Winterizing the Boat

Fall boating on the Chesapeake Bay is for many the best time of the season, cooler weather, less traffic and the last gasp of summer. Until about Halloween that is. Soon, preparations need to be made for winterization.

Power boats on Severn River
Photo by Gary Oster

This is the most important maintenance time and when done correctly is quite easy and can make the spring rush to get back into the water much easier.

Let’s gently ease into the idea of the end of the season with some engine basics that are simple, affordable and will have you up and running at splash time.

Engine – The heart of your boat is, of course, the engine. Fill your fuel tanks 7/8 full, allowing for expansion and add fuel treatment/stabilizer. After you add stabilizer to the fuel, run the engine up to temperature to make sure the treatment circulates through the fuel system.

Start by attaching “ear muffs” (also called ‘flush muffs’) to the intake of the outdrive attached to a garden hose and flush the system with freshwater then add -100-degree straight antifreeze via a funnel into the hose until the green liquid antifreeze is coming out the exhaust.

While it’s running, fog the air intake coating the cylinder and rings for winter protection. There will be a lot of smoke and the engine most likely will cut out from the fogging oil, but that is okay. You will want to store your outdrive in down position to make sure it can drain.

Winterizing the block is the most critical step in the winterization process. For inboards and sten drives locate and open the petcocks that are either a blue plastic thumbscrew or some have bronze plugs underneath the manifolds and on the sides of the engine block. Drain the water completely and remove the bottom hose of the water pump.

Draining the engine ensures that water in the cooling chambers won’t freeze, expand and crack your block. A new engine will set you back upwards of $10,000 if your block cracks during the winter.

Freshwater Systems – Once the mechanical systems are winterized, the next things are the sink, deck wash down, etc.

Start by draining the water out of the water tanks. Once drained, put enough non-toxic antifreeze in the water tank so that when the faucets are turned on, the antifreeze is coming out. This is simple to do if you just use enough antifreeze to get good flow out of the outlet faucets.

If your have a hot water heater, drain it completely. Do not put antifreeze in it because you will never get the taste out due to the heating element coil design.

These are the basics to protect your boat during winter layup. Many boats have more systems that need attention such as ice makers, washer and dryers. Most of these systems just need to be drained.

There are a ton of resources online if additional direction is needed, or consult your maintenance provider.

Here are some storage “Gotta Do’s” 

  • Once on stands, cradle or trailer, make sure the stern is down to facilitate draining from snow and rain.
  • Seacocks should be open as well as any drain to let water out.
  • Always add fuel stabilizer.
  • Store with a full tank.
  • Support the bottom evenly, making sure to place support under bulkheads and places where the bottom is robust to prevent hull and bottom damage.
  • Never tie off covers or tarps to boat stands. (You should check the stand periodically to compensate for settling)
  • If you store on a trailer, support the frame as well so all the weight is not on the tires, this will help in saving the tires from being flattened from sitting during the winter.
  • Remove all food, valuables,, canvas, food and cushions.
  • Put moisture absorbers down below to help ward off mildew.
  • NEVER use a portable heater or auto battery charger in the bilge. Its better to remove the batteries and put them on a small trickle charge before spring launch.

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