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Winter Services: Yes you need them!

At the end of a perfect boating season, complete with legendary memories, bragging rights, and sun-kissed skin, the last thing you want to think about is winterizing your boat. And honestly, we know it’s a pain, but good news winter boat services are not difficult to find or expensive (unless you have a major repair), and chances are your marina can do most of it for you.


Sunset Harbor Marina, Essex, MD


So, let’s talk about “closing up shop.” You may be wondering which winter boat services are really necessary to prepare your vessel for the off-season, and how to go about winterizing the right way.


Why winterize your boat?

There are lots of little reasons you should winterize your boat every year. But here are the three big ones:


1. You’re not using it - Winter is the perfect time to do annual maintenance on your boat because you’re not using it anyway. Then, when spring rolls around, and you’re itching to get out on the water, you and you’re your boat will be ready.


2. Doing it right takes time - Some types of maintenance, like a new gel coat exterior, can take days of layering to ensure a perfect finish with no cracking. This type of time-consuming maintenance won’t be an annoyance when it’s not boating season.


3. You want to protect your investment - Most people spend a lot of time choosing just the right boat, and a lot of money to purchase it. That’s why you should protect your investment of time and money by ensuring your boat continues to purr for as long as possible.



Some winterization is best left to professionals

Most boaters opt to let the professionals at their marina perform the more substantial winter boat services for them. They know it will get done the right way and it takes the big to-do items off their list. Plus, the proper maintenance that’s done at the end of the season will save you loads of money in the long run.


The best marine mechanics book up quickly. So, be sure to schedule your service early so you can secure a prime date – one that allows you to make the most of boating season, without waiting too late in the fall.


Here is the typical to-do list* the marine mechanics should check off as part of a comprehensive winterization service:


The engine

  • Change the fuel filters and water separator

  • Check the fuel line and bulb (replace if needed)

  • Change the oil

  • Replace the oil filter

  • Apply fogging oil to the engine

  • Replace the water impeller

  • Flush the raw-water system, then fill it with antifreeze rated for your winter climate

  • Top up the coolant level in the freshwater cooling systems

  • Replace plugs

  • Change the transmission fluid

  • Check the wires and rotor cap

  • Check the belts and adjust tension as needed

  • Check the hoses for cracks, bulges, or soft spots

  • Check the hose clamps for corrosion or wear

  • Check the shift/throttle cables and tension, then lubricate the cables and linkage

  • Check the sacrificial anodes and replace if more than 50 percent deteriorated

  • Check the prop(s) for nicks and dents

  • Grease the prop shaft and threads

  • Remove the battery (top up electrolyte level and recharge if necessary) and put on a marine trickle charger


*Depending on your particular engine, there may be a few added steps. In addition to the Engine

  • Flush the bilge and add antifreeze

  • Fill the freshwater system and hot water heater with non-toxic propylene glycol antifreeze

  • Disconnect the hot-water heater

  • Pump out the holding tank and add antifreeze to the head

  • Spray down the electronics connectors with an anti-corrosion lubricant

  • Remove the bulbs from your navigation and running lights and spray the sockets with an anti-corrosion lubricant


The duties of winterization you can do yourself


Even if you have the mechanics at your marina do everything else, you’ll still want and need to do a few things yourself, like remove:

· Valuables

· Electronics

· Linens

· Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs)

· Fire extinguishers

· Flares

· Fenders

· Other loose items


You’ll also want to:

  • Vacuum cushions and mattress (set them upright to allow airflow)

  • Wash out the refrigerator and freezer to stave off mold, mildew, and unpleasant odors in the spring

  • Set out a dehumidifier like No Damp Dehumidifier and a boat odor eliminator like NosGuard to eliminate mildew, mold and their smells

  • Oil hinges and door latches

  • Lubricate all snaps and zippers


While you’re at it:

After all the messy tasks are completed, and everything that should be removed is out of the cabin, you can do the final cleaning or detailing. Now, depending on the condition of your boat, and how motivated you are, you may opt to have your marina do this part as well. Regardless of who does it, here’s what needs to be done:

  • A complete washdown of the boat, using marina-grade washes, cleaners, waxes, and detailers like Yacht Brite Serious Marine Cleaner. You’ll also want to remove all the tree sap, rust stains and water runoff on all the fiberglass. They may not look like much, but stains like these can become permanent by spring.

  • Wax the hull and topsides – at the very least, any topside that will be exposed during the coming months

  • Touch up any nicks and wear in the boat paint to keep them from spreading

  • If you’re planning to leave your canvas up as a boat cover, protect the Isinglass (clear vinyl windows) against damage with a marine vinyl protective like 303 Marine Clear Vinyl Protective Cleaner.


Now that everything is shipshape and in Bristol fashion, you’re done! Your beloved vessel is ready for a long winter’s nap and you can look forward to an easy spring launch.


Written by: Jo Montgomery

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