Tips For Winterizing Your Boat

boats in storage
Summer and fall have passed, and chances are so has your time on the water. You’ve prepped your boat for the winter season, but have you done everything that’s you’re supposed to do? Whether your boat is coming out of the water as things become icy, or it’s left bobbing in the water in a warmer climate, here are a few tips for avoiding some common mistakes you might make when winterizing your boat.
Boats Coming Out of the Water:

If you’re going to be taking your boat out of the water for winter storage, consider these four tips:

  1. Cover your boat. A boat’s hull can keep water in as well as keep it out. All it takes are a couple of leaves getting into the boat’s bilge system to create a situation where flooding can occur, which could potentially damage your boat. Once water (from rain or elsewhere) enters the boat, it may settle in the engine bay or cabin below, requiring expensive repairs.
  2. Plug any holes. Unwelcome guests like insects and mice will most always look for a dry place to call home during the winter. Plug any holes, like exhaust outlets or thru-hulls, with mosquito netting material or something similar to help stop them from getting in, but don’t forget to make sure to leave yourself a note to remove the screen material before launching again in spring!
  3. Charge your batteries. Before leaving them to sit all winter, make sure to fully charge your batteries. According to Cars.com, a battery left in a discharged state (that means it has given up most of its electricity) in a very cold climate will allow the the fluid inside the battery to freeze and expand. and this can sometimes crack the battery case, causing a leak or outright failure. While a full charged battery has a freezing point of nearly -80 degrees Fahrenheit, a discharged battery may freeze around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so a fully charged battery will most likely help you avoid failures come spring and make launching your boat back into the water that much easier.
  4. Add antifreeze. When leaving a boat for the winter, consider adding a few gallons of nontoxic propylene glycol antifreeze to your fully dried bilge. Then, run the bilge pump until the antifreeze comes out your thru-hull (an access hole in a boat’s hull, often used to expel or take in water), to help ensure there is no water in the compartment. Also, if water does happen to make its way into your bilge pump, the antifreeze will help to prevent it from freezing, so it won’t expand and damage the boat.

Boats that are Staying in the Water:

For boats staying in the water through the winter, you might want to think about trying these additional precautions:

  1. Leave moisture traps. In all cabins, leave moisture traps, such as mildew discs, to eliminate excess moisture in the air.
  2. Screen your vents. If your dorade vents (vents that allow for air flow but keep water out) have screens, leave them in place during the winter. If not, add screens to help deter critters and other “unwanted guests” from crawling on board.
  3. De-clutter your deck. Clear the deck of all the unnecessary items (cushions, umbrellas, etc.)  and stow those items below deck.
  4. Add covers. Consider covering all ports and hatches from the inside with ultraviolet-resistant covers to help protect the cabin from sun damage.
  5. Clean out your food supply. Don’t leave any food inside the cabin that will spoil. For non-perishable food, leave it in a zip-top bag or tightly sealed plastic stack-able container to help prevent any excess moisture from getting in.
  6. Lock down your boat from wind. Secure items that may move or blow away in the wind. You don’t want something coming loose and damaging your boat, let alone your neighbors’ pride and joy!

With a little extra care toward your boat in the winter, you can help ensure that next spring you can spend more time on the water and not addressing issues that could have been avoided.