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Off-Season Sailboat Maintenance and Storage Suggestions with Dockside Yacht Care

Ahoy sailors, skipping the step of winterizing your boat before the off-season could do more damage than leaving it out, from not replacing old oil to letting water sit in the chambers. Winterizing is essential even if the weather doesn’t get cold. The length of time that the boat is sitting unused is the killer. With the help of Bob Cacciarelli, the owner of Dockside Yacht Care, here are preventative maintenance tips for taking care of your boat while not using it so that there is less work for you when summer comes around! Stay tuned for next week when we further discuss propeller maintenance.   

Long Term Sailboat Storage and Maintenance suggestions provided by Bob Cacciarelli, Owner of Dockside Yacht Care:

 

Prep the Engine

The engine is a very important part of your boat, let alone any machine. That makes it especially important to inspect for maintenance requirements during the off-season. Begin your inspection by checking the oil level in your vessel. 

According to Bob Cacciarelli, owner of Dockside Yacht Care, for long-term boat storage, you should fill up the gas tank to prevent water vapors from entering, then add a fuel stabilizer to the tank to prevent degradation of your fuel.

It’s best to change your oil every 50-100 running hours. You should run the engine to warm it up during the oil-change process; this helps drain the oil. You should also check for leaks and repeatedly inspect the oil levels between oil changes to confirm you’re not running low.

 

Interior

Dockside Yacht Care suggests that if you are storing your boat outdoors, you’ll need to protect your vinyl from cracking with a vinyl cleaner/protector 

· Make sure your cover is well-vented to prevent trapped moisture from causing mold or mildew. This is an extremely common issue with winterizing for first-time boat owners.

· Remove everything you can from the boat, such as personal floatation devices, flares, fire extinguishers, etc. This includes electrical components like radios, etc. 

· Wash your carpets and deck.

· If you live in a particularly humid area, use a commercial moisture absorption product like Damp Rid. 

Hull

Fiberglass hulls can split and crack, causing leaks if the boat is not covered correctly. Here are suggestions from Dockside Yacht Care:

· First, look for stress cracks and blisters in the fiberglass gelcoat. These should be addressed before putting on the cover.

· Barnacles and residue should be scraped and/or pressure washed off the hull. 

· To cover your boat, find a polytarp or polyvinyl cover. You might look for one to fit your exact model to ensure hull integrity and prevent mildew. This is usually better than a standard cover that doesn’t fit perfectly.

· Do not wrap your boat in plastic unless advised to do so by your marina or boatyard, as this type of cover is more prone to mold and mildew.

Battery

According to Dockside Yacht Care, if you are storing a boat in water, leave the battery on board so the bilge pump can continue functioning. If you are storing out of the water, disconnect the battery and keep it at home or in your unit on a battery charger.

Bilges

Dockside Yacht Care suggests you use a wire brush to clean up any oil spills, then spray with a lubricant. 

Trailer Tires

According to Dockside Yacht Care, if you are storing a boat on a trailer, be sure that your trailer tires and hubs are in good condition and are not damaged. If you are storing in grass or a storage unit, use wood blocks to keep the rubber off the ground.

Storing Your Boat Securely

As you can see, preparations for storing a boat can be time-consuming and laborious. But Dockside Yacht Care believes it’s worth protecting your prized investment to keep your boat safe and happy year-round. 

Other Suggestions:

Clean Up Your Boat

Thoroughly clean your boat inside and outside before putting it away in winter storage. Everything from the hull, propellers, and shafts to interior drawers, cabinets, and upholstery should be checked and washed.

Before cleaning, remove items from the boat, such as electronics, flares, and fire extinguishers. Cabinets and drawers should be emptied and wiped out. Remove cushions and store them in a climate-controlled location if possible. Otherwise, turn the cushions on their sides to allow for more airflow.

Depending on your winter climate, you may need to take measures to limit moisture within the boat while it’s not being used. Installing a dehumidifier or using desiccating products can help maintain the moisture levels inside your boat.

The exterior of your boat also needs to be cleaned as well. First, pressure wash the hull to remove dirt and other residues accumulated over the previous months. For soft surfaces like Bimini tops or vinyl windows, make sure to use the manufacturer-specified cleaning process to keep them in top condition. Next, inspect the rudders, propellers, shafts, and other exterior surfaces for barnacles, and make sure they are removed.

 

Propeller Maintenance

Propeller maintenance is easier for boat owners who use dry dock storage in the off-season, meaning your boat is kept in any storage that is not a wet slip. With the boat out of the water, you’ll be able to check for any necessary maintenance. Check for routine repairs like bad bearings, corroded zinc anodes, or leaky seals. These repairs can be made while the boat is in the water but are much easier during the off-season at a dry dock.

Check your propeller carefully for any signs of damage. If any is found, you’ll have time to decide whether to repair or replace the prop. Check the blades for dents or breaks; if you find any, consider past performance before deciding. If the boat already had lousy fuel mileage and poor performance, it’s likely time to replace the propeller.

Many boaters store in bodies of saltwater. But saltwater can be corrosive for propellers, causing the metal to appear pitted. It causes the alloy to leave the metal in small amounts. The saltwater will begin to transfer electrolytes, pulling the less noble metal from the alloy material. Suppose your propeller’s anodic protections (propeller anodes are small metal devices you can attach to your boat to prevent corrosion) aren’t correctly bonded. In that case, the corrosion can effectively put holes in your blades, rendering them useless.

Bronze and aluminum alloy propellers are more prone to corrosion, but those made from stainless steel are also susceptible. The only difference is that stainless steel blades may be salvageable if caught early enough. In general, significant pitting requires a replacement propeller, so ensure you take care of your propeller.

 

Cover Your Boat

Don’t cut corners when it comes to your boat cover. Spending more for a cover made with premium materials may seem unimportant when it’s only used in the off-season. Still, your cover is necessary for preventative boat care and maintenance.

Simple tarps can be used as a cover, though you’ll need to add a barrier layer between the tarp and the boat. Tarps tend to be made from abrasive materials that, when exposed to wind, will shift and damage your boat’s finish.

Other boat covers are cotton, vinyl, acrylic, and polyester. They can either be customized to your boat’s structure, or you can purchase a pre-made cover. For the best protection and longevity, a polyester fiber boat cover with a vinyl coating is the best choice. This material is more water-repellent and mildew-resistant than any other less-expensive fabric.

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