In the Pacific Northwest winter requires us to winterize or lay up our boats. It’s a chore that some prefer to ignore but the savvy owner knows better. Ask my friend who didn’t winterize, unknown to him several hoses froze which created a time bomb…come spring, when he put his boat in the water, it sank. This is part one of winterizing your boat.


Your location and boat type will determine what your winterizing ritual should be. If you’re new to your area and unsure of what needs to be done, some areas will freeze hard, then ask around. In this and the up coming articles, I’ll go over what we do to winterize. Yes, it’s a bunch of work but it’s the price we pay for living and boating in the Pacific Northwest. You think you’ve got bad? Please, we have two boats, most likely that means we have twice as much work. We love our boats and we love being on the water. Thus, we do the work.


I’ll start with the interior.


It’s a sad day when the wakeboard boat starts its lay up. At first there’s a bit of denial. We bring her home and she waits on our RV pad, on stressful work days…remember I have a real job, please see the help tab above to find out about it…anyway, on stressful work days when the sun is still shining or it’s dry out, I’ll go and sit in the boat, on the RV pad while reading boating magazines…because I’m in denial. I know that. In the dead of winter I’ll go to the sailboat just to sit in the cold in the boat. Sick…really sick….bless my hubby for putting up with me!


Ok, on to the dreaded task. The first thing we do is, remove all the gear. Are you laughing? Do you know how many people leave the towels, sunscreen, vests and water sports toys on their boats? Ah, I’ll bet some of you are cringing right now. We take everything off; this includes the skier down mirror, the hydrofoil racks, the CD player (it pops out) toolbox and spare parts. While we store our wakeboard boat in a very reputable local yard, I would never put it past a thief to break in and vandalize the boats stored there. We store all the toys and equipment in our garage for the winter.


Once all the gear is off we wash and wax the exterior, check the prop for nicks and the trailer for any problems it may have developed, see trailer maintenance. Then we pressure wash the carpet with the bilge plug out. This gets rid of any dirt that was brought aboard by lake water over the bow or people coming back aboard. We do this early so the boat can sit uncovered and dry out well. Water left in a boat over the winter can cause rust and rot. Then we take a marine vinyl cleaner/conditioner and wipe down the interior and the sundeck.


We also check all the tow-ropes and docking lines. Those that need replacing are tossed out and we make a note on the spring commissioning ‘to do’ list to buy replacements. Then it’s on to the anchor where we check the bungee line for wear and tear, more than one buddy has lost an anchor because the line needed to be replaced. It’s much cheaper to replace the anchor line than it is the anchor.


Once everything is done we snap the cover on and she disappears until spring. Then our eyes turn to the sailboat. We have some time before we have to decommission her thus we can continue to deny the season’s ending. The sailboat however, is an even bigger chore…


She’s pretty much a small apartment! The added twist of course being that she doesn’t leave the water for winter. The marine environment is very wet, no duh huh? This moisture gets into everything from forks to flour to cushions and clothes. Your main job is to protect those things that will react to this moisture. Molds and mildew is a huge problem once the boat is settled into winter. Since my hubby is allergic to mold and mildew, I mean big time allergic, I work real hard at control and prevention.


The less damage you have come the spring, the easier spring commissioning will be plus the boat will look good longer, operate better than those not tended to and in the long run she’ll depreciate less. Which of course we all want once it comes time to sell. It always amazed me the sorry condition boats for sale were left in when we were looking to buy one. Maybe it’s just my day job that brings these thoughts to mind; see the help tab above if you’re curious.


The fall lay-up definitely falls into the ‘stitch in time saves nine’ venue. Again, it depends on where your boat will be for the winter and the normal temperatures and conditions, so when in doubt, check it out with other boaters in your area. I’m looking at the Pacific Northwest, North Portland Harbor; which is vastly different than San Diego, California.


The greatest potential for damage from freezing happens any where on your boat where there are liquids. On the average cruising boat, even just the weekend cruise boat water may be in the bilge areas, toilets, holding tanks, water heaters, appliances such as refrigerators, and even containers in cabinets. I think we all pretty much understand that when water freezes it expands, that lone bottle of beer that got left last year was not a pretty sight come spring. So be sure to empty the storage areas of all liquids.


I think one of the big surprises come spring after a long winter of being closed up, is the amount of creeping green stuff. Even if you’ve done a stellar job of winter prep the environment is working against you 24/7. So let’s go over the close down of the living areas.


While I hate doing it, I remove all the bedding and towels and take them home for the winter. The library I complain is too small during the sailing season becomes a bunch of *@!#! books at fall lay up. I don’t like moldy books and I don’t want to have to replace them so off they go, same with the card games, CD’s and DVD’s.


What about electronics, how do you protect them? The very best way to protect them from moisture and theft is to take them home. TV’s, CD and DVD players, handheld GPS, binoculars, flair guns, medical kits (some items can be sensitive to cold), take a moment to look around your boat. Is there anything a would be thief could take? Better to take it home and bring it back later. Take home foul weather gear, clothes, shoes and any tools you don’t need during the winter.


The next step is to clean. Vacuum everywhere, scrub and shine every surface, pay particular attention in the galley and the head. There are products available that make it hard for mold to get a start, not only for hard surfaces but also for carpet (in a boat? I know some of you have that.) and furniture cushions as well. Work over the lockers, the fridge, drawers, shower, and under cushions, anywhere you can think. The cleaner you leave her the better it will be in the spring.


The better the airflow inside the less conducive conditions will be for the growth of mold. If you have shore power available consider one of those small heater/dehumidifiers you plug in. You’d be surprised how much they help. Try to visit on dry days and open her up for a bit. The best winter day finds me with a latte and sailing magazine in hand, kicked back on my boat. Yes sireeeee…life just doesn’t get better than that, unless it’s summer!


Now turn your attention to your canvas dodger and bimini. They need to come in and you need to check for broken seams and toggles. If they are dirty, clean them and once they are dry store them away. Store vinyl curtains or the dodger flat or hanging vertically, don’t fold them or you may find you have cracked or ‘curled in the stored shape’ windows. If you’re in a salt-water area you may want to wipe down the zippers. If they’ve been hard to zip, it might be salt.


Be sure your canvas is completely dry before you store it for winter. You might want to use a mildew control spray on them as well. Yep, in fall my boat smells of bleach and Lysol! Hummm…I guess on a side note I should mention never mix bleach and ammonia together ‘cause it makes a deadly mix…you already knew that though, huh?


Fall lay up…lots of packing out and lots of elbow grease. Watch for the rest of this series and learn how to winterize your engine.

See part two by clicking here.

See part three by clicking here.

4 Comments posted on "Don’t Fall Down On Your Boat’s Fall Lay Up Part 1"
winterize your outboard marine engine on October 5th, 2007 at 11:14 am #

[…] more winterizing your boat in part I of this series.    Read More    Post a […]

winterize your inboard gas marine engine or motor on October 12th, 2007 at 8:00 pm #

[…] sure what else to do? Read part one and part two of winterizing your boat.    Read More    Post a […]

Winter Proof Your Boat on November 8th, 2008 at 9:28 am #

[…] There are lots of steps we need to take to safe guard our boats for winter, from the boat itself, to the engine and even the head.  If you’re looking for help in getting started then you’ll want to read, Don’t fall down on your fall layup.  […]

Prepare Your Boat for Winter on November 3rd, 2009 at 9:41 am #

[…] So if you’re not sure where to start on your boat maybe you can find a bit of direction here.  […]