There are several methods available for storing a boat off-season, all of which might involve a certain amount of effort to prepare a winterization plan.
A well-prepared storage plan should pay huge dividends because of the ability to maintain the mechanical operation of the boat. If you aren’t mechanically minded and don’t have basic maintenance and engine skills, you can refer to a boatyard to help go through the steps to properly winterize.
1 – Start with the engine
Start with winterizing the engine as this is potentially the most significant step that needs to be performed. You don’t want dirty, old oil left sitting in the engine throughout the off-season, so start by changing the filter and oil.
2 – Engine cooling system
The cooling system can vary, either an open or closed system, so it is important to know the particular type on the vessel. If it is an open system, whereby water is drawn outside the craft, it would be necessary to flush the system using clean water. This is achieved by inserting a hose into the intake opening and draining the system. If, however a vessel features a closed system, it is generally a case of refilling the system with a water or antifreeze solution, whichever might be recommended.
3 – Empty the fuel tank
Drain any gas that might be left in the fuel tank. A vessel often includes a drain screw for ease in completing this stage. Once drained, replace the drain screw and top up the tank with the required fuel stabilizer liquid.
4 – Clear the holding tank
Pump out the holding tank (bathroom), if applicable. It often benefits to have a boatyard complete this stage, unless the tank can easily be removed from the vessel. In preparation for next season, it often benefits to treat this tank with a highly effective deodorizing solution.
5 – Clean the bilges
Give the bilges a good clean and dry before leaving. A variety of tools like a stiff brush, hot water, and soap can help remove oil spills or similar. A cleaned bilge area is best sprayed with a lubricant (moisture displacing) and anti-freeze to stop the leftover water freezing up.
6 – Pack the gear
It is a wise precautionary measure to take off-board as much removable gear as possible. It isn’t necessary to leave cushions, sails, fire extinguishers, PFD, electronics, weatherproof gear, fenders, etc. on board – as this is only likely to attract dirt and moisture. Over the course of the winter give the removed valuables a complete inspection to identify those in need of cleaning or replacing.
7 – Open the lockers and hatches
If a vessel is to be winterized in an enclosed space, such as a garage, then there is often an advantage to open all of the storage lockers and hatches. It might also benefit to spray certain areas of the vessel with an anti-mildew product in areas like the bilge and lockers. If a vessel is to be stored outside, a dehumidifier can often help. Plus, open and clean the freezer or refrigerator system.
8 – Use a tarp
An essential step to take if leaving a boat outside and exposed to the elements, is to use a full-length tarp or cover. A high-quality boat cover will be required to make sure sufficient protection is provided for the duration of the layout period.
9 – Give the trailer attention
Similar to the motor-driven or sail boat, trailers can benefit from a service at the end of the season. Give the hubs a thorough wash. Any signs of rust should be rubbed down, primed, and given a fresh coat of paint. Inspect each of the tires for wear for cracks, and don’t forget the sidewalls. Also, consider removing the tires for a variety of reasons. It discourages theft, protects the springs, and extends the life of the tires.
10 – Lay-up storage
Before leaving the boat for the winter give the hull a pressure wash to help remove barnacles from trim tabs, struts, rubbers, and props. Open seacocks to let water drain. Inspect the hull for signs of developing blisters. Work on any blisters found during the winter lay-up to ensure the boat is ready for next season.