Winterizing Your Gear

Published in the September 2012 Issue September 2012 Industry

I'm a system person. As in, I have a system for everything, from where I park when I go to the grocery store to what day of the week I check out library books. By approaching things systematically, I feel I save a lot of headache. For example, when it comes to winterizing gear, I am the type who thinks it makes sense to keep a conveniently placed note pad in a Ziploc in order to track things that need to be addressed once the boat is off the water for the winter. Plus I can write down what worked well for me the year before so I know where to start when cleaning everything out.

My husband is the type who would toss the above-mentioned note pad first thing when trying to cut weight. What can I say? He's still a work in progress.

The point is by tracking things that are not working properly or have become outdated, you will know where to start when it becomes time to winterize. And as you embark on the last ride of the season, you can push the painful feelings behind as you look forward to winter projects that will make your boat that much better for next year. Also, if you have a list of steps to take, winterizing won't seem so overwhelming.

Gear Check

After you have your boat out of the water for winter, taking care of your gear is a great place to start. My first piece of advice would be to remove everything for a complete clean down. All the water toys and anything else that has piled up needs to be taken out and placed in a safe spot where they won't be affected by the weather.

Life jackets will need to be removed and hung up in a dry place where they won't mildew. Take any utensils, cups and dishes inside and run them through the dishwasher. Naturally it makes sense to immediately remove them after the dry cycle and return them to your boat so you won't have to worry about it again, but consider that optional.

Once everything is out, wipe down all the storage containers and the vinyl floor. I like to use 1/2 cup ammonia, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda and a gallon of water all mixed together in a bucket. This natural cleaner saves money, plus is easier on your skin than some store-bought materials.

Don't forget to clean the carpets. If it snaps out you may want to consider taking it in to be professionally cleaned so it looks newer for longer. If it doesn't come out, most marine grade carpet can be scrubbed down with warm water and soap. It wouldn't hurt to check in your owner's manual for manufacturers recommendations though.


Air Supply

Once the boat is cleaned, remember to leave the interior doors and storage compartments open so air can circulate. This will prevent mildew and other nasty buildup. Right before you close it up, a couple of strategically placed DampRid products will work wonders. If moisture is not removed, dampness and humidity can cause problems such as creating a musty smell, enabling rust to develop, and causing rot and damage to wood, carpet, upholstery, fixtures and electronics. Controlling moisture in a stored vessel is that much more important because it can also cause aggressive metal corrosion. If you haven't taken proper measures to keep things dry, when you put the boat back into the water, you might find areas of damage and destruction.

Don't forget about your anchor. Pull it out and rinse the mud off the chain and rope. An old toothbrush will have it looking shining like new in no time. If you have nylon rope onboard, make sure you soak it in warm water and lay it out to dry before packing it up.

Carefully inspect canvas and upholstery for any tearing. Winter months are the perfect time to get those repairs done. Not only do you have more time to look around for the best bargain, but your "no hurry" attitude will earn you brownie points with the repair person.

I'm not the only person who has set ways. When I was looking for more tips to add to my to-do list, a few of our forum members offered some input.

"We have our boat on a lift and I do keep a battery tender on it," suggested PDB forum member cwag911 "I keep fresh fuel in the tank and go out of my way to get ethanol-free fuel and add a stabilizer.

Added forum member Nightfisher, "I do a general looking over for any damaged wires, leaks, nests, etc. If you cover your boat instead of storing it indoors, be sure the cover is adequately supported. Snow gets heavy quick and you may still need to run out and knock snow off. Common sense should tell you what to take off your boat if you store it somewhere. If you don't want it stolen, take it off."

"I take our boat from the marina and keep it in under roof storage," posted bigkahuna on the forum. "This way it's protected from the sun, snow and ice. I take everything out of the boat including skis, tube, wakeboard, ski jackets, lifejackets, flotation pillows, noodles, anchors, etc. and put it my shed for the winter. This way everything has a chance to air out as well as the boat storage compartments. I leave all of the seats in the open position and the final thing I do is put two plastic containers on the floor (one in the front and one in the back) that contain mothballs to keep the critters away."

The worst part about owning a boat is putting it away for the winter. No more sunset cruises. No more family fishing excursions. Just staring at your boat under the cover wishing the sun would start shining. On second thought, please disregard everything you just read in this article. Let's pack up the necessities, sell everything else off and move to Mexico or anywhere else where the sky comes clear and the water's always blue.

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