Much as you may hate to hear it – especially in midsummer when the lakes are sparkling and the open water is beckoning – you will eventually have to put your boat to bed for the winter.
The goal, of course, is to ensure it runs perfectly next spring.
“Winterizing and storing properly is actually one of the most important things you can do to protect your boat,” says Adam Pederson, who co-owns Eleven North Marine with Nicole, his wife.
“Your boat is designed to be on the water in above-zero temperatures. But for months on end, you’re keeping it in this unnatural environment – on dry land, well below zero. There are so many things that can go wrong if you’re not careful.”
A lifelong boater, Adam has winterized thousands of boats – and seen the results when other people have failed to winterize a boat properly. He says there are a number of key things to consider to ensure that your boat starts and runs the way it should next spring.
Moisture is bad
First and foremost, he says, your boat has to be dry. Not just “pretty dry” or “dry enough” but as dry as you can possibly get it.
That applies to the mechanical components, of course, but it also applies to the hull and interior fittings.
“Boat motors and transmissions use water as a coolant, and even the most basic winterizing involves draining all that water back out,” Adam says. “If you don’t, of course, it will expand when it freezes, and can crack those very expensive components.”
Even small amounts of moisture can cause damage if hoses and lines aren’t drained and flushed with antifreeze. And while it seems basic, it’s amazing how often it’s not done properly. “I’ve seen it happen where some guy gets busy or distracted while he’s winterizing boats and misses a hose or a connection – particularly if it’s an unusual motor that maybe he hasn’t seen before,” says Adam. “You’ve got to pay attention. You’ve got to care about what you’re doing, or you can miss something.”
Just as important is removing all the moisture from the hull, upholstery, and all of the non-mechanical parts of the boat, and then keeping it out.
“People sometimes think that all you need to do is wrap the boat to keep the snow out, and that’s good enough,” says Nicole. “But that’s just part of it.”
Water can damage electronics as well as latches and hinges just as it damages engines and transmissions, by freezing and expanding. In addition, any moisture that’s trapped in the boat will become a breeding ground for mildew.
“We talk about winterizing a boat, but really we’re spring- and fall-proofing it too,” Nicole explains. “When the sun hits a wrapped boat on a mild day in spring, it can really bring the temperature up a lot. If there’s moisture trapped inside, it becomes a perfect place to grow mould.”
Drying the boat thoroughly before it’s wrapped takes time, but it’s important.
The same goes for giving the boat adequate ventilation. “Vents cost money, so sometimes people will skimp on them,” says Adam. “I hate to see a boat wrapped without enough vents, because I know it’s going to damage it in the long run.”
Change the fluids
Changing fluids is another area that sometimes gets skipped.
Boats run much harder than cars – pushing through water is like driving uphill all the time. The heat from the running components causes the oils to break down, losing their effectiveness. Acids can build up and moisture can get in, causing corrosion as it sits over the winter. And microscopic shards of metal and grit build up in the lubricating fluids, wearing away at the gears, pistons, and other components.
“Changing the fluids and filters is one of the most cost-effective things you can do the lengthen the life of your boat,” says Adam.
Inspect and repair
Winter is also the time to do preventive maintenance on your boat. “When we’re winterizing, we always do a thorough inspection of the boat, paying particular attention to parts that we know are prone to failure and replacing them if needed,” says Adam.
That’s particularly important now, with supply chain issues continuing to plague the marine industry. “If I tell you in June that it’s going to take eight weeks for a part to come in, you’re going to hate me,” Adam says. “If I order a part in November and it takes eight weeks to get here, it doesn’t matter.”
Ultimately, he says, when arranging for winterizing you need to work with someone who remembers that it’s really not about winter: it’s about ensuring the boat is ready next spring for another fabulous, trouble-free, season on the water.
TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN