The boat’s put away for the winter, on the trailer, on the hard or in the water. Nothing to do now but sit by the fire reading boating magazines and watching Captain Ron, right? Nope, the winter boating season has its own set of maintenance needs, to preserve and protect your investment through the tough winter months.In the Water
The first and most important thing is to not abandon your boat, assuming everything is going to be okay until spring. Get out on a regular basis and inspect the boat and its winter storage accommodations. A first assumption is that you did all the winter prep functions. Removing all food and clothing from the boat. Cleaned out the interior and waxed the exterior. Winterized the water system, the fuel system and the engine. As these have been covered in a multitude of other articles, we won’t cover them here.
The primary thing to check is the boat cover or tarp, especially if stored outside. Check for any loose of flapping covers. It takes only a short time for that loose cover to scratch or abrade your gelcoat. If you store inside, check for any bird activity. I would suggest placing an inexpensive tarp over the expensive fitted cover, to keep bird droppings off.
Check to tire inflation. A deflated tire places a lot of stress on the sidewalls and could lead to cracking. A tire cover will keep harmful UV rays away from the rubber. Make sure the boat is stored with a bow up attitude. This will keep any water entering the boat draining out the transom drains. You did take out the transom plugs, right? Most trailer boaters take their batteries out over the winter and store them inside. Check the state of charge every month or so and recharge if necessary. Don’t let them discharge completely.
As part of your winterizing procedures, you should have inspected both the prop and any canvas you have. If either of them needs repair, get them into the repair shop now. Waiting until the spring rush will almost always ensure a delay.
If at all possible, take the outboard off the boat and store it in a safe place. A deserted winter boatyard makes outboards easy prey for thieves. Don’t ask how I know!
On the Hard
Your boat should have been placed on the hard properly. Jack stands on plywood pads to keep them from sin king in the ground. Blocking properly placed so as to not distort the hull. Jack stands chained together side to side. Covers tied under the boat and not to the jack stands. Covers tied to jack stands can “walk” the jack stand out from under the hull. Check regularly to make sure the jack stands or blocks haven’t settled. Remember, the jack stands steady the boat, not support the full weight of the boat. The keel blocks support the weight of the boat.
As in trailer boats, inspect the cover or tarp for any loose or flapping areas and tighten it down. If you use a frame to support the cover, make sure it is secure and doesn’t move under wind pressure. A frame, moving back and forth, will rub the gelcoat deck and loosen the cover. Make sure the boat is stored slightly bow up to allow any water to drain out.
If you have your boat shrink wrapped, inspect it regularly for any holes or tears from the cover rubbing against a sharp protrusion. Very seldom does a shrink wrap come loose or flap but the pressure of the wind will cause the cover to flex. If there is an improperly padded corner it will wear a hole in the cover or possibly then tear. Make sure the cover is properly vented and the vents remain clear of any ice or snow.
If you store without a clover, and many do, make sure the cockpit drains remain open and draining. Ice buildup can clog them and fill the cockpit with water. Inspect the bilges once in a while to make sure they remain empty of and water leaking in. Have some mechanical means of pumping the bilges as you have probably removed the battery for the winter. If you pulled your masts make sure the mast hole remains sealed. That is a BIG hole for water ingress.
If you store ion the water, regular inspections are almost mandatory. Many things can go wrong and the result may well be your boat sinking. A surprising number of boats sink at the dock during winter storage.
It goes without saying that any shore side water connection should be disconnected. Seacocks should all be closed. Any hose, below the waterline and filled with water is subject to freezing. That freeze might well push the hose off the hose barb and pose a flooding threat. If your engine is raw water cooled, it is impossible to winterize the cooling system with antifreeze. Therefore, the engine compartment should be kept above freezing. Something as simple as a lit incandescent bulb in the engine compartment is often enough to protect against freezing.
But the bulb is dependent on a supply of electricity. Even if the electricity is kept on during the winter, winter storms can disrupt that power. If you keep your batteries on board and depend mon bilge pumps, make sure that battery is kept charged. Even a small leak can keep cycling the bilge pump until the battery is discharged. If you store in an area that freezes solid, make sure the bubblers or ice eaters are properly placed to keep both the boat and the dock ice-free. Inspect periodically to make sure they haven’t shifted.
If you dock has wood piles, look out for something called “ice jacking”. Ice jacking happens in tidal areas, Ice freezes around pilings at low water. As the tide comes in, the ice along with the pilings rises. Worst case scenario, the pilings are pulled free from the bottom.
Regularly inspect your dock lines and fenders. Repeated tide cycles can cause xchaffee on dock lines. Winter storms van be fierce, so make sure dock lines have chafe protection where they pass through chocks. Inspect regularly to make sure that chafe protection remains in place and lines are chafe free.
Setting up a regular winter inspection schedule for your boat will go a long way to ensuring the start of the next boating season starts out trouble free. Now that you have done all that, you can put your feet up and enjoy that hot toddy by the fire.