Winter will eventually arrive; a season when we will no longer be able to enjoy regional boat fishing. Now is the time to get your boat ready for storage.
The approach for long-term boat storage — periods without any use — is different than storing a boat between outings. Following a rigorous winterization routine helps ensure the reliability of your craft come spring.
Fogging oil should be applied to the boat engine’s cylinders before winter. Change the engine oil, and consider replacing the fuel and oil filters. Then disconnect the fuel line and let the motor run until it uses up all remaining fuel in the system. It is suggested the motor should be stored in the down, or running position. If you lack basic engine knowledge, it is best to pay for the winterization process. A maintenance package by a qualified boat dealer mechanic will include several other precautionary steps to protect the engine at a minimal expense. Make sure the job gets done right. If you want to tackle this process, refer to the owner’s manual for instructions on implementing the proper and recommended procedures.
After the battery (or batteries) has received a full charge, disconnect the battery cables, at least the negative cable. These should remain unattached over the winter. Clean both terminals and apply an anti-corrosion spray or grease. If you have easy access to the boat during winter, it is recommended that the batteries get charged at least once a month. Another option is to remove the batteries from the boat to make them more accessible.
The diligent boat owner will fill the gas tank to nearly 100% (it is best to leave a little room for expansion) and add a good fuel stabilizer to stop condensation from forming in the tank. The “E-10” fuel (dubbed for its 10% ethanol content) we now purchase can attract greater amounts of water, ultimately leading to fuel spoilage called “phase separation,” a process were two separate solutions are formed in the gas tank. This can lead to engine damage. A nearly full gas tank limits the flow of air into and out of the vent, which significantly reduces the chance of condensation adding water to the gas.
Pull the plug! Removing the boat’s drain plug is much more important if the boat is to be stored outside. Make sure the drain hole is clear of obstructions so the water can freely exit. To help ensure proper drainage, tilt the trailer tongue, so the bow of the boat is elevated. Remember that frozen water expands and could cause considerable damage to the boat’s hull, most likely leading to leaks. If the boat is small and kept outdoors, it is best to remove the engine and gas tank and store the boat in an upside down position. Make sure it is elevated off the ground. Try not to store any boat under trees.
The boat’s trailer also needs attention. Grease the wheel bearings and make sure the tires are correctly inflated. Use a marine lubricant for the coupler and locking lever used to attach the trailer to the hitch ball. Give the trailer’s hand winch gears, and the tongue jack’s moving parts a liberal coating with an anti-corrosion spray. A spray lubricant should also be applied to all electrical connections to help keep moisture away and reduce the chance of rust forming.
If the boat’s trailer is parked on grass, place small boards under the tires, and also under the wheel of the tongue jack. This prevents dry rot on the tires. Covering the trailer tires will also help slow down the deterioration process. It is a common sight to see the use of plastic tarps to cover boats. Plastic traps condensation. A canvas tarp is a better option. It is best if any covering is fitted correctly to eliminate sagging and the eventual collection of water, which will freeze and can cause damage not only to the cover but the boat as well. Be sure to cover the motor too.
Unless the boat is stored in a very secure location, it is best to remove all valuables. Sonar units, trolling motors, batteries, fishing equipment, anchors, life jackets, lights, all accessories, and even the boat keys can be easily taken. Make sure the trailer tongue is locked for added peace of mind.
Failure to properly prepare your boat and trailer for winter storage is a recipe for disaster and lost fishing time come spring. By following these simple procedures, you can rest assured knowing your boat will be ready and able when the weather warms.