Seaworthy | From The BoatUS Insurance Files


Boat Winter Checklist

By Beth Leonard
Published: February/March 2013

Fight the winter blues by paying your boat a visit and making sure all is well. Whether it's stored on the hard or in the water, you may just forestall some spring problems.

The Down And Dirty

Before you tuck your boat back in for its winter's nap, take a quick look around the engine compartment and at the batteries.

Look for swollen or cracked hoses, rusted or broken hose clamps, and chafed or melted wires. Give wire and hose connections a tug -- better to have them come apart now than while you're not around. If you have a generator, check the fittings.

Look for any fuel, oil, or cooling-water leaks. You don't want your bilge pump to spew oil into the water next spring; in addition to polluting the environment, you could be in for a big fine.

If your boat is in the water, check to make sure that water in the bilge isn't coming from your stuffing box; leaking stuffing boxes sink boats every year. A stuffing box should not drip at all when the engine is not running.

Examine the bellows (flexible rubber connections that seal the outdrive and cables passing through the boat) on your sterndrive if you have one. Look for cracks between the folds and check for a trail of water from the bellows to the bilge.

Inspect battery terminals for corrosion and top off the battery with distilled water (if you have conventional wet cells). If you have a multimeter, check the state of charge; 12.6V is typically fully charged, but the voltage can be as high as 13.8V if attached to a charger. If you're plugged in to shore power, make sure your battery charger is the kind that turns off when the battery is topped up to prevent overcharging. Most automotive chargers don't work that way, and they're not ignition protected, which means they could spark a fire from a fuel leak.

When you've finished your inspection, don't forget to close and lock all ports, hatches, and the companionway to prevent theft. Then go have a nice, long lunch with your boating buddies and tell a few sea stories. If you visit your boat once or twice a month, not only will the winter go by more quickly, but you'll rest more easily when the last few storms of the season start rattling the windows.End of story marker

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