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Boat Maintenance / April 8, 2021

De-winterize your boat

There’s a saying that goes, “Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit.” Considering the plentiful waterways and shorelines around Canada, boat owners are now plotting fantastic adventures for the upcoming 2021 boating season. Although the next sunny, spring day might beckon you to get out on the water, there’s important work to be done before launch: de-winterize your boat.

Truth be told, the actual first step to de-winterizing your boat should have occurred last fall when you winterized your boat for storage. A successful winterizing will have a positive impact on the de-winterizing process.

When to de-winterize your boat motor

Timing your boat de-winterization is critical. Depending on where your boat is located, you’ll want to wait until your region experiences its final frost of the season, especially before de-winterizing your boat motor, because no one wants to do it twice. British Columbia is already frost-free, but some Ontario and Quebec boat owners might have to wait for the last frost to drop. Also critical; consulting your boat’s manual for de-winterizing tips specific to your vessel. For a helpful guideline to the overall process, Discoverboating.ca offers boaters a free, downloadable PDF checklist. (link below)

“Short cuts don’t always take you to your destination any faster.”

That surely applies to de-winterizing your boat as you inspect, repair, and clean.
Take the time necessary to perform a comprehensive inspection of your boat’s hull, engine, power (battery and electrical), and plumbing systems. Once you take the tarps off and check for:

  • >Blisters, distortions of cracks in the hull before painting
  • Worn-out or brittle hoses/connections, cables, and belts
  • Evidence of leakage from the fuel tank and fuel lines
  • Charging capability of the battery, and any electrical system issues
  • Any deficiencies in the safety equipment (including fire extinguishers fully charged, life vests in good condition, and emergency communication devices are in proper working order)
  • Any evidence of wildlife that may have “moved in” during the winter

“The sea finds out everything you did wrong.”

    • Repair or replace the parts/equipment that doesn’t pass the inspections.
    • Refill your cooling system, check your oil level, and repair and any damage to canvas or vinyl elements on the boat.

Now she’s ready for a thorough cleaning, polishing, and weatherproofing should your boat feature wood.

De-winterize your boat motor

Start with a visual inspection of the propellers for cracks, pings, and pitting. Check the propeller bearings in case they need replacing, and ensure propellers are securely attached.

An outboard engine needs to be submerged in water before starting and performing a running test. For Inboard engines, it’s best to consult the owner’s manual first, as they are more complex and the process really varies from model to model.

If there is any step during the de-winterizing process that you are unsure of, don’t hesitate to consult with professional technicians. Not everyone is a certified marine mechanical technician, and no one should be ashamed to admit that!

“Vessels large may venture more, but little boats should keep near shore.”

Boat owners might get so involved with the de-winterizing of the boat, that they might overlook the trailer. Get the trailer ready for transport before the first launch of the season with the following tips:

      • Check frame for rust; clean and paint if needed
      • Check tires are in good condition with proper tire pressure
      • Test brake lights, brakes, and electrical connections
      • Check the condition of pads and rollers
      • Lubricate wheel bearings, tongue jack, wheel, and winch
      • Ensure registration is valid

Because it’s probably been a while since you towed your boat, the following tips will refresh your memory for a safe ride to the boat ramp:

      • Check your vehicle brakes – a boat on a trailer is a heavy load, make sure your vehicle brakes are up to the task
      • Check that your vehicle tires and trailer tires all have the correct pressure
      • Secure every loose item on the boat
      • If your boat blocks the tail lights (we’re looking at you, pontoon boats) used wired lights and secure them someplace visible
      • Adjust your side mirrors. If necessary, add side-mirror extensions to improve your field of view

“A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.”

De-winterizing your boat and prepping it for the coming boating season is not the only way to ensure a safer journey. Increasing your knowledge and skill with a boating course will make you a more confident boater.

Boat disposal…the right way

Should you pull the tarps off this spring, and decide it’s time to retire the old boat, you will need to consult with a boat disposal expert, and they will determine the cost based on the size, type, and state of the vessel. There are plenty of parts on a boat that may be repurposed, recycled, or properly disposed of, and once again, a professional boat disposal expert will see to it. Boat owners take note: Due to environmental hazards and safety issues, abandoning a boat is illegal in Canada. Please dispose of your boat the right way.

De-winterizing a boat does take some time and involves quite a variety of tasks and skills, and all the while you’ll probably be thinking, “I’d rather be boating.” However, your care and attention to boat maintenance pays off threefold: increases your boat’s longevity, maintains its value, and ultimately, your enjoyment.

Resources to de-winterize your boat

Discover Boating checklist PDF
Farmer’s Almanac: First and last frost dates
Discover Boating: De-winterizing your engine
Boater Skills: Ontario boat courses and clinics
Boating BC: What to do with an old boat

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