Winterizing the Sailboat, Part I

I’ve begun the process of putting the boat to bed for the winter.  

Last several nights, the temps were close to freezing, and while the water is still far above the freeze point (therefore keeping water systems and engine above freezing too), I hate to take any expensive chances.  So last night I put an incandescent light in the engine compartment shining on the raw water system.  This keeps that area of the engine above freezing, eliminating the risk of damage.

Light on engine to prevent freezing
Light shining on raw water system to keep it from freezing

I’ve also made sure all of my sea cocks are closed.  Though I always close them when I leave the boat, I double checked this time.  I emptied the fresh water tank and vacuumed out the lines with my shop vac.  Amazingly, I recovered more than a gallon of water from the lines and residual left in the tank bottom.  Had no idea there was that much water still in there.  By the way, I can’t remember who provided me with the idea to use the shop vac for this (not original with me), but here’s a thank you to whoever you are.  This is definitely better than pumping antifreeze through the lines.]

Using shop vac to pump out sailboat
The vac won’t fit past the bulkhead inside. Fortunately, the hose is long enough to reach the bottom of the bow tank from the foredeck.
bottom of dry fresh water tank
Bottom of fresh water tank.

I put the charger on the batteries for several hours today, topping them up, then ran the engine for 45 minutes while going down the creek for my final pump out of the season.  I top up the batteries through the winter (about once per month) while she’s in the yard.  My routine with batteries is to disconnect them completely from the boat system while in the yard.  This prevents any possible voltage leaks from draining the batteries flat.  I don’t have any leaks at this point, but things can change while the boat is in storage.

I will soon disassemble the head as well.  I ran out of daylight and tolerance for working with my back bent (for today).  I’ll save this for Part II of the winterizing process.  Part III will be draining raw water from the engine, and pumping antifreeze into it.

After actuating the head pump, I’m pretty sure a new set of parts is called for.  I could feel how inflexible the plunger seals have become in the cold weather. A fresh rebuild in the spring will prevent unexpected problems later in the season.  Fortunately, rebuilding the head’s pump doesn’t take too long.

Finally, while pumping out the fresh water tank, I’ve noted that my Whale Tiptoe is progressively less effective.  Even after a rebuild this spring (see post here), it pumps poorly, sucks air from some place, and therefore delivers less water than when it was new. So I think a different pump is order for next year.  I’ll probably go with the Whale GP0550 Gusher Galley Foot Pump MK III pictured below:

Whale Gusher

A little more difficult to install than the Tiptoe, due to the fact that I’ll have to epoxy a mounting board at the base of the sink cabinet and cut a slot for the pedal.  Also, the pedal will alway be protruding, which could be annoying, depending on how for out it extends. However, it is well-known that this is a very reliable pump and easy to rebuild. It’s also a diaphragm-style pump, unlike the Tiptoe, and therefore a bit simpler in design.

Rick Bailey

Rick Bailey sails the Chesapeake Bay with his wife, Ruth, on a Watkins 27 coastal cruiser. Rick is retired and writes the "middlebaysailing" blog (http://middlebaysailing.wordpress.com).

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