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Winterizing Your Boat

Whether the boat is under a cover or not, There are a number of things you should do:

1. On sailboats, strip and clean winches. This gets rid of the salt residue that could combine with the winch grease to clog the gears next season.

2. Remove the compass and stow it in a cool, dry place. If you leave your compass exposed to the sun, the alcohol could expand and seep out. When the alcohol cools, a bubble will form at the top of the compass.

3. Remove all electronic instruments from your cockpit or bridge unless they are bolted down. Exposed instruments may get battered by the weather and malfunction next year- or they may get stolen.

4. Scrub and oil teak decking and covering boards before covering the boat. This will help preserve the teak over the winter when cold and dry winds may desecrate it.

5. Make sure that you have built up several coats of varnish on brightwork. Many experts we talked to consider seven to nine coats a minimum for a New England or Florida winter. Without varnish protection, fresh water can penetrate into cracks and turn wood black. If you build up enough layers of varnish, you will only have to cut the top layer back before applying a new layer next year.

6. We recommend that all masts be removed. This helps prevent fatigue damage to mast fittings and the hull. It also exposes less windage to the might of winter’s gale, making your boat less vulnerable to being blown over. (If you cannot remove the mast, make sure you tie the halyards away from the mast. At 4 a.m. on a Winter’s morning, clanging halyards are a way of showing your neighbor’s how inconsiderate one may be. Masts are made of several different types of metals, and corrosion can occur even in winter if they are not adequately insulated from one another. When the mast has been pulled from the boat, you should remove the windex, wind instruments and any masthead antenna. These will be safer at home. Use messenger lines and remove all the halyards. They should be soaked in warm soapy water to remove salt and to keep them soft and pliable. Remove the roller furling gear and store it under cover. Over the winter it should be serviced and cleaned. Finally, check all the toggles and pins to make sure they are not bent. Replace any that show signs of stress or bending. Also, check each shroud and spreader ending for signs of corrosion or wear. If you find problems, get a qualified Rigger to look the rig over.

7. Pull the anchors and anchor chain from their lockers, power-wash them and lay them out. Check anchor pins and bow rollerpins and replace bent ones. This is a good time to mark your chain. Mark it at 1 fathom for the first 10 fathoms and then at 2- or 3-fathom intervals. This way, you’ll know how much of the rode is out. Use a white painted link for one fathom, red for two, green for three, blue for four, and so forth. Wind a short length of wire around a link at 10 fathoms so you can tell by feel. Paint two links when you run out of colors. Wind a length of wire around two links at 20 fathoms and so on . Clean the chain locker( making sure drains are clear) and the bow roller and get the windlass serviced.

8. Check all the stanchions and lifelines. If a stanchion has been bent it should be replaced. If a stanchion base has come loose it should be removed, re-caulked and bedded with stronger backing plates. Check plastic-covered lifelines for nicks and cuts. A cut can let salt water through the plastic where it can corrode the wire core, rendering the lifeline useless.

9. At the helm, remove the steering wheel and get the steering gear checked out. If it Is wire, make sure it is greased and oiled and that all sheaves have guards and run freely. Check hydraulic steering for leaks and dips. Make sure that all seals, valves and lines are free of corrosion.

10. Remove all gratings and loose woodwork. These can be taken home and stored in a dry, warm area where you can work on them over the winter. If you wish, you can schedule varnishing or oiling while the gear is out of the boat.

11. Remove dodgers, awnings and biminis. Carefully roll any clear plastic windows and store them where they won’t be damaged. Any service work should be scheduled over the winter when rates are lower and and time is available. On a sailboat, remove all sails, take them home and wash them with warm soapy water. Dry sails carefully, fold them and store them where mice or vermin cannot get at them, or take them to a sail loft for maintenance. If you do it yourself, check your sails over carefully. Look for torn stitches along each seam. Check each corner of the sail for distortion in the “D” or “O” rings. Look for stress lines and de-lamination radiating out from the corner. Also check the luff tape for wear and rips. If you see any of the above, the sail should go to a sailmaker for repair. Take it in early. Sailmakers are glad for the work in winter,
and you can probably negotiate a lower rate than during the spring rush.

12. Make sure hatches are dogged down tight and locked. Boats left open under a winter cover do get better air cri-Celation, but they may also attract thieves or vagrants.

13. Remove your life raft, life jackets and harnesses. Send the life raft back for a checkup. Examine your life jackets and harnesses. If the life jackets are inflatable, have your dealer check them and replace The inflator mechanisms if needed.

14. If you have a dinghy, take it home. Don’t leave it in the dinghy rack all winter. It may need a little TLC or varnishing. If you regularly leave it in the water, make sure the bottom is cleaned and anti-fouled. Check the rub rail and fenders to ensure that no screw heads (that can scratch up your topsides) are protruding.