Whether we own sailboats or powerboats, we need to think about winterization. Here in the Pacific Northwest we might think our winters are mild, but certainly those of us that have spent previous winters here know, the cold coming down from the Frazier valley can be brutal, not only to ourselves, but our boats as well. So hopefully these tips will keep your boat from unnecessary winter damage.
The objective of winterization is primarily to prevent ice damage to your hull materials, engine, water lines and fuel lines. Freezing ice can cause parts of the boat to expand and crack, and the cold can also cause many changes in the materials of which the boat is made. We’ll outline all the winterization steps below.
What winterization involves
The most basic element of winterization is draining the boat of any water that may have found its way aboard, replacing it with antifreeze. Water, as many of us know, expands when it freezes, unlike all many other liquids, which can contract. The expansion rate varies somewhat with whatever additional substances are present. For fresh water, it is about nine percent, and the force with which it pushes outward can amount to thousands of pounds per square inch. (For comparison, the atmospheric pressure on your body is about fifteen psi). Such pressure can be extremely dangerous to the parts of your boat — within the course of a single night, it can damage the fiberglass, destroy the refrigeration system, split the hoses or produce cracks in the engine block. Engine cracks have been the cause of 75 percent of all boat insurance claims, according to ten-year study by BoatUS Marine Insurance.
In most cases, when you fail to winterize your boat, the consequences will not begin to manifest themselves until the springtime — you go up to check on it after the thaw and notice that the engine block has a crack in its side, and brown froth is spewing therefrom, or you take out the dipstick and it has some brownish liquid that looks like chocolate milk. In too many cases, the engine needs to be replaced completely, and even if it does not, fixing the problem takes a great deal of work. By the time the expensive repairs are done, much of the boating season has already gone by.
Here is a list of the winterization tasks that should be performed on your boat each year, area by area. It has been compiled by BoatUS Marine Insurance.
In the engine room
- The oil and the filter should both be changed, as should the fuel filters or separators.
- The tanks should be filled, with stabilizer added to the gasoline.
- The level of coolant in the freshwater-cooling system should be checked and increased if necessary.
- Antifreeze should be run through the raw-water-cooling system and used to fill the water strainers.
- On the gasoline engine fog the cylinders.
- The battery electrolyte level should be at its maximum, and the marine charger should have batteries connected.
The check list for this part is basically the same as that for the engine: The oil, filter, fuel filters and separators should all be changed, additional coolant put into the freshwater-cooling system if necessary, and antifreeze put into the water strainers and run through the raw-water-cooling system.
On the outboards
- The installed fuel tanks, like the engine, should be filled and stabilizer added.
- The gear case should be drained and fresh lubricant added.
- The flush engine should be flushed
- The unit should be stored in the lowest possible position.
- Anodes should be inspected and replaced if necessary.
- The fuel in the portable tanks should be stored at home during the winter.
Now once you’ve gotten these things taken care of, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and relax knowing you’ll be ready to go come next boating season!