For some, snow can come as early as October. For others, seeing a snowflake is just as rare as spotting Bigfoot. No matter where you live winter is here and now is the time to prepare your boat for the dropping temperatures and changing water conditions. Professional Sea Tow Captains offer the following tips for boaters living in a “mild winter” as well as tips on how to properly winterize your vessel before the first snowfall.
Year Round Boaters
- Maintenance check. Make sure all boat and engine maintenance is up to date. The manufacturer’s recommendation is to service the engine at “100 hours or annually”, meaning whichever comes first. This can also include inspecting the water pump and double checking the fuel filter for any precipitate water.
- Top off the batteries. Use distilled water, not tap water, to clean battery terminals and make sure they are clean and tight. Also, warm up the engine before leaving the boat ramp or dock to be sure the battery has a good charge.
- Better to be safe than sorry. Inspect your lifesaving equipment, this includes replacing fire extinguishers and flares that have reached or passed their expiration dates. Replace damaged life jackets and be sure you have the correct size and required amount for the number of people on your boat.
- Time for a deep cleaning. Pressure-wash the outside of the hull to remove barnacles, algae and dirt. For the interior, use a good cleaner that also moisturizes the vinyl to prevent cracking during the winter months. Also, make sure your boat cover vents properly to protect against mold and mildew buildup inside.
- Personal protection. Remove batteries and any electronics that could be damaged by cold weather or detached from the boat and stolen. Remove and store all other valuables, such as life jackets, boating accessories, etc. Store boat and equipment warranties and insurance policies off the boat in a secure location.
- Prepare the engine. Inspect hoses and belts for any issues that may need fixing. For outboards, flush the engine with fresh water and be sure to trim the motor down so all water drains from the engine. Also, change the lower unit oil. For sterndrives, remember to drain water from the cooling system and install antifreeze.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be back on the water when the weather starts to warm up. Don’t worry, it won’t be as long as you think.