Winterizing The Boat Again

Never say never. In the past, I have said I would never be in a cold enough climate to have to winterize the boat again, and here it is our second winter in the Chesapeake and my second year winterizing. We are very fortunate to have a very nice couple that spends the winters in Florida (where we should be) who has asked us to house sit from December first to the end of March. This time frame works well for us, since the cold is starting to set in and the boat can be hauled for the winter. Upon their return, spring will have sprung, and we want the boat back in the water. Just prior to haul out, we begin the winterization process and finish it up just as we are moving off for the winter. Here are the procedures we use for our boat each year. Other boats with different systems may require something different or additional.

My first priority is to get the engine winterized as soon as it begins to get cold and we will not be leaving the slip again until it warms up. As long as we have heat in the boat, there is no danger of freezing, but the engine is by far the largest expense should a failure with the heating system cause the temperatures to really drop. Since our slip is just outside of the travel lift pit, we don't need the engine to move the boat for hauling. It can be done by hand pulling the boat from piling to piling.

I generally do a complete oil and filter change prior to the rest of the winterization. We have a nifty valve attachment on the top of the raw water strainer that allows the connection of a garden hose. By closing the raw water seacock and attaching a short piece of hose to the fitting, the engine winterization takes a matter of minutes. The other end of the hose is dropped into a five-gallon bucket of anti-freeze, and the engine is started. Susan is on the dock watching the exhaust discharge, and as soon as it is all anti-freeze coming out of the exhaust, the engine is shut down. If you don't have this attachment, remove the hose from the intake side of the strainer, and either add an extension to it or use a longer hose to reach into the bucket. Be sure the hose reaches the bottom of the bucke,t and do not allow it to suck air during the process. And that is it, simple, quick and painless. I also make sure the coolant/anti-freeze in the fresh water side is topped off.

The next step is the fresh water system, and the tanks need to be emptied as much as possible. We run the fresh water pump with all of the faucets on the boat open until air begins to come out. At that point, it is good to open a drain in the bottom of the tank to let out the last few gallons that the pump does not pick up. Next, the hot water heater needs to be drained completely and a bypass nipple installed. There are lots of fancy gadgets sold to do this, but we simply turn off the water pump, remove the fresh water hoses from the tank, and attach a 1/2 inch connector to bypass the tank. This prevents the heater from filling up with anti-freeze; ours is 11 gallons and shortens the time to flush the system in the spring. Once the hot water heater is bypassed, there are two options. We usually dump about three gallons of anti-freeze in each tank and open all of the faucets.We also have a large filter on the water system, and I remove the charcoal filter prior to this and fill the housing with anti-freeze. Then we turn the fresh water pump back on and wait for straight anti-freeze to come out of the faucets. As each faucets spits anti-freeze, we shut that one down until all of them are full, including the shower handheld sprayer. Be sure the hot and cold lines are both open.

Next up are the heads. Many folks simply dump anti-freeze into the heads and flush them until it comes out the overboard discharge. This only winterizes half the head's hoses. The intake hoses and intake valve portion of the pump housing will still be full of water and can freeze and crack. We shut off the intake seacock and stick the intake hose into a bucket of anti-freeze. The head is flushed until the anti-freeze is coming out of the discharge lines. If you have holding tanks, they should have been emptied by now and thoroughly flushed and cleaned. The anti-freeze from the heads should be pumped into the holding tanks until enough is present to prevent freezing. Then the Y valve switched over to pump the rest overboard and the discharge valves closed. Caution should be used to prevent water from being trapped in the seacock if the boat is being left in the water, since this can freeze and crack the seacock with disastrous consequences. If you are not sure, remove the discharge hose, and remove all of the water with a wet vac. To prevent this in our case, once the boat is hauled, the seacock is opened after the boat is out and the fluids allowed to drain, then we close the seacock. This allows the entire sanitation system to be winterized without fear of some part being missed.

One final system is the shower sump. The top of the sump is removed and all of the water extracted with a wet vac. The insides of the sump are thoroughly cleaned and wiped dry. The top is replaced and the anti-freeze is sent in via the shower drain. This assures that the drain is conditioned and the sump is filled until the pump kicks on and the anti-freeze flows out the discharge. Then, the sump pump is manually activated until all but a small amount in the bottom of the sump is emptied. That's it.

The final step for us is to have the boat shrink-wrapped. I used to think that this was a major waste of money, paying to have all of this plastic put over the boat, just to throw it away in the spring. But after a couple of winters here on our previous boat, we found that leaving it out over the winter for one season did more damage to the boat than five years of living aboard in the tropics. So for the last two winters, we have had it done and really don't regret it. This also makes working on the boat during the winter months, doing projects, much easier. In some cases, we would not have been able to do much at all without the shrink wrap. And with careful use of a kerosene heater, I can get it pretty comfortable under the shrink wrap to do some work on the outside of the boat.

To-Do List 2011

The to-do list is pretty long for this winter since a lot did not get done last year. So here are some of the items.

1. Replace the main electrical panel (already under way.)
2. Finish the installation of the remaining ports.
3. Finish installation of 12-volt fans in all cabins.
4. Remove and paint the swim platform (already removed.)
5. Install an aft bilge pump.
6. Move batteries to allow for generator installation.
7. Install the fuel polishing system and replace all engine fuel lines and filters.
8. Refinish all cabin floors and repair where necessary.
9. Finish painting of engine compartment.
10. Add lights in hanging lockers.
11. Install galley exhaust fan.
12. Replace some of the copper lines on fresh water system with PEX lines.

These are pretty ambitious goals given the fact that I will only have weekends for the most part. But we will see how it progresses, and much of this will depend on whether we have 8 feet of snow again and I can't get near the boat. I will be posting as each project is completed. The new AC/DC main electrical panel is about 1/3 finished, so I do feel good about that. It is an important project that is long overdue. Time will tell. Have a great holiday season.


  1. Looking forward to your "detailed" A/C panel install, as this is high on my to do list!
    Merry Christmas

  2. Holiday, We hope your Christmas and New Year is a great one. I am in the process of replacing the panel now and doing lots of re-wiring. I will be posting when it is done. There is some information on the smaller panel that we installed not too long ago, "Installing A Marine Electrical Panel In A Day", that still applies to the larger one. Chuck

  3. Theres a rumor that you've been let go from Waterway Guides. I'm sorry to hear about it. I like all thats been done. Good luck. Maybe you can get back to some cruising.

  4. We are still very much involved with Waterway Guide. I have a pretty good idea who is responsible for the rumor, but sorry Jeff, we are still here and doing great. We are about to launch a great new product and preparing for some major moves at Waterway Guide. You can find out more as it progresses by going to . Our new Discussion Board that we started recently is also doing well and has many very informative discussion going. So we will be there for a while. But we do plan to get back to cruising again, and will still work for Waterway Guide while we are on the water. It is a good fit for the company and for us. Thanks for your comments and your kind thoughts. Chuck


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