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Preparing Your Sea Craft for Winter

Fishing Boat

Fishing Boat

Organizing Routine Maintenance:

The high priority tasks to organize are seaworthiness and safety. The first jobs are almost always the same and must be done as soon as possible after the boat is hauled out.

First check the bottom. This is easier when the hull is still wet. Scrub with an old broom dipped in sand and gravel, then hose off the loosened debris. A high-pressure water hose is ideal for this, but be careful to not wash away paint and wood fibres.

Then clean the topsides and apply a coat of boat polishing wax for protection during the winter. All boats, particularly those with varnished or painted topsides need to be covered and the awning should be properly secured so as not to work loose.

For boats riding at the moorings, place a marker at the hull. This will give you a reference point to determine the amount of bilge water.

Check the exterior for lifted varnish and exposed wood. Bare wood should be varnished with a thick varnish. Brush on or apply with a rag, working well into the grain.
Arrange an awning, with the help of a friend to watch the props for the first few minutes and to warn you if they move.

Many boat owners consider that a dry winter berth is unnecessary and haul out on alternate year, especially those who own fibreglass boats.  A mud berth can provide a satisfactory winter berth for round and flat-bottomed boats but should be tidal, allowing the boat to float on an average high tide.

If the boat winters afloat, remember that corrosion and fouling will continue through the winter and early beaching and cleaning at the beginning of the new season may be necessary.

Before leaving the boat for winter, remove all items that might be stolen, including the propeller. Everything removable should be taken to ashore to allow maximum circulation of air.
Remove cushions, mattresses, curtains, carpets and any other movable and valuable pieces. Remove floorboards, drawers, etc. and pump the bilges dry. Stop holes in the hull after cleaning out any accumulated marine growths.
Shut all sea cocks and disconnect and drain water hoses, including the toilet, engine water jacket, heat exchanger, etc. Plug sea-cocks or refit hoses for safety and wash all deck fittings, rigging screws, etc. with fresh, warm water and coat with petroleum jelly.

Disconnect the batteries and take ashore. Smear the battery leads with petroleum jelly. Empty water tanks, top up diesel fuel tanks. Remove the gas cylinder and brush paraffin over the jets and burner of the stove to protect the vulnerable brass and steel parts.

Don’t lock stale air in the boat
Everything removable should be taken to ashore to allow maximum circulation of air.  Open cabin and locker doors and wedge to allow air to circulate and prevent them from swinging. It is particularly important to arrange for air circulation at the ends of the boat. Lock the fore-hatch slightly open.

Winterizing the Engine
When the temperature falls below freezing, if there is water inside your engine or gear case, the result can be a cracked block or housing and a repair bill that runs into the thousands.
Before hauling out: Drain oil sump, refill with recommended lubricating oil, which contains a rust-inhibiting additive if you are laying up a motor for very long periods. This will prevent condensation from forming inside the tank. Add antifreeze to the sealed water cooling system and run the motor to ensure that the antifreeze is thoroughly mixed. If the motor has been overheating, the cooling system should be drained and cleaned.

To protect cylinder head and valves, mix a small amount of petrol with oil [3-1] , feed into the fuel line to coat the carburetor and cylinder head. Pour a little oil into the air intake with the engine running. Clean or replace filter and strainers. Remove rocker cover, oil rockers and springs, and replace. Clean engine by wire-brushing rusty parts and then with a rag dipped into methylated spirits. Remove carburetor, plug inlet with an oily rag, remove spark plugs and pour about one teaspoon of oil into each cylinder. Replace plugs finger tight and rotate the flywheel several times to distribute oil.

Draining he cooling system:
Open seacocks and check valves, then drain. Release upper-most flexible hose and blow down it until air can be hear gurgling out of the water inlet and outlet. Shut seacocks to exclude the seawater. Open all other pet cocks and drain plugs completely. Close and flush with fresh water hose inserted into the water inlet.
Open all drain plugs to make sure they are clear. Poke with a stiff wire if necessary. If blocked, disconnect hoses and plug the exhaust , keeping the seacocks closed if the boat is to winter afloat.
If it is possible that water is trapped in the raw water cooling system, fill with a mix of water and anti-freeze poured into a top hose. Bleed drain plus and pet cocks and top up if necessary. Paint rusted engine parts.

Stabilize the fuel:
Some boaters prefer to store the tanks full to minimize the potential for condensation. A cupful of water in the tank in the spring is a lot smaller problem than 50 gallons of bad gasoline, but if you want to leave the tank full, pour in an appropriate amount of gasoline stabilizer to combat the formation of passage-clogging gums.

Store engine upright because laying the engine down risks water draining where it shouldn’t. An engine stand is easy enough to cobble together.

Source: The Boat Repair Manual by George Buchanan
Consultant Editors: Allan Boyd, Harry Spencer, and George Chandler.

By Margot B

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