You probably don’t want to hear this, but boating season is quickly ending — in some parts of the country where winter comes early, it is already over. While you don’t have to winterize, a few hours of preventative maintenance will save you a lot of cash come springtime. Here’s what you should look for if this is your first winter with your boat.
First, think about your storage options. This is the one case where land is better than water for your boat. Wintering on the water can cause buildup on the hull, damage from lack of slack in ropes, and ice damage to the hull in really cold locales. The ideal storage solution is a trailer in an environmentally controlled storage facility, but that costs quite a bit more, and isn’t an option for some. If you have to store your boat outside, but the appropriate cover. This will prevent debris piling up inside, and also prevent water accumulating in pools, then freezing and causing damage as it expands.
For the engine, on the last run of the season, run some fuel stabilizer through the engine. This will help prevent clogged lines, as untreated gas degrades over long winters. At the end of the final day, refill the tank completely, and add more stabilizer. Change the oil if your boat will be warm and cozy inside, or just drain if stored outside. While you are at it, drain everything else too, as even a tiny amount of water will form ice and cause problems. Best bet is to be dry, but lubricated. Pull the spark plugs and spray fogging oil into the cylinders as the engine rotates.
While you are at it, grease everything else. Any metal part that moves, or is a control surface, hit is with the recommended grease. If in doubt in a time crunch, throw some 10w-30 at it. Oxygen is corrosive, and rust is coming if you leave metal exposed to the elements. Better to degrease in Spring than replace.
Inside, take out everything unnecessary. Remove any accumulated trash, and pull the cushions for cleaning. Even if they are clean, take them, as mold and mildew love cushions. Turn everything off, from the lights, and refrigerator, to the gas and water main. Prop the fridge open, and run some disinfect and into it and the toilet. Ventilate as much as possible, without allowing rain inside. If you are really concerned about mildew, run a cheap electric fan on a timer from an indoor/outdoor extension cord. Moving the air around will help avoid a musty smell. Another alternative is moisture absorbing packets stored in several locations throughout the cabin.
Disconnect the batteries and bring them inside. Marine batteries are expensive, so put them on a trickle charger if you can. If not, store them in a heated environment, and off the floor.
Now is a good time to show your trailer some love too. Grease the bearings, fill the tires, and take care of any rust before it gets out of hand.
As always, consult your owner’s manual for recommended service intervals, oils, parts, and whatnot. Also, your marina of choice might have recommendations, and is a great place to get advice.