One of the best things about summer is that it’s ideal for so many water activities. The warm, sunny weather along with the calm blue waters on the beach or at the lake are practically an invitation to take a boat out sailing, fishing, or for a relaxing cruise. This sort of practice has become a summer tradition among many families, so a lot of them opt to purchase a boat for their own personal use.
However, summer vacations also come to an end. After about three glorious months of sun and sail, the leaves turn brown, and the temperature drops, signaling an end to the summer season. This also means that your boat needs to be put away for storage.
Ironically, the “time off” for your boat can actually speed up the process of wear and tear unless you take time to store your boat properly for the long winter months. Keeping the boat dry during storage is especially important. Any sort of moisture that manages to sneak in can freeze up in the nooks and crannies of your boat, eventually causing rust and corrosion.
Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to ensure that your boat can withstand a prolonged period of winter storage.
Here are tips on how you can keep your boat dry:
Always, always clean your boat. Rust, corrosion, and excess moisture will find it much harder to penetrate your boat if it has been cleaned properly. Before you put your boat away for the season, give it a thorough cleaning: wash the deck, bottom, and topsides with soap and water, wipe the hardware and trim clean, and apply a layer of wax on the boat’s topsides once they’ve been washed and dried.
If your boat is made of fiberglass and if it has spent extended amounts of time in the waters, check the surfaces for any blisters and patch them up immediately if you find them. If you have any canvas materials on the boat, dry them thoroughly in the sun before stowing the vessel away. Better yet, remove them from the boat and store them indoors instead.
Give your metal trailer roller a bit of TLC. A generous spray of good water and dirt displacing lubricant on your boat’s metal trailer roller can do wonders for keeping rust and corrosion away from the base of your boat. Spray the lubricant on areas like the winch gear, assemblies, and electrical connections to discourage moisture from taking hold during the winter months.
As with the boat, check your trailer for rust spots as well. Should you find such, sand, prime, and paint over them accordingly to prevent them from spreading over the trailer and your boat.
Check the boat’s engines for the build-up and lubricate it properly after cleaning. Inspect your boat’s stern drive engine for gum or carbon deposits and treat them with a specialized aerosol to dissolve and flush them from your engine.
As an added precautionary measure, you may want to spray a special storage oil into the air intakes while you let the engine run. This will leave a protective film in the interior of your engine, discouraging moisture from seeping in and making it easier to restart the engine after storage.
Once your engines have been cleaned thoroughly, lubricate its oil filter, inboards, and outboards with the appropriate kind of grease as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Set up the fuel system for proper storage. It might seem counter-intuitive, but you should top up your boat’s fuel tank prior to storage. If you leave your fuel tank half-empty, you run the risk of moisture or condensation forming on the walls of the tank.
Before you fill up your tank, however, you may want to change your fuel filter first. This is especially important if the boat has been through a long season as carbon deposits may have formed on the filter in use.
Another way to prep your fuel system for the winter is to introduce a marine fuel stabilizer. The stabilizer discourages the build-up of gum and varnish in the fuel system when the engine is not in use. It also keeps the fuel from freezing up or separating during the cold winter months.
To add a stabilizer to your fuel system, refer to the boat manual for instructions on how to introduce it into the engine and use the appropriate stabilizer as per the manual’s recommendations. Do run the engine for a bit after adding the stabilizer to make sure that it circulates evenly.
Flush your outboard motors. If you’ve used your boat on the open waters of the sea, salt and dirt are bound to collect on your outboard motors. These tend to attract corrosion, so flush them out with freshwater and then drain out all the water from the engine once there are no traces of dirt or salt left.
You may also want to do the same for your raw water cooling systems to remove or flush out the same kind of build-up. (Also, if you live in an area that suffers from extreme winters, you may want to run anti-freeze through to the cylinder block of the interior motor’s engine.)
Keep the bow of your boat and trailer rig in a slight bow-up position in storage. This position is best for allowing any residual water to drain out so that the interiors of the boat stay dry. Don’t neglect to detach the drain plug. Either keep the plug indoors or tie it up to the ignition key so you can find it easily when it’s time to bring the boat out again.
Inspect the boat periodically throughout the winter for any accumulated water or critters. Get rid of any that you find and refasten the covers to keep them tight. This is especially crucial if you are storing your boat on a trailer outside.
If you are unable to provide interior storage for your boat, avoid parking its trailer under the trees. The branches may snap off during blizzards and fall into your boat. Falling leaves and needles may also fall into your boat and block up your drains, making it hard for any moisture to escape the boat.
Most of all, it is important to consult your boat’s manual for any additional precautions that your model may require. Be sure to follow instructions and specifications about what sort of cleaning materials to use and whether or not you need additional substances like anti-freeze and such.