How to winterize a boat

23 November 2017 On The Water

Winterizing a boat.
Here is a checklist to help ensure the cottage boat is properly prepared for the winter and is ready to go in the spring.

Boat Winterizing Checklist

How do you winterize your boat?
Whether we leave the boat at the cottage, at the marina or take it home we have to follow a few important steps to avoid problems in the spring. For outdoor storage, it really is important to winterize the boat properly.

1. Boat Ignition System
Make a note to check the ignition switch is completely off and take the keys out.

After we pull the boat out of the water it is easy to forget to remove the keys because we are usually in a hurry. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to get the boat onto the trailer and it can be stressful if there’s an audience – especially when someone else is waiting to use the boat ramp.

If you want to leave the keys with the boat over the winter, consider attaching them to the steering wheel.

2. Battery
Disconnect the boat battery when you prepare the boat for winter storage. If possible, it is a good idea to take it out and charge it again in the spring before you start the new season. If you do this, write a special reminder on the spring checklist. Mine is in big letters – PUT THE BATTERY BACK IN THE BOAT.

3. Boat Drain Plug
Remove the drain plug and use a string or rubber band to attach the drain plug to the steering wheel. We don’t want to forget to replace it in the spring. It is important to remove the drain plug for winter storage because the water that makes it into the boat over the winter and in the early spring must have a way to drain out.

4. Stabilize the Trailer
Place wooden blocks or bricks behind the trailer tires. We never know what might happen over the winter and we don’t want to find the boat in a gully in the spring.

5. Electronic Devices
Remove all electronics devices and store them in a safe place. This will keep them in good condition and protect them from damage by the critters or loss from theft over the winter.

6. Boat Interior
Clean the interior of the boat. This is a tedious job to do in the fall when we are in a hurry but you will be much happier in the spring if you take the time to clean the boat properly before you store it for the winter.

7. Boat Hull
Thoroughly scrub the scum off the bottom of the boat. It is a tough job but it has to be done. There are less bugs in the fall and the algae build up on the bottom of the boat will be easier to remove in the fall than if we leave it all winter. If we don’t clean it before we put the boat in storage, we are less likely to do it in the spring when we are eager to get the boat back into the water.

Carefully inspect the hull and other parts for damage and do repairs before storing the boat. Repair work is often cheaper at this time of the year and we want to have everything in top condition for the spring.

8. Boat Wax
Apply a coat of wax to the hull after you have finished cleaning it. This not only helps protect it over the winter, it also makes the job easier in the spring.

9. How do you keep raccoons and mice out of the boat?
Place some mothballs in a nylon stocking and leave them at the back of the boat to help deter raccoons and mice from making a home in the boat over the winter.

Wrap the boat tightly with good quality tarps and rope. This not only protects the inside of the boat from the rain, snow and ice but it helps keep the animals out of the boat during the winter.

10. Elevate the Boat
Lift the front of the trailer up onto a wood crate or wooden sawhorse at a high enough angle to allow the rain and snow to run off the back of the boat cover or out through the drain if some of the water gets into the boat. It is important to keep the inside of the boat dry over the winter. Otherwise, the wood can rot and mold might grow.

11. Support the Skeg
Place a pail or a piece of wood under the motor skeg for support.

12. Year-end boat repairs
The weather is a bit chilly in the fall, but there are also no bugs, so it might be best to do the ugly boat-maintenance work at the end of the season rather than leaving it until the spring. This way, we can get back in the water right away next year.

Need more boating tips?
Got to the Boat Motor Maintenance page.
Go to the Boat Motor Positioning page.
Go to the Boating Safety page.
Go to the Boat Trailer Maintenance page.
Go to the Removing boat stains page.