Usually, as soon as I write about decommissioning the boat for the winter, an Indian summer arrives. As of writing this, it hasn’t happened . . . yet.
This weather is windy, wet, and cold, but a reminder that many months of generous sunshine are behind us and many dark and dreary lie ahead. So, here we go, Indian summer or not! Even if you hand your boat off to your dock master and say, “See you in the spring,” there are some tips you will want to be aware of:
“On The Hard” Or In The Water
Clearly, there are some basic steps to decommissioning, and one of them is to get the boat safely “on the hard,” as the old-timers still call the dry dock. Storing your boat in the water can only be done in a very controlled environment, with professional and near-constant attention. Even with signs of global heating all around us, (I think “global warming” sounds too benign), the creeks and coves out east freeze up for much of the winter. Even Moriches Bay has frozen over — and I am talking about recent years.
The only upside to storing your winterized boat in the water is that you don’t have to pay to haul the boat and return it to the water in the spring. I still believe that can be penny wise and pound foolish. Remember 80 percent of boats that do sink, do so at the dock.
Make A List, Check It Twice
If you hand your boat over to your dock master, do so with a written checklist, especially if you intend to do some of the work yourself. As you’ll see, the advice below is not 100 percent extensive. I’d need most of the newspaper to give you one that could be used by every boat. (By the way, if you want a copy of the BoatU.S./Seaworthy article on winterization, email me at the address below and I will email a copy to you.) Some ideas/categories:
Change the oil and oil filters
Change the lubricant in the engine transmission or the outboard lower unit
Apply fogging if called for by manufacturer
Fill the boat’s fuel tanks completely
Add biocide and/or stabilizing agents to fuel
Change the fuel filters
Add antifreeze to the engine’s cooling system
Add distilled water to batteries, charge completely, and disconnect
Before thinking about covering the boat with shrink-wrap or canvas, inspect the hull. Any blisters in the gelcoat? If so, that must be addressed sooner rather than later or it will lead to water infiltrating the hull, making the boat less seaworthy. Stress cracks, which often develop at the bow, need professional attention. Just putting a patch over it and sanding — a la the gelcoat blister — won’t fix that one. It’s structural.
As for washing and waxing the hull, I opt for cleaning now and waxing in the spring.
Does the boat have a cabin of any kind? Get the “moisture-soaker-uppers,” i.e., desiccants, in there. They’re inexpensive and they prevent the buildup of moisture that leads to mold. And don’t forget the hatches, closets, and lazarettes.
Other than covering the boat, the mechanical system is the most obvious place to start. Yours may only be your gasoline-powered 90-HP Johnson outboard. If so, you are going to flush the engine with fresh water. Attach a garden hose to the intake and let it flush, engine off; fog the engine with lubricating oil (be sure the fuel system is disconnected from the engine when you start the process); clean/replace the spark plugs and fuel filter; and lube the carburetor and anything else that moves — choke, cam, starter linkage, etc.
Don’t forget the lower unit (what the prop comes out of). Replace the lube oil. By the way, if you open the drainplug and water comes out first (oil floats), you need to replace the seal. Inspect the prop(s). Any dings? Get a professional to look. A bad wheel can shake your engine apart — that’s your outboard.
Did I ask if you had a diesel engine or an I/O? Does the boat have a transmission? Inboard water system (sink/shower)? Air conditioner? Are the electronics going to stay aboard or come home with the owner?
As you can see, the list is far more extensive than the condensed version above. Have fun, but take care of her! She’s your boat!
If you are interested in being part of USCG Forces, email me at [email protected].