, you can rest easy knowing that next boating season will be smooth sailing!