By Josh Boyd
There comes a time, every fall, when one must pull their boat from the water and call it a year. Falling waters on most flood control lakes quickly begin to leave the majority of docks high and dry, forcing boat owners to retrieve their vessels, or else be left with a conundrum for the ages. Even if your boat is not kept at the lake, an influx of inhospitable weather still typically places further boating excursions on hold until spring.
Before storing your boat away for a seasonal hiatus, there are a number of winterization related tasks that must be seen to. Properly winterizing your boat makes great strides toward ensuring that your adventures on the water pick up exactly where they left off, the year prior. On the other hand, a failure to store your boat in an intuitive manner can leave one with a laundry list of headaches to sort through during the spring ahead.
The following are several key concerns that should not be overlooked when preparing your boat for winter storage.
Remove and Store All Gear
When preparing to store your boat for the winter, the first order of business is that which pertains to removing and storing all gear that can suffer at the hands of the elements. Remove all items such as fish finders, seats, life vests, trolling motors, batteries, and other fishing-related equipment, placing such items in a safe, dry location.
Prior to proceeding, it is also helpful to elevate the front end of your boat and trailer, to allow any remaining water to exit the rear of the boat. This prevents freezing, which can ultimately lead to stress cracking and other forms of damage when the most bitter of winter weather sets in.
Winterize Your Engine
The next task at hand is to properly winterize your engine. The first step toward completing this process involves adding fuel stabilizer to your boat’s fuel tank. Once introduced, attach a set of flushers, or “muffs” to your engine, and use a hose to circulate fresh water through its water intake. Allow your engine to run for 10-15 minutes, in order to better circulate the above-mentioned stabilizer through your engine’s fuel system.
Next, with your engine still running, you will want to use a can of a fogging agent to treat the internal surfaces within your engine. Spray this treatment into your engine’s carburetors, until the engine itself stalls. This prevents condensation from causing corrosion within your engine’s cylinders.
Now is also the perfect time to inspect your engine for any matters of concern. Check carefully around your propeller for any signs of fishing line or other debris that has inadvertently become
tangled. Oil can also be changed in the engine’s lower unit, while checking for signs of water intrusion. Additionally, all alemites should be greased.
Prepare and Cover Your Boat
Properly covering your boat is perhaps the single most important step of winter preparation. Before doing so, it is always important to take one last look to ensure that all removable items have been secured and placed inside for winter. Additionally, many boaters choose to use a Shop-Vac, to remove any remaining grime and debris from inside their vessels. It can also be worthwhile to wipe down and clean the inside of livewells and storage compartments.
When covering your boat, make sure to use a cover that is of the appropriate size and thickness. This cover should be cinched down in a relatively snug manner, yet should not be so tight as to risk tearing under the weight of light ice and snow. If any sag is observed in your boat’s covering, use a bucket or any other object of the appropriate height to prop up problem areas.
Check Your Trailer
It is always a great idea to give your boat’s trailer a solid once over before being stored away for winter. To do so, begin by jacking up your trailer’s wheels, checking carefully for free-play in all bearings. Spin each wheel to check for brake drag or wheel bearing roar. Also inspect for any signs of grease expulsion, which could indicate a bad wheel seal.
Check to ensure proper operation of all trailer lights, and examine your trailer plug for pin corrosion or damaged wiring. Checking your lights for waterlogging is also a practice of value. If water is found in any trailer light assembly, remove its lens cover, drain all water, and locate a replacement lens cover seal.
Preparing for Downtime
By taking the proper steps to winterize your boat, you are providing yourself with the best possible chance at a trouble-free spring ahead. This allows you to make the most out of your time on the water, rather than being forced to contend with headaches too numerous to count. This fall, follow the above-mentioned steps to ward off old man winter’s imminent attack on your beloved watercraft.