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  • BOATING: Winterize Your Boat

    Winterize Your Boat
    by Lenny Rudow
    Awww, shucks! Winter’s closing in, and you need to safely stow your fishing machine for the season. Bummer. But make sure you do this job, and get it done right. Otherwise, when spring rolls around you might be spending your cash on big repair bills, instead of umbrella rigs and trolling rods.

    ENGINES – Obviously, the engine is the most important part of any boat to winterize. If you have an outboard, you’re lucky: simply tilt it down and it’ll drain completely. There is NO NEED to run anti-freeze through an outboard, and any yard that says different is
    merely trying to pad the bill. If you use your outboard every month or so, fogging isn’t necessary either. If the engine will sit for months on end, however, fog it before lay-up. This is also a good time to do your oil changes, especially on the lower unit—if there’s been water intrusion and you don’t notice now, there could be freeze damage when that water turns solid. But don’t change the spark plugs at this point; wait until after you run the fogging oil out of the engine in the spring, or you’ll foul your brand new plugs as soon as you turn the key.

    Inboards and stern drives need a bit more attention. First and most importantly, READ THE OWNER’S MANUAL before you winterize it. Each engine is a bit different, and may require unusual draining here and antifreeze there. That said, in general you’ll want to pull the plugs and drain the block and manifolds. Next run anti-freeze through the engine (in some cases it can be poured in; in others you’ll pull the intake hose, put it in a bucket of antifreeze, and run the engine) until you’re positive it’s thoroughly protected. If you have an I/O, you’ll also have to change that lower unit oil. Again, check your owner’s manual to get more specifics on exactly what your engine needs for safe hibernation.

    Before we move on to other parts of the boat, let’s also remember to treat our fuel. Fill the tanks to prevent condensation, then add a healthy dose of a modern fuel stabilizer that fights ethanol issues. Star Tron has proven its effectiveness to me through several years of use, but there are other brands on the market which some guys swear by; pick your poison.

    MACERATED FISHBOXES also need to be protected. Luckily, these are easy to deal with: Pour a dose of non-toxic antifreeze down the drain while the pump runs, and don’t stop until antifreeze comes out of the drain’s through-hull fitting.

    FRESHWATER SYSTEMS will need a healthy dose of antifreeze, but common ethyl glycol antifreeze is highly toxic, and should never be used in a freshwater system. Choose a propylene glycol formula which is non-toxic, for this job.

    Drain the system by opening up the fill and all faucets on the boat, and letting them run until they sputter with air. Then close all the faucets and hoses except the one farthest from the freshwater tank. Pour antifreeze into the inlet until some runs out from that faucet. Then close it, and open next-nearest faucet. Work your way closer and closer to the freshwater tank, opening and closing each faucet until it runs with antifreeze, until you reach the end of the line. Finish by pouring a splash of antifreeze into each drain in the system.

    RAW WATER WASHDOWNS need protection, too. After running them dry, remove hoses from threaded fittings so no water remains inside. Then pull the intake hose off the seacock, put it into a bucket of antifreeze, and pump until it spits out of the spigot.

    THE HEAD is also going to need some attention. If you have a portable head the entire job can be completed by emptying it, washing it out, and stowing it wherever the smell won’t bother you. Fixed heads require a lot more work. First, pump the holding tank dry and flush the system with freshwater until it’s clean. Next, pump in the antifreeze until it fills all of the lines and valves. (Check your owner’s manual to find out which type of antifreeze is best; in some cases, certain varieties may damage the system). The easiest way is usually to remove the raw water intake hose from the seacock, put it into a jug or bucket full of antifreeze, and pump the head you can see or hear antifreeze flowing into the holding tank.

    THE HULL also needs some freeze protection. Most importantly, pull the plug(s) and drain out any bilge water. If there are any areas in the hull which have standing water in them, soak it up with a rag. Now cover the boat with shrink wrap or your winter cover. Stand back, admire your handiwork, and try not to cry—winter will be over before you know it!Boating

    You can find more specific Atlantic coast, bay and ocean hotspots and how-to/where-to fishing and boating information in many of y Lenny Rudow's books. Check them by clicking here

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