Winterising Your vessel
Well someone has definitely flicked the switch on the big fridge in the sky and winter is well and truly here. For many of us, the urge to go boating disappears and our pride and joy gets put to bed for the winter. The problem is though, alot of people don't prepare their boats for hibernation and when it comes time to use the boat again, the thing doesn't want to start or runs like a dog. Here are a few simple tips to take the angst out of getting back on the water when the weather warms up.
Bearing in mind I am not a marine mechanic, the best tip I can give you is to consult your engine manual, it will have instructions on how best to winterise your particular engine. I would also encourage you to discuss your options with your marine mechanic. The following information is intended for use as a general guide only and may not be applicable to all vessels, engines and circumstances.
- Disconnect your battery and put it on a charger regularly over winter.
- Vessel. Make sure your vessel is nice and dry before putting any covers and/or tarps over it. This includes any ski gear, life jackets and the like. Give your engine a light spray with something like CRC or Inox and even consider leaving the engine cover/cowling off if there is no risk of the engine getting wet. Moisture will lead to mould and nasty stuff like that if it can't dry out. Have a look around the boat and if you can see any signs of corrosion starting, give it a light spray with CRC as well, or better still, clean it up over the winter. If you are walking past the boat and have a spare minute or two, turn the steering to help keep it from seizing.
- Fuel - you have a few options here. If you use premium fuel, it should be OK to leave the fuel in the tank over winter but you should freshen it up with the same amount of new fuel when using the boat again when the weather warms up. That is to say, if you have 20 litres of premium in your tank, you should add 20 litres of fresh fuel to it.
- Alternatively, empty the fuel tank completely and use the old fuel in your mower or something like that and start the summer with brand new fresh fuel. This will assist in halting any moisture/water in the fuel tank.
- Run the engine. If you don't really want your boat out of action be prepared to run the engine every 4-6 weeks to keep things lubricated and working. This may not be suitable for all inboards but there is no problem running an outboard on a set of muffs. After ensuring there is no-one anywhere near the prop, engage forward and reverse gears as well to get the gearbox oil moving and keep the inner workings of the gearbox lubricated but remember, make sure nobody is anywhere near the back of the boat at any time when you do this. That prop is just like three or four knife blades whizzing around and will cause severe injury if it comes into contact with a person.
- Fuel conditioner. Consider using a fuel conditioner if you aren't able to empty the fuel tank. By all reports, using a fuel conditioner is a cheap and easy way to prolong the life of your fuel, restrict water contamination and maintain the octane level of the fuel.
- Fogging. Once again, please consult your engine manual or discuss with your marine mechanic when considering 'fogging' your engine. If your vessel is used in salt water, fogging is well worth considering. If your vessel is used in fresh water only, 'fogging' may not be required.
- Trailer. Winter might be the perfect time to replace your lights or wiring that might have been starting to play up by the end of last season. It doesn't hurt to check your wheel bearings either and even move the trailer slightly every now and again to avoid any flat spots on your tyres. Don't forget, your trailer is just as important as your boat. Without the trailer, the boat doesn't even make it to the water and you need to maintain it as you do the vessel itself. Check for damaged rollers and the frame for any signs of damage or cracks.
The small amount of time you spend on winterising your vessel now may well save you twice as much time and expense when it comes to getting your boat back on the water next boating season.