If you’re fortunate enough to own your own boat, yacht, or even jet ski, it’s always tricky knowing where and how to store your ocean toy in the colder months.
However, making sure your boat is winterized and properly taken care of will ensure you can have just as much fun next spring.
According to insurance companies, a vast majority of claims made for boats are due to damage that occurs during winter storage. As such, here are a few steps and tips to keep your boat in top condition all year round before storing your boat.
1. Remove all items from the boat
Once that final adventure is over, remove everything that doesn’t attach to the boat itself. That includes cool boxes, life jackets, first aid kits, and electronics. If you have a fire extinguisher or flares on board, remove these too.
Depending on where the boat will be stored during the winter, it might also be worth removing leather or fabric components to prevent them from becoming damp or dirty.
2. Inspect the boat for damage
The first thing you need to do is take a good look at the boat’s current condition. Cracks and other damage can become a much bigger problem after a few cold spells, so it’s better to get repairs done now rather than wait.
Depending on what your boat is made of, you can find tutorials online to fit common issues. Alternatively, you can get the repairs professionally sorted. You don’t want to find out you’ve not quite sealed that crack with your DIY method while you’re out at sea.
3. Drain your boat thoroughly
Of course, any fluids left in the boat during the winter could freeze over – potentially leading to cracks and burst pipes if the water expands too much.
To avoid this, your boat should be thoroughly drained before putting it into boat storage. To drain the boat quickly, raise the bow. You’ll also need to drain the heads, seacocks, bilge and water tanks, and anything else that has fluid in it.
As for the engine water, you’ll need to wait until you’ve prepared the engine for storage before you drain it.
4. Do a deep clean
The boat will then need a good clean – inside and out. You want to be able to push the boat into the water and get sailing as soon as the hot weather starts, not having to clean it as you left it over the winter.
Don’t forget to remove any plant life or barnacles that have attached themselves to the hull, and clean out fridges, freezers, and any drawers.
Once fully clean, you’ll then need to leave the boat to dry completely. It’s recommended that you add a protective wax, too, to protect the boat structure and paintwork.
5. Prepare the engine
To get the engine prepared for the long winter, you’ll need to flush it out with fresh water to remove dirt and salt. Don’t forget to flush out the coolant system, too, and add anti-freeze into the solution. You can warm the engine a little to loosen any dirt to make it easier to clean.
Once everything is flushed and dry, replace any filters and the oil. If the oil has a milky appearance in any way, this could be a sign of a water intrusion, which needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.
Finally, apply fogging oil to the spark plug holes and carburetor and remove the engine belts to be stored separately. The tension can often lead belts to snap, which is why it’s always better to remove them for storage.
6. Remove and charge the battery
To avoid damage to the battery, you should always store it in a dry and warm place when not in use. If you experience particularly cold winters, it’s probably best to keep the battery somewhere in the house.
Before storing the battery, place it on charge so that you’re ready as soon as the sunshine returns. It’s also worth giving the battery a good clean and greasing the terminals and cable ends.
7. Lubricate and grease
Metal parts such as latches and hinges will need to be lubricated with a moisture-displacing lubricant to prevent rusting and locking.
Grease should be applied to the control mechanisms and steering system to stop it from going stiff. The same can be done for the propellor (which can be removed, lubricated, and replaced).
If your boat has exhaust ports, it’s worth sealing these up with duct tape or plastic bags. While this isn’t specifically for the cool weather, it does stop small animals from taking shelter in the pipework and clogging things up with nesting materials, debris and waste.
Cover or shrink-wrap the boat, no matter where you’re planning to store it. This helps protect it from the harsh winter.
Although these steps seem lengthy, they can save you a lot of stress and time in the spring. To prevent damage and keep your boat in top condition, it’s integral that you take the time to properly winterize and store the vessel.