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How to prepare your boat for winter storage

by Nathan Holmes 27 Jun 05:29 UTC
Prepare your boat for winter storage © Nathan Holmes

Thankfully, our Australian winters are not as extreme as our fellow boaters' overseas who often face sub zero temperatures. Nevertheless, there are steps that need to be taken to ensure you'll be ready to hit the water again once spring arrives.

Step 1: Rinse and Flush

Rinsing the outside of your boat and trailer thoroughly with fresh water will remove excess salt. Pay particular attention to your trailers leaf springs, wheel hubs and brakes that are constantly submerged during launching and retrieval of your boat.

Generally, boat trailers are fabricated from Galvanised RHS (rectangular hollow section) steel. Over time, additional holes are often drilled into boat trailers for registration plates, wiring and the installation of new accessories. These holes are a perfect place for salt water to enter the trailer frame and corrode your trailer from the inside out. When rinsing your trailer, try and flush out these holes as best as possible with fresh water.

Flush your engine's cooling system with fresh water in line with your engine manufacturer's salt removal recommendations. This will minimise corrosion and overheating issues come spring.

Tip: Use Starbrite Salt Remover to rinse your boat/trailer and flush your engine. This will greatly enhance the removal of salt and adds a layer of protection to help minimise corrosion.

Step 2: Fuel Tanks

Top off your tank with fresh fuel and add a fuel stabiliser. This will prevent your fuel going stale during storage (which can start to occur in as little as 30 days) as well as minimising any condensation inside the fuel tank. Check out our previous blog on boat fuel tanks and systems to find out more.

Step 3: Batteries

Keeping your batteries maintained during winter storage is an essential step to getting your boating season started off on the right foot once spring arrives. Luckily, you have a few options.

Remove the batteries from your boat and store in your garage. Connect them to a battery charger that will give them a good initial charge (if required) and then it will automatically switch to a float/trickle charge to keep your batteries topped up. Be sure to match your charger to the type of battery you are charging. Using a charger manufactured for lead acid batteries to charge an AGM (absorbent glass mat) battery will cause damage to the battery.

Keep your batteries in the boat and connect a solar trickle charger. These chargers will keep your batteries topped up without the hassle of removing heavy batteries from your boat.

Step 4: Clean and Dry

Prior to washing and cleaning your boat for storage, we recommend removing any loose items like life jackets, electronics, tackleboxes etc. and store inside your garage if possible. Doing this is not only great for security reasons but will also keep them in good condition and mould free.

If you have that all too familiar yellow/brown scum line around the waterline of your boat, remove it by applying some hull cleaner. Follow the instructions on the product packaging and be sure to wear gloves and a respirator for good measure. Prior to applying the hull cleaner to your boat, thoroughly wet down your trailer with fresh water to minimise the risk of damaging the galvanised coating.

Once the scum line has been removed, treat your boat to a good soap water wash down externally with a good quality boat wash and microfibre wash mitt, or a soft brush on an extension pole. Rinse the soap off thoroughly and wipe dry with a chamois or clean microfibre cloth. Letting your boat air dry will introduce water spots, particularly to stainless steel rails/deck fittings, windows, clears and dark coloured hulls.

Moving inside your boat, wipe over hard surfaces with an all-purpose cleaner to remove any salt and dirt marks. For the fishermen out there, be sure to hose your boats out thoroughly to get rid of any fish residue and avoid nasty odours that will develop under your boat cover during the winter months.

Clean your vinyl seating with a specialty vinyl cleaner and a soft brush or microfibre cloth. Follow up with a good quality vinyl guard/protectant. Once your boat is squeaky clean inside and out, let it dry completely before covering.

Tip: If your boat is a little larger, grab yourself a trigger style hose nozzle that you can hook over a rail or cleat so your hose is always within reach.

Step 5: Cover

Once your boat is completely dry inside and out, it is time to cover it up and protect it from dust, pollutants and UV radiation. Covers can be custom made from Sunbrella fabric by a marine trimmer or you can purchase a cover from our extensive range of boat and outboard covers once you have taken a few quick measurements of your boat. Aim to have your cover as tight as possible to prevent bugs and wildlife making a home inside your boat over winter.

Boat covers are often made of breathable fabrics or have vents sewn in. This is essential to ensure that mould does not have an opportunity to grow whilst your boat is covered. One place mould does tend to grow is on your vinyl seating, but this can be fairly easily removed using a mould and mildew cleaner. Be sure to keep the cleaner away from the stitching to avoid damage.

For peace of mind, we recommend placing one or two moisture absorbers inside your boat should it remain covered for an extended period. This will absorb any excess moisture and significantly minimise mould growth.

Step 6: Secure

Storing your boat in the back yard, a garage or a secure storage facility is the most ideal situation for security and insurance reasons. That said, we understand that it isn't always an option and your boat can often end up on the street or in the driveway. Also try to avoid storing your boat under any trees - falling branches may tear your cover.

Installing a trailer hitch lock is a great deterrent for thieves, but don't forget that your trailer has wheels and can be relatively easily rolled away - never to be seen again. Further to the trailer hitch lock, we recommend installing a wheel clamp to one of your trailer wheels. A thief looking for an easy target will surely pass on your boat once they see how well you have it secured.

If your trailer is stored on a hill, engage your boat trailers hand brake (if fitted) or place a chock under each wheel to ensure your trailer stays put.

Last but certainly not least, check if your insurer provides a "lay up" option. This allows you to specify a period of time that you will not use your boat over the winter months. Taking advantage of this option can reduce your premium.

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