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Getting The Boat Ready for Storage

By Steven Novak - September 23, 2021
A Four-Step Guide to Prepping & Storing Your Boat

As the boating and summer fishing seasons wind down, it's time to prepare to winterize your boat. We've put together this straightforward guide to help you do just that. Don't forget to get your ice fishing gear out and ready at the same time!

1. When to Start Preparing

Don't procrastinate! Putting off planning and gathering supplies can lead to multiple trips to the store, supply shipping delays, and the possibility of not having what you need when the snow flies! We recommend planning and gathering supplies around Labor Day.

2. Cover and Store the Boat

This is typically the last action to take before putting your boat away for the winter, but we've moved it up on the list because there are many cover/protection options available. From shrink-wrapping to indoor storage, researching your options takes time, and the window to make a decision may close on various covers the longer you wait.

Before exploring the options, it is tempting to use your regular boat cover, store it outside, and dust it off when the snow accumulates. Don't do it! A blizzard could tear the cover off, leading to costly damages. Also, exposing your boat cover to winter weather extremes (e.g., freezing, the weight of snow and ice build-up) dramatically shortens the life of the cover.

Here is a high-level look at the most widely used options for covering and storing boats:

Shrink Wrap

5 Year Cost: ~$2,000+
Cost: $12–$25/sq. Ft.(~$200-300/yr.)
  • Good snow/ice protection
  • Good bird/rodent protection
  • Saves time (vs. DIY)
  • Insured
  • Recurring cost of purchasing new shrink wrap
  • Risk of mold/mildew
  • Heavy snow/ice can damage
  • Landfill waste

Pro Cover System

5 Year Cost: ~$425–$1,000
Kit Cost: $425–$1,000*
  • Best snow/ice protection
  • Save design/construction time (vs. DIY)
  • Proven system
  • Poor bird/rodent protection
*Based on the most popular system (Navigloo)

DIY Cover

5 Year Cost: ~$350–$750 plus 10+ hours
  • Good snow/ice protection
  • Saves on materials
  • Time-consuming process of designing, testing and assembling

3. Protect the Engine

Water and ethanol are the enemy! Here is our checklist for prepping a gas boat engine:
  • Use up as much old fuel as practical.
  • Fill the tank with ethanol-free gas.
  • Add a marine fuel stabilizer following the label.
  • Carbureted engines: fog your engine following the owner's manual.
  • Flush the engine according to the owner's manual (may require a flush muff or other attachments).
  • Run the engine to distribute the stabilizer and give your tank a little room for expansion.
  • Check fuel lines and clamps for wear and leaks.
  • Grease the flywheel, linkages, cables, and fittings.
  • Check and clean/replace spark plugs.
  • Drain the oil and look for water in the oil (a sign of gasket leaks).
  • Replace oil and filter following owner's manual.
  • Top off fluids in the power trim/tilt unit.
  • Remove and inspect the prop for cracks and nicks, then grease the spline before reinstalling.
  • Check mounting bolts to ensure they haven't come loose.
  • Lower the engine to the run position to ensure all water drains out.
  • Remove and properly store your battery and label positive/negative battery cables.
Fuel additives do a nice job of cleaning deposits and guarding against corrosion and varnish that can gum up your engine, but they are not meant to stabilize the fuel forever. It is best to use up stabilized fuel as soon as the new boating/fishing season begins.

If you don't have the owner's manual to guide you through conducting an engine flush, there are a number of helpful guides online. You will likely need some adapters for this process.

4. Blow Out Water

Water can freeze in the bilge, live-well, and lines so be sure to remove the drain plugs, clean filters and blow out the system. If you have a bigger boat with plumbing, be sure to pump out what you can and add marine plumbing antifreeze to the system per the owner's manual and manufacturer instructions.

Winterizing your boat is a step-by-step process. You (and your boat) will have a smoother transition into the off-season by taking steps sooner than later, and it will allow you to quickly get onto the water for the next boating and fishing season.

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