They say that the day you buy a boat and the day you sell it are the two happiest days of your life. But somewhere in that time span, you may be faced with the less joyful prospect of prepping your pricey toy for boat storage. When it comes time to take the boat out of water for the season, self storage is a quick and easy solution to keep your boat secure for the winter.
The first thing to do is consult your boat's owner's manual or manufacturer's website, because the last thing you want to do is void your warranty with a botched do-it-yourself haul-out.
Next, decide how and where you're going to store your boat.
Unless you're blessed with one of those McMansion-sized garages or extremely tolerant neighbors who won't mind a boat parked on your lawn all winter, a self-storage facility is a good choice. Quality, affordable, self-storage options include a secure outdoor facility and a quality boat cover or shrink-wrapping.
When you chart your way to winter storage, be sure to properly support your boat while it's out of the water. Sea Ray cautions that "placement of the hull supports is crucial to ensure the hull doesn't become distorted and compromised."1 Whether you use jack stands, blocks, a trailer or a custom cradle, the engines, bulkheads and keel are critical areas to support. Choosing your support system before you haul out will save you a lot of time and hassle as you get ready to store your boat for the season.
The staff at Markel Marine recommends that before you haul your boat out of the water, you take it out for one more trip. Make note of anything that needs to be repaired or replaced before you winterize your boat. You'll have all season to do maintenance, and when spring comes, you'll be boating while everyone else is fiddling with sticky winches, torn sails and tarnished brightwork. If there's any hull damage, fix it ASAP because cracks can get worse during storage.
Get it spic and span. Once it's hauled out, remove the bilge drain plug immediately. Then give your boat's hull and decks a thorough scrubbing to remove gunk, grime, slime and barnacles. Sea Ray recommends cleaning all your thru-hulls and strainers and opening the seacocks so any water can drain out. Leave plenty of time for everything to dry before it goes into storage. This will go faster if you raise the bow of the boat to allow as much water as possible to drain while you perform the other storage preparations. Give the interior a thorough cleaning, too. Clear out the refrigerator, lockers, and any other materials that can spoil or mildew over winter. Leave interior lockers open for more air circulation. You might also want to place mildew control bags throughout the cabin and in compartments so you're not greeted by a nasty stink next spring.
Avoid engine trouble. When winterizing your boat, Alan Stopko, U.S. Coast Guard Master Captain, recommends topping off your gas tank and adding a gas stabilizer to reduce the possibility of condensation. He says he always runs his engine for approximately 15 minutes to make sure the additives reach the gas already in the fuel lines and engine. Experts at Markel Marine advise changing your engine oil and replacing all filters. Also remember to check hoses, belts and clamps, clean your strainers and leave your thru-hulls open. While you're at it, flush the coolant system with water, if necessary, and add antifreeze. Aquaskier warns not to mix ethylene-glycol and propylene-glycol antifreeze formulas as they have different freeze and boiling points. Thoroughly flush one before using the other. But they also highly recommend that you leave the entire process of engine and fuel-system winterization to a qualified mechanic especially when planning for boat storage during winter months.
Clean out the head and other areas. While that certified expert is prepping your engine and fuel system for storage, you'll have more time to clean out the head. Be sure to flush it with plenty of fresh water and to pump out your holding tanks.
Markel Marine's advisors recommend running non-toxic antifreeze through the intake lines, y-valve, macerator and discharge hose. They also say you'll want to drain your fresh water tanks and water heater, and then you should add a non-toxic antifreeze to your water tank and pump it through the plumbing, including ice makers, A/C pumps, sump pumps, fish wells, bilge pumps, and that shower on the transom.
Mark Scocco at Bergen Bass Masters says to remove electronics, including your battery, and store it all in a warm, dry place. Clean the battery terminals to remove corrosion, and grease them lightly. Give the battery a full charge using a charger designed specifically for a marine battery and check fluid levels.2
Phew! Preparing your boat for storage is a lot of work, but it's all part of routine maintenance. Neglect it, and your insurance might not cover any resulting damage.
Besides, when spring comes, while your boating buddies are dealing with boat damage brought on by winter, you'll be the first one back in the water.
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