Mark Daul: Preparing your boat, motor for winter storageby jmaloni
by Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
This little story is about trailerable boats like the ones I have owned through the years. Don't do what I did one time, do what I didn't do. Listen up and you'll get the "drift."
One winter I prepared my boat for winter storage outside in my backyard. I covered it, left loose ends for ventilation, tightened up the cover around the edges so I wouldn't have a water problem, and didn't look at it until the following spring. Great, I thought. When spring finally arrived and the fishing season was upon us, I took the cover off and, to my dismay, there was a dead raccoon lying on the floor all bloated and stinky. This critter apparently crawled in there wanting to make this its winter home. I suspect it crawled in there in the fall and somehow passed away for some reason without telling anyone. By the time I found out, the smell was putrid. I removed it with my snow shovel and buried it. Ugh! The carpeted floor was a mess too. It had to be washed and sanitized, but I could never get the stain out. To top that off, apparently the squirrels took refuge in there, too. They tore some of my upholstery up and had dinner on a life preserver that was left in the boat. They must have had a lot of friends and relatives that dined in, too, judging from the amount of poopies scattered around.
So don't do what I didn't do.
If you caught a lot of fish this summer, no doubt some landed on the floor at one time or another. Wash that floor with hot water and soap or, better yet, take it to a car wash and do it all there, inside and out, including the live well if you have those. You should do all this anyway, even if you didn't catch any fish. Those critters have better smelling abilities than you, and it is like an open invitation for them go in, take a look around, pretend it's a hotel and stay for a while thinking they are going to have a fish dinner. You need ventilation to prevent mildew, but not the amount I had. Make sure those vents are small vents; tighten the space at the back of the boat around the motor so those four-legged critters don't sneak in there. Come to think of it, that winter, someone was chewing on my boat's fiberglass inside. I think the squirrels needed some dental work to keep their teeth sharp. I didn't check my boat periodically, like I should have through the winter. Make sure you do that so you don't have surprises when it's time to uncover your boat. Your life preservers should be taken out and stored in a nice dry place, as well as your battery, trolling motor, fish finder, etc. Plus, I would scatter mothballs around, as these little vandals don't like that smell.
Shrink-wrapping a boat for outside storage is a good investment at around $9 a foot, and even that requires ventilation, plus it needs to be replaced every season, but your boat will certainly be dry, clean, and rodent resistant. A good water resistant, breathable, fabric cover would be useful for probably 5-10 years and you can take this off anytime to check things out or if you want to winter fish. A custom-made cover is ideal, of course, but, if you are frugal like me, invest in a good universal cover to fit your vessel and you will be happy. I'm talking small trailerable boats here; you sailboaters and cruiser type owners have your own storage ideas.
If you have lots of money, you can always forget all this and take your boat to a boat storage facility and have them take care of everything, including the motor. The motor is so important, and neglecting anything on it could be disastrous.
On a recent visit to Josh Stack's Boat Works, an inland dry dock marina at 786 Blairville Road, just outside of Youngstown, Josh told me some of the important things to remember when storing and winterizing your outboard for the winter. First thing is to use gasoline stabilizer in the gas tank. I asked him what he uses for his customers motors, and he said "K100MG, that's the best stuff."
Well, maybe you don't know, but K100MG is manufactured and distributed right here at Kinetic Fuel Technology at 1205 Balmer Road in Porter. The best for winter storage is K100MG, as it is more concentrated. I did an article on "Josh's best stuff" a while back, and it is well received as being a top-notch protector of moisture separation (phase separation) in today's E-10 gasoline. E-10 represents 10 percent ethanol mixed to your gasoline and, whether you like it or not, it's the law that your gas is mixed with this "corn ethanol" regardless of consequences. So protect your engine with K100, and use it in your car, too. It is highly recommended for them also. It's available at most gas stations, auto parts stores, and marinas in Western New York and elsewhere.
Josh says it is equally important to "fog" your engine for winter storage. Fogging outboards generally is done on your last day out with the boat at the end of the season or you can do it using "earmuffs," a flushing attachment. It attaches to the water intake on your lower unit so it is safe to start the engine without harming the seals or overheating your investment. When using this attachment, you can kill two birds with one stone. Disconnect the fuel line from the engine, start it up, so you will empty the carburetor, eliminating any sludge buildup or allowing stagnant gas to remain through the winter. While doing this, and as it is running out of fuel, spray the aerosol fogger oil into the carburetor until the engine stalls, as this will protect any carb corroding that might occur. Next step, remove the spark plugs and spray that fogger oil in the holes and hand-turn the engine a few times with the plugs out to distribute the oil to protect the cylinder walls and piston rings. This is a good time to put new plugs in and you will be all set for spring startup. Oh, your motor will smoke like crazy for a few minutes when you start it up in the spring, but that's good. At least you will know you did it right.
Josh empathized that draining the lower unit and installing fresh lower unit oil is a must thing to be done in the fall. Even if your seals are good, condensation can build up in the unit and corrode the workings in there enough to cost you hundreds later on. Keeping that unit clean and full is good practice. Besides, how else would you know if you do have a leaky seal unless you are out on the water somewhere and the gear box failed. Now you will have to call Josh at the Boat Works or the Coast Guard to haul you off the water.
If you have never winterized your engine before, I would suggest giving Josh a phone call and make an appointment and let him do it. He is a graduate of the Marine Mechanics Institute in Florida and has six to seven years of experience to fall back on. You can have your whole boat winterized by Josh, which includes shrink-wrapping if you want it, and even outside storage is available. Your battery will be removed and stored inside, kept on charge, then in the spring give him a call and your boat will be ready for the water (807-9106) Josh will have it ready, including an initial startup so when you get to the dock you will have no worries.
You will have to put your own fishing rods in the boat, and get your own bait. Josh doesn't do that. One note: The Boat Works is a complete marina and provides services to much bigger boats, not only our little 16-to-22 foot runabouts. IO's are a specialty, shrink-wrapping is available, and is open all year.