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Displaying items by tag: winterise your boat

15th October 2010


Wash the bilges and dry them thoroughly. This has the two-fold effect of eliminating nasty bilge smells and makes the task of checking the interior mouldings and laminates for stress fractures easier. Ventilation is very important to stop mildew forming and, if an electricity supply is available, a dehumidifier will keep the boat dry and fresh. Hatches and engine covers should be left open to ensure a constant circulation of air, and cushions, bedding, etc., removed. Seacocks and toilets should be serviced now.

Freshwater systems can be drained and if a gas geyser is fitted, remember to drain it also. Gas supply should be isolated and, finally, give everything a really good clean.

A range of new and portable dehumidifiers have come on to the market over the last couple of years and these can be great gadgets to keep boats free of damp but such devices come with a warning. Several fires have been reported involving dehumidifiers. In one instance in Howth, the fire was spotted in time and the main damage apart from the unit itself was smoke damage and fire extinguisher residue internally in the cabin. If you intend to use a dehumidifier check it and associated electrical equipment to ensure their serviceability when left unattended for long periods of time.
Published in Boat Maintenance
15th October 2010


Of all the equipment on the boat, electronic gear can cause the most trouble if not winterised. WD40 can be used in most instances and for battery connections, exposed sockets and plugs, Vaseline is a great protector.

The batteries must be properly maintained over the cold months and should be ‘trickle charged’ (charging at a similar rate as to its self-discharging, thus maintaining a full capacity battery) every 4–6 weeks to keep them in good condition. Don’t be tempted to leave a battery charger permanently connected as this can lead to plates in the battery warping and loss of performance.

Take home any gear which is easily detachable, remembering to Vaseline the plugs left exposed.
Published in Boat Maintenance
15th October 2010

Engine health

Just before hauling the boat from the water, run the engine for 10–15 minutes until it reaches operating temperature, then change the lube oil and filter, as contaminates in the old oil can cause corrosion.

Disconnect the cooling water supply pipe from the seacock. Arrange a freshwater supply from a 2–3 gallon bucket. Drain off-block and remove thermostat. Replace thermostat housing and inspect the anodes for corrosion, if fitted.

Run engine again, this time using an anti-freeze solution. Antifreeze should be at the recommended strength and, with turbo engines, ensure that the correct anti-freeze is used: the cheaper types burn off with the high temperature of turbocharging.

The fuel system should be drained of water but if the diesel filter is changed it’s possible that, on launching at the start of the new season, you’ll find the new filters have become clogged while the boat was standing idle.

Again, drain off, block and replace thermostat (clean it first). Gearbox and hydraulic systems should be checked and the oil changed if required. Flush the raw water system with fresh water, but make sure that it’s all drained off as frost damage can be a real problem.

On craft with sterndrive, bellows and jubilee clips should be carefully checked, and by servicing them now the chance of seizing is offset.

Replace the fuel filter element and, if fitted, clean out the water/dirt trap.

Fill the fuel tank to the maximum to prevent bacteria forming – ‘diesel bug’ – and to prevent condensation during the winter.

Auxiliary outboards should be taken home, serviced and stored in an upright position. If they’re stored lying on their side, water can damage the main bearings leading to nasty rumbles and expense.

Touch up any areas which need paint, grease all necessary points and spray the entire block with WD40 or it’s equivalent.

Growth and barnacles are easier to remove the day the boat is lifted. The outside should be washed with fresh water and then carefully checked for damage to the surface. Scrub the bottom of the boat to remove weed and barnacles, then inspect for cracks, blisters, rot or corrosion.

Check the sterngear for wear by lifting the shaft vertically and looking for any sign of looseness in the stern-gland or P-bracket bearings. Inspect outdrives and check on the condition of all sacrificial anodes. If there is very little change to the anodes, have the connections inspected as they should wear down. Any which are seriously eroded should be replaced. If they look shiny or have developed a pale brown colour, they are not doing their job. The most likely cause is that the electrical connection between the anode and the boat’s metal fittings has become disconnected

Check the rudder for wear in the bearings. Inspect for cracks or corrosion, particularly where it joins the shaft.

Inspect the propeller for any signs of damage or corrosion and ensure that it is tight on the shaft. Paintwork and varnish should be repaired to prevent the ingress of water. Deck fittings can gradually become loose during a season and can lead to water trickling into the interior. Clean the covers and repair any tears as winter storms can destroy a cover in an instant. Check that all cockpit drains are clear, especially the drain hole and anchor locker.
Published in Boat Maintenance
15th October 2010

Where to Store it

Marinas are keen to attract new business and will offer attractive rates to get new clients. Most marinas will aim to entice you with a short term deal in the hope that if you enjoy the experience they might turn a short-term berth into a 12 month contract. And why not? One of the advantages of a boat over a holiday home is you can move around and enjoy plenty of other spots round our coast and inland waters.

In Dun Laoghaire marina, the country’s largest with 800 berths is advertising attractive deals for stand alone berths this winter and being in the water also means there’s the chance of using the boat in Dublin Bay Sailing Club’s winter series.

Across the country, at Kilrush marina on the Shannon Estuary there are special winter berth rates from October to the end of March.

On inland waters, it is ‘out with the old and in with the new move’ at Athlone Lakeside marina. A considerable investment in new berths is being made for next season. Old wooden jetties are being replaced.

The boating centre with club house, run by Michael Barrett, will by next May have facilities for 150 boats. It has indoor winter storage for 50 boats and a lift out facility for up to 50 ton vessels. There is a club house and full mechanical and technical back up.

Regardless of location, however, all moorings are susceptible to a change in wind direction. If you’re leaving the boat in the water, it’s astonishing how much wear there can be over a winter period. A boat might look snug on a marina in a south-westerly but prolonged north-easterlies will push the boat in a totally different location, hard to remove fender marks being one likely result. Don’t just say good-bye boat see you in the summer, do check lines and fenders regularly.
Published in Boat Maintenance
13th October 2010

What the Trade Say

It seems you only put it in the water and the next thing is the kids are back at school and you’re driving home from work with your headlights on. There’s no escaping it, there’s a nip in the air, the Summer boating season is over and boat maintenance raises its ugly head. The whole idea of winterisation can be about as appealing as having a tooth filled – and possibly as expensive – but there’s no substitute for being prepared, and a reluctance to cough up the necessary budget can be a false economy in the long run.

Our guide to winterising your boat will steer you towards those who can do the job for you, or at least give you useful advice so that you don’t end up standing in the dark, cold, wet, and frustrated, with oil on your clothes and an engine strewn all over the driveway.

It may be true that in the depths of winter lies an invincible summer.

Gerry Salmon of MGM boats says that any boater worth his salt will equip himself with enough knowledge about his boat to ensure it’s serviced properly. At the very least, to know the servicing schedule of the boat, whether he does it himself or gets it done elsewhere. “A small percentage will ask for advice, or will watch while it’s being serviced, and I’m more than happy to do that and talk them through it,” says Gerry.

He says it’s very important that your engine is serviced once a year. Diesel engines produce bad contaminants and if they’re allowed to remain they can damage the engine. At the end of the season, oil and filters need to be changed at a bare minimum. A change of anodes is critical, says Gerry, and fuel must be topped up so there’s no room for condensation.

Dermot O’Sullivan in Auto and Marine Engineering in Cork has seen several engines which weren’t serviced for the winter and now, instead of the service costing 300 euro, it’s costing 8k+ to replace. Dermot says “winterising is absolutely necessary, as temperatures can fall to minus 12 degrees inland so if the engine freezes, the engine block goes – you’re looking at a new engine if that happens.”

The introduction of the new generation marine engines earlier this decade has resulted in the necessity for improved diagnostic equipment and factory-trained engineers to deal with more and more complex marine engines.

All over the country, the advice from yards is that engine servicing is probably a job best left to the professionals who can handle the latest diagnostics for mechanical and electrical fault finding, performance analysis and engine software updating.

Engine winterisation involves draining the engine of fluid, stabilising the fuel and fogging the cylinder heads. Sounds complicated? Yes, we thought so too. But at a rough cost of e100-e300 it is a lot less problematic though than a cracked manifold, one consequence of last year’s harsh winter.

Colin Preston of Preston Marine Services at Kinnego marina at Lough Neagh was still dealing with frost damage repairs in August, such was the extent of frost damage. He replaced a lot of engine blocks, especially on American boats, and the typical bill runs in to thousands.

The problem says Tony Chatterton of Portaneena, appeared to be more acute inland where temperatures dropped most. In fairness to many owners though, Tony says once the floods came, it was impossible for owners to get to some boats to deal with them before freezing temperatures set in and did the damage.

Preston, among others, advises that engines needs to be drained at the end of the winter and he offers a specialised service where fuel is stabilised, and cylinder heads fogged.

In County Galway, Leslie Shaw of Portumna Marine, the man behind perhaps the country’s largest undercover storage yard at Connaught Harbour, has the same story. “We did eight refits this season due to frost damage. Five were covered by insurance, three were not.” One of those boats not covered ended up costing e9,000 to fix. It seems a hefty price to pay for the sake of skimping on routine maintenance. Shaw offers this service for as little as 85 euro for speedboats. The work is carried out by professional workshop engineers. He also offers a storage, powerwash, clean up and under-over package for e500.

There’s a lot of small powerboats around now, according to Gerry Salmon of MGM, and they need flushing with water/anti-freeze/coolant before they’re ‘put in the garden’.

“Drainplugs have to be removed, water flushed through the bilge – the boat will have it’s own drain so that must be opened and drained. Water tanks should be emptied if it’s coming out of the water. If it’s staying in the water, it has to have diesel tanks topped up full.”

Gerry agrees engine servicing is a must so that it’s ready for the season ahead: “the work can be done over the winter after all the wear and tear, rather than waiting for April when possibly parts can’t be sourced, etc.”

Bob Killen of Killen Marine in Dalkey says that most boat owners are maintaining what they have rather than re-engining. Bob notices that customers are far more conscious of price and will check out the cost more thoroughly than they would have a year ago, before they agree to have the work done. Unlike a car, an outboard engine or boat repair can’t be exactly quoted for, but experienced engineers or boat builders can give price guidelines in most cases, and Killen Marine do their utmost in this regard.

“You wouldn’t park your car in the garden for six months of the winter without preventative maintainence, never mind something that has been subjected to a harsh marine environment,” says Ian O’Meara at Viking Marine in Dun Laoghaire. “Engine manuals all carry extensive detail on winterising (RTFM); and finally – beware of moisture. The biggest cause of long-term harm is caused by engines being put away for the winter with moisture still in the system: winterising is essentially protecting against water contamination”, he continues.

Other ‘must do’s’ from Ian: “stabilise fuel – there’s plenty of additives available that reduce/remove moisture from fuel; run/flush engine on stabilised fuel; fogging oil in all moving parts (works as barrier to moisture); fuel and oil filters; gearbox oil – must be marine grade; check impellor; store engine in a cool dry place, such as a boiler house, if possible (not too warm as heat can speed up rust); remove portable fuel tanks (stabilise fuel); remove and disconnect battery from boat and store fully charged, not on concrete, go to the pub...”

Published in Boat Maintenance
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