Winter is coming – so now is the time to winterize your boat

For many British Columbians, November means the onset of winter weather, meaning its likely time to put away your paddles and oars for the year – and taking the time and effort to properly store your boat for colder weather is one of the most important things you can do as a boat owner to ensure your vessel has a long life.

There are some tips and tricks to be aware of, and several important steps to save you time and keep your boat in great form over the winter months. Boat winterization varies depending on the size and type of your vessel.

It’s a good idea to store smaller boats out of the water in a dry, warm and covered area where they can be protected from the winter elements. If a garage or a private area is not accessible, look for a marina that offers dry boat storage or is climate-controlled. If that’s not an option, be sure your boat is covered with a tarp and all water has been drained. Give your boat a thorough inspection and clean it using an environmentally-friendly detergent. Any moisture left on your boat can cause mould and mildew, especially if the boat is to be stored for several months, and salt water damage can be even worse. Water can also cause significant damage if it freezes – use a non-toxic antifreeze for fresh water systems, and hot water heaters and a small amount in the bilge to prevent freezing.

The next step is to tend to the engine. For inboard engines, change the oil and filters, flush with fresh water and circulate antifreeze through a couple of cycles. Remember to remove spark plugs when the engine cools. For stern drive engines, remove any barnacles and marine growth. Check the gear oil for milkiness –it could mean leaking seals. Flush outboard engines with fresh water. Before draining water from the engine, disconnect the fuel hose and run the engine until it stops. Remember to grease any moving parts. Air in fuel tanks can cause condensation. To prevent this, top-up your fuel tank before storing it and treat the fuel with a fuel stabilizer.

If you cover your boat with a tarp it can scratch shiny finishes when they billow in the wind. A solution is to pad your boat first or discard the tarp altogether and shrink wrap your boat. With shrink wrapping, it’s important to make sure the vessel is dry as moisture can cause mould to accumulate.

Boating is a year-round activity in B.C. Many recreational boaters still hunt and fish during the winter and boating is an important form of transportation in the province.

If you plan on boating this winter, remember to keep these tips in mind: Always let someone know your float plan, including where you will be and what time you’re expecting to be back. Always wear a flotation device. There is a higher risk of hypothermia in the winter. Always bring a communication device with you and an extra power source. Assess the weather conditions before you leave and never boat under the influence.

Lisa Geddes is the Executive Director of Boating BC, the voice of recreational boating in B.C., that is comprised of 315 member companies that represent all aspects of the boating industry.

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