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The procedure for properly winterizing a boat

The procedure for properly winterizing a boat

If you are not lucky enough to be outside in warm regions, you cannot avoid winterizing the boat. It does not matter whether the boat is in the water, in an outdoor warehouse or in a hall. Once temperatures drop below freezing, permanent damage can be expected if you haven’t taken precautions.

In this article, we will explain in detail what measures you should take in the fall to winterize your boat.

Prevent frost damage to the ship

The main danger at temperatures below zero is that water expands when it freezes. Anyone who forgets to drain the water during the winter runs the risk of pipes and tanks bursting under high pressure. Therefore, the first priority is emptying and disinfecting fresh water tanks and draining water from pipes, pumps, boilers and outdoor showers.

The same applies to the on-board toilet. Here, too, the water is drained and the toilet is cleaned. You can also lubricate the toilet pump at the same time. Do not forget to empty the collection tank and rinse it with clean water. (This is where leaks are particularly problematic…)

Water must also not freeze in the ship’s diesel cooling system. With dual-circuit cooling, the coolant in the internal circuit must provide protection against frost down to -20 degrees. The coolant can be tested with an antifreeze tester and replaced if in doubt. The seawater circuit can either be completely drained (see the manufacturer’s instructions), or antifreeze liquid can be allowed to flow through it. You can also use this opportunity to replace the anodes in the cooling system and possibly to descale the seawater circuit.

In general, all sea faucets should be open during the winter so that the water can drain away undisturbed.

Management and maintenance of security-related systems

To avoid unpleasant surprises, you should check and lubricate all taps for leaks and corrosion. You should also check the hoses for cracks and check the condition of the hose clamps. And the sewage pump should also be checked for functionality and possible cracks in the membrane.

If possible, you should take safety equipment such as life jackets and life jackets, as well as fire extinguishers, from the deck. Especially if the fire extinguishers are not frost-resistant. This is also a good time to check the expiration dates of lifeboats, lifejackets and fire extinguishers so that maintenance can be carried out over the winter if necessary. Even if it is not yet due for maintenance, you should check the salt tablets and pressure tanks and (carefully) remove salt residues from the rescue equipment.

The (tying) cords should also be visually inspected for damage. Especially for steel and aluminum boats, timely inspection and replacement of anodes is essential. But the anode of the shaft in GRP boats should not be neglected either. To prevent electrolytic corrosion on the propeller and shaft, you should change them every season.

The gas system on board, if available, also requires some attention: you should remove the gas cylinders from the deck and check the drain holes of the gas box for blockages. You should also check the batteries and the functioning of the gas and smoke detectors, and when the time comes, make an appointment to test the system.

For sailboats

On sailboats, the gear and keel must also be checked. End caps, feet, covers, cotter pins and screws must be checked for hairline cracks and replaced if necessary. The spacers should be tight with no play. In general, you should check the entire rig for corrosion and check the mast electronics to prevent corrosion or short circuits caused by frayed cables. The contacts should be lubricated with Vaseline and protected from water.

Check the tightness of the hydraulic systems of the mast lining and the lifting keel, especially at the ends of the strap.

Once the boat is out of the water, it is a good idea to check the hull and keel connection for cracks and if possible to check the keel bolts for corrosion.

Winterize the boat drive

The propeller should be cleaned and free of grass, dirt or similar vegetation. Propeller nuts and cotter pins should be checked for tightness and damage. All anodes on the drive system must be checked regularly.

Seawater cooling impellers should be replaced and an oil change is always recommended at the end of the season. The fuel and oil filters should also be changed and the oil level in the gearbox should be checked, as well as the V-belts.

You should check the shift cables and levers and lubricate them if necessary, and the air filters should be cleaned from time to time. Winterizing the boat is also a good time to check all the hoses and lines of the propulsion system. And if necessary, the valve clearance on the cylinders is adjusted.

If possible, either fill the diesel tank completely (with bio-free diesel and/or additives to prevent the diesel problem) or empty it completely. Check all hoses and lines and check the seawater cooling vacuum valve and clean if necessary.

If a sail drive is installed, you should check the cuff seal and renew the paint if necessary.

For drive systems with a rigid shaft, the shaft seal should be checked, relubricated and the shaft checked for excessive play. You should also check the cooling water supply for blockages.

For Z drives, you should also check and grease the shaft and repaint it if necessary, just like with a sail drive. In addition, the drive and exhaust gaskets should be checked for cracks or brittleness. You should also check and relubricate the cross joint. For balance cylinders, you should check the hydraulic oil level and replace the hoses if necessary.

Winterize the on-board electronics and batteries

When storing on-board electronics for the winter, it is mainly about finding corrosion and possible short circuits at an early stage. All contacts, (protective) switches, fuses and cables should be checked in this way. The plug contacts can be sprayed with silicone grease. Before placing the mast, it is necessary to check the external and internal lighting as well as all the marker lights and then lubricate the contacts. The function of the FI switch should also be checked. Valuable or sensitive electronic equipment should be removed from the deck whenever possible.

If they are not maintenance-free, the ship’s batteries should be topped up with distilled water. If possible, they should also be unloaded or otherwise fully charged at the beginning of winter storage and at least every two to three months thereafter. If the batteries are removed, you should lubricate the contacts to prevent corrosion.

From batteries, clocks, detectors, etc. remove the small alkaline batteries and rechargeable batteries and replace them with new ones in the spring.

Covering the ship in an outdoor warehouse

If the boat is not in the hall, it is necessary to properly cover the boat during the winter. This prevents rainwater from collecting in the deck and below deck areas and freezing there. The boat is also protected from leaves and other debris.

It is important that a stable sheet resistant to UV radiation is used. The sail is stretched over a mast or other scaffolding fixed on the deck so that the sides are as steep as possible. The water runs off so easily and the snow does not stay on the sheet for long.

Ideally, you should dismantle the stanchions in advance to avoid unnecessary wind pressure on your legs. In addition, the roof of the tent can be stretched steeper.

But it is also important that you do not pack the boat completely airtight, but that there can be a draft under the sail. Otherwise, water will condense under the sail and the cushions in the hold will quickly be destroyed.

If the boat is to be wintered on a trailer or slipway, it is advisable to raise the car to lighten the axles and tires.

Other maintenance and care work on the ship

Depending on the type of boat and the required level of care, not all points in this section are absolutely necessary.

Winterization of the ship’s deck

Clamps, (anchor) winches and deck fittings should be rinsed with clean water and greased if necessary. (Sliding) hatches and doors should also be lubricated and checked for leaks.

If necessary, the hull can be cleaned, for example, with Gilbentferner and polished. You should rinse the underwater hull with a high pressure hose and in particular clean the trunk impeller, the sonar sensor and check that they are working properly.

You should rinse the anchor chain and anchor box with fresh water, as well as lines and fenders. This way, you will avoid salt crusts that attract moisture during the winter.

Winterization of the ship below deck

In the kitchen, you should clean the stove, oven and also the refrigerator. All supplies must be landed to avoid attracting rodents. Fridges, cupboards and cupboards should be left open to ensure good ventilation. If necessary, now is a good time to oil doors and locks. You can check wood surfaces for areas that need repair and put them on your winter storage to-do list.

All upholstery should be placed vertically for ventilation, or even better completely outside the deck. Fabric covers can be removed and cleaned during the winter. Floor boards are also best placed upright to ventilate the drain. You should clean the drains themselves as much as possible and wipe them dry.

For sailboats

Depending on the need for care, the installed mast can be cleaned and possibly polished. Standing and running ropes should be well marked and stored so that you can find everything again at the beginning of the season. Sensitive clickers or anemometers should be packed as securely as possible. After the season, you should rinse the winding system with fresh water and check the sails for damage and store them in a dry place, loosely folded. Ideally, you take all the sails off the deck. A regular inspection by the sailboat manufacturer is always a good idea to identify and repair any damage in time.

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