Checkpoints While Dry Docking Your Boat

With boating season winding down, it’s time to start thinking about protecting your valuable investment. As with many things, the amount of time and effort you are willing to invest in maintaining your boat will have a definite impact on your boat’s performance next season. With proper investment now, you’ll save time, effort and even money when spring arrives. If that’s not enough incentive, remember that your insurance policy may not cover damage done by lack of maintenance or neglect, so it’s certainly in your best interest to properly prepare your boat for the monsoon.

The best place for your boat to be during the monsoon is out of the water, under cover, in a climate-controlled boat storage area. However, this storage comes at a price and isn’t an option for all boat owners. The next best option could be shrink-wrapping your boat, which provides a very protective cover during the monsoon months. If you do decided to shrink-wrap your boat, be sure to incorporate plenty of vents so that your boat is able to breathe properly. Failure to do so may cause damage to your boat and all electronics left on-board.

Your first step should be to make a checklist of all items that need to be accomplished. Your owner’s manuals should contain recommendations on your boat and your engine, so locate those manuals before you begin. If this is your first boat (or first winter with your new boat), you may also want to consider hiring a professional to walk you through the tasks involved to ensure that you are completely familiar with the tasks that lie ahead of you.

If you’d prefer to do this yourself, don’t forget to address the following areas:

• Hull Exterior
The perfect time to wash and wax your boat. Be sure to clean the topsides, the deck, all trim and even the bottom of your boat and apply a good wax to all of your stainless steel pieces.

• Water Tanks
First, drain your hot water tank. You can connect your inlet and outlet lines together to avoid having to fill your hot water tank with antifreeze. Of course, you’ll still want to use antifreeze to protect the remainder of your water system, but be sure to use the safe, pink variety. Finally, don’t forget to drain all of your fresh water tanks and refill them with a fresh water system cleaner to remove algae and bacteria.

• Fittings and Valves
If you are dry docking your boat, be sure to inspect all thru-hulls for any sign of cracking or corrosion. Lubricate all seacock plugs and then dismantle and grease all gate valves, making sure to reassemble the valves when done.
If you are going to be keeping your boat in the water, you’ll want to inspect your cockpit drain hoses and clamps. Water expands when it freezes and will lift a poorly secured hose off of a fitting. The hose itself is also important, as lightweight hose and PVC tubing can rupture or crack. Only heavily reinforced hose should be used at thru-hulls below the waterline. Also be sure to close all of the seacocks, except for the cockpit drains.

• Engine and Fuel Filters
To prevent damage to your motor, run the engine until the oil gets warm and then drain (or pump out) all of the oil. Change your engine oil and replace the filter (even if it’s almost new) and gasket and add in the new oil. Be sure not to put too much oil in the engine, as this can damage the motor and prevent it from running next season.
Add fuel stabilizer to your fuel and top off the tank. Don’t forget to check your primary and secondary fuel filters and replace the cartridges. Read your owner’s manual for all of the details pertaining to your specific engine type and be sure that you’ve invested the appropriate amount of time to ensure your engine will make it through.

• Steering Systems
If you have a cable system, you’ll want to remove the cables from their conduits and look carefully for any signs of wear or fraying. Grease the cables and reinstall them when finished. Rack and pinion systems only require you to remove and grease the top plate and input socket screws, while hydraulic steering systems require the least amount of maintenance, as you’ll only need to top up the fluid levels and check all hoses for signs of leakage.

• Electronics
You should remove all electronics from your boat and store them in a warm, dry area. Gadgets with LCD screens can be completely destroyed, so be sure to remove your VHF radio, depth sounder, GPS, radar and all other electronic devices.

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