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11 tips for putting the boat to bed

It’s July as I write this for the October issue. The season is just getting into full swing, yet I’m contemplating its finish. Writing about putting the boat to bed is a sad but worthwhile topic. I’m not going to cover winterizing the engine; our decommissioning feature on Page 45 addresses that in detail. What I’ll concentrate on is the husbandry of the boat.

1. Let’s consider the interior. I hate mold and mildew and keep my boat well ventilated to discourage these … things. If you also detest mold, I encourage you to not oil your interior teak before storing the boat. I truly believe mold seems to feed off the oil. I like to use Sikkens’ Cetol Natural Light Sealer. Mildew and mold seem to leave it alone, and it’s light enough that it doesn’t conceal the wood’s grain. Clean the teak surfaces with TSP or some other product. When the surface is dry, apply the Cetol, or whatever you prefer, following the directions on the container.

2. I wash all fiberglass surfaces with a mild bleach solution. I do the same for food preparation surfaces. Use a metal polish on all stainless steel. Chrome-plated surfaces, such as the base of your VHF antenna, should be lightly coated with grease. I prefer Boeshield T9, a combination of solvents, lubricants and waxes that dries to a thin waxy film to protect metal. Winch grease or some other high-quality grease also will work.

3. All tanks should be emptied, including the holding tank. It’s important to have the holding tank pumped out because any waste left to dry will take on the consistency of concrete, and you won’t be able to dissolve it next season. This can trap waste and lead to a smelly tank.

4. Make sure all your water lines are clear. You can blow the water out with compressed air, or pour several gallons of non-toxic antifreeze into your now empty water tank. Turn on all faucets and open the sink drains, then run the freshwater pump until antifreeze flows from the faucets. Turn the faucets off. All feed lines from water tank to faucet have been flushed with antifreeze. The drain lines from your sinks to your holding tank also have been flushed.

5. The bilge should be dry and clean. Deck and cockpit scuppers should remain open, even after the boat is covered. Leave sole boards up, hatches cracked and ports open. Make sure all other deck openings, such as hawse pipes, are shut. If you have a sailboat make sure the hole in the deck or cabin top through which the mast is stepped is protected from moisture in case a leak develops in the cover.

6. Any leaks in the deck should be taken care of before a freeze sets in. Water will find its way into any opening — no matter how small — and will expand as it freezes, which can cause damage.

7. Shrink wrapping is becoming more popular every year. If you plan on having your boat shrink wrapped make sure there are several ventilation ports. One isn’t enough. Open hatches and ports will also encourage good circulation.

8. Power wash the bottom, and wash and wax the topsides (it makes spring chores easier). With multiseason anti-fouling, you can paint the bottom before putting the boat away for the winter. Bottom painting in the fall is a matter of personal preference, but remember, paint sales pick up in the spring.

9. Batteries should be removed and their charges properly maintained.

10. All soft goods — bedding, settee covers, sails — should be removed, repaired, cleaned and stored in a dry environment.

11. Kiss her goodnight, get the golf clubs, and head south … or break out the skis.