How to Prepare Your Boat for a Winter Storm


The first step is quite simple – make arrangements to haul your watercraft out of the water. Most marinas have a travel hoist that the staff can use to take boats out of the water . Another option is to trailer the boat out. Once the boat is hauled, you need to decide where it will be stored. Some options include your marina, a reserved spot at a yard, or at your house. Wherever it is stored, make sure it is either inside or shrink-wrapped to protect against wintery conditions.



Now that your boat is out of the water, it’s time to prepare it for winter. Take a look at the areas that you were unable to see while in the water, especially the lower units. Pressure wash the hull and running gear. Remove all barnacles and other growths. Clean the interior with soap and water. Wax and paint the deck and the hull if needed. Check for leaks throughout the vessel. A clean boat will do much better in the winter and the upcoming season versus a boat that has dirt or moisture locked in for a few months.



Certain systems should be drained and replaced, like the engine and cooling system. For your cooling system, thoroughly flush the entire system with warm water. This should get rid of any salt, dirt, or corrosion. Refill with antifreeze when finished. 

If your boat has one or more of outboard motors, start by tilting the four-stroke down into the running position. Remove the drain screw or drain plug. This can be found on either the starboard side or toward the aft. You can now begin to drain the oil. Once it is completely drained, switch the filter and refill the oil. It should reach the full mark on a dipstick. Start the engine and let the oil spread to the crankcase and cylinder head.

For your fuel tank, make sure to change the fuel filter to help avoid a build-up of condensation. Add a fuel stabilizer to the tank, which will lessen the amount of gum and varnish. In addition, spray a fogging oil while the engine is running. This will protect against rust and corrosion. Spray spark plugs, cylinders, and the engine’s exterior as well.



You’ll want every part of the boat to be dry. Any locked in moisture can lead to future damage . Here’s what you can do to avoid moisture and the possibility of corrosion. First, drain the gear case and look for any water. You can tell water has entered if the oil looks discolored. If there is moisture, you should repair the seals. In addition, drain the freshwater tank and hot water heater. Open the seacocks to allow for water to drain. Check the bilges and remove water, dirt, and oil. Drain water from the engine.



Take any valuables, electronics, VHF radios, personal flotation devices, fire extinguishers, flares, fenders, ropes, and ties off the vessel.



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