Wednesday, September 17

Step by Step

By Michael Argyelan

Fall, it’s only days away. After the finish of the last beer can race I was a bit stunned. Or should I say bummed? The season is close to its end. It’s too soon.

Of course this means it’s time to think about putting our ladies to bed for a long and cold slumber in the boat yard. With that comes a proper winterizing procedure to protect our investments. This week I’m going to focus on sailboats. Next week Andrew Spaulding will follow with a power boat focus. He’s our resident power boat expert.

I’ll warn you this article is a little long. I did my best to cover a lot of steps in the winterizing process; from the time you leave the dock to inspecting your rig and halyards. You may want to even print this out and use it as a checklist so you know you’ve covered all your bases. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions you’d like passed along please email me at

Make the last trip down to the yard special. Invite a couple of good friends, bundle up, and have fun with it. Have a chase car that takes the delivery crew out for a bite after. Keep it light and have fun. After all, it might be your last day on the water in 2014. Make it count.

If you can’t do all your winterizing the same day as the delivery, schedule another day with some friends. I’m a fan of beers and tinkering on boats. It’s my “garage”, my man cave, my mistress. I’m in this business because it’s fun. Boats are fun. Yes, even oil changes can be fun.

The first step in winterizing is possibly the most important one. On your way to the yard, stop and fill up with fuel. Put high quality stabilizer in the tank through the deck fill before you top off. Doing this at the pump allows the additive to be mixed thoroughly. Again, put the treatment in the tank, then fuel.

For diesel engines we recommend Fuel Power by FPPF. An 8 ounce bottle of Fuel Power treats up to 240 gallons of fuel, disperses water, adds lubricity, and helps clean injectors. I’ve used it for 3 years now and it’s what we use in the service department as well. It’s great stuff.

For gasoline engines we use Valvtect’s Ethanol Gasoline Treatment. A 12 ounce bottle will treat up to 120 gallons. Ethanol is a big problem in today’s gasoline environments and Valvtect nailed it. This product will stabilize fuel for up to 1 year, disperses moisture, prevents ethanol problems, and prevents phase separation. Again, great stuff. For more info on winterizing with Valvtect, check out an older blog post here.

By the time you arrive at the dock your tank should be 3/4 - 7/8 full, perfect. You want a bit of room to account for expansion but not much more. Excess room allows moisture to build and provides a breeding ground for bacteria and will ruin a perfectly good rum drink one summer day. If you are going to motor a long way and you have a small tank, you want to add in more fuel using a portable jug with stabilizer mixed in.

Once at Crowley’s dock, change your fuel filters. Run good clean fuel through the engine before her slumber. Performing this service at the dock is critical and requires running the engine to bleed the fuel lines after the filter(s) have been changed. If you want Crowley’s to perform this service for you, click here for the Fall Service Online form or call Customer Service at 773-221-9990.

Next, change your oil and oil filter(s). You want fresh oil to run through the engine before putting it away. Perform the oil change at the dock. You’ll have to run the engine and warm the oil enough to drain well. You’ll also start the engine after the change to get fresh oil in the engine.

Fresh oil in the engine is important so trace contaminants and by-products of combustion are flushed out and don’t sit in the engine. Most damaging are glycol, soot and water. Traces of glycol oxidize into acids. Soot can cause build up, clogging oil passages, and it can cause higher abrasive wear on engine parts. Water in the oil can lead to premature oxidation of the oil, destroy oil’s ability to form a film, and increase the corrosive potential of acids that otherwise form in the oil.

Do your best to use OEM parts. Don’t change out a Yanmar filter for some other brand. This can damage your engine, permanently. The flow rate of a Yanmar oil filter for a 2GM for example, is entirely different than a crossover filter. On the 2GM, the oil filter is on the low pressure side and the crossover may have a lower flow rate. If you use an off brand filter you may be starving your engine of oil. Not good.

Some crossovers are OK on some engines. Be sure you know your engine and your product. Many times the OEM filter is also less costly than the crossover. It just makes sense to use a Yanmar in a Yanmar, Universal in a Universal, etc.

Crowley’s carries the largest stock of OEM filters of any boatyard in the Midwest and if we don’t have it, we can get it. If you want to keep your hands clean, we can perform your oil change for you. Click here for the online Fall Order Form or call Customer Service to schedule your oil change at 773-221-9990.

Next you’ll need to winterize the raw water side of the engine. Use -100 antifreeze. We use Starbrite with high quality rust inhibitors that are critical to protecting your engine. NEVER use ethylene glycol (coolant antifreeze) to winterize ANY part of your boat. It is very poisonous to mammals and less than an ounce can be fatal to humans.

This year we are rolling back prices. The Starbrite -100 is $2 less per gallon than 2013 prices. This price is good for in store purchases only.

After closing the seacock, you’ll need to disconnect the fresh water intake hose and put it in a gallon of -100. Start and run the engine. Many times 3 gallons is plenty to go through a 2 or 3 cylinder engine. When the first gallon is just about empty, remove the hose quickly and put it in the next gallon. When the third gallon is 3/4 of the way gone, stop the engine. Don’t forget to reconnect the hose to the closed seacock. Leave the seacock closed.

This is typically a two person job. It can be done on your own. I do it most every year on my own. If you want Crowley’s to perform this service for you, click here for the online Fall Services Order Form or call Customer Service at 773-221-990.

Now that the engine is ready to go, it’s time to move on to fresh water systems. First, let’s winterize the head. Yuck.

When you’re at the fuel dock, it’s time to pump out for the last time. Don’t use the head on the delivery down to the yard. Close the intake seacock and pump out any water remaining in the bowl. Next, pump out the holding tank. Rinse with fresh water from a hose and pump out again. Keep doing this until the water runs clear when pumping out.

Now take the intake hose off the seacock and put it into a bottle of Pink (-50) antifreeze and pump the head as if you were rinsing the bowl until the gallon is empty. This will winterize the head. I pour one gallon of blue antifreeze directly down the deck fill to protect against dilution in the holding tank. Not only did we roll back prices on the -100, we rolled back -50 prices too. Each gallon purchased in the store is $1 less than in 2013.

Now let’s go over winterizing the pressurized fresh water system. Turn on the water pressure and empty all water tanks. If you have a hot water heater, you may need to empty that separately. With the tanks empty, add Pink (-50) antifreeze to each tank. As a rule of thumb I use 1 gallon of -50 for every 15 gallons of water holding capacity and 1 gallon per water output source. On my boat I have a 15 gallon bladder and two sinks. I use 3 gallons of -50 to ensure that every drop of water has been dispersed out of every hose, fitting, nook and cranny, etc. You won’t typically need anymore than 3 gallons per tank unless it’s ginormous. Antifreeze is cheaper than lines and fittings bursting so don’t sweat an extra gallon or two. If you would rather leave this service to Crowley’s, click here for the Fall Services Order Form or call Customer Service at 773-221-9990.

Don’t forget the bilge. The bilge needs to be free of water. Turn the pump on until it can no longer pump the water out of the bilge. Next I recommend using a cup, sponge, or whatever method available to rid the bilge of any excess water. Pour enough antifreeze in the bilge so the whole length of hose will have antifreeze running through it. Turn on the pump again and pump out the antifreeze.

Now if your system is like mine, you will have some antifreeze back flow into the bilge. I use -100 just in case the water in the bilge is diluted and I miscalculate the amount of antifreeze to displace the water in the bilge and the hose. This is especially true if you store mast up with a keel stepped rig. Water will make its way in the mast and into your bilge. If this is the case, leave some -100 in the bilge so when water makes its way in the mast and into the bilge, the dilution will be enough to keep it from freezing solid. Be sure to come check the bilge every few weeks in the winter, especially if it’s a wet one.

If you’re storing your boat mast down or have a deck stepped rig, be sure to dry out the bilge after winterizing. Then clean it thoroughly. You want to remove any source of moisture to help reduce mold and bacteria from creating nasty smells over the winter. I use Spray 9 to clean and then use 3M’s Mold and Mildew Block to help prevent growth. This product leaves an ‘invisible’ layer to protect the surface. It’s good stuff.

Let’s move to the interior. If it’s cotton or absorbs moisture, remove it from the boat. If you don’t have the space, think about renting a storage locker here at the yard. I find it well worth it. If you don’t want to go this far, I highly recommend at least sweeping up any debris and cleaning every, single surface with Spray 9. I use Spray 9 to clean pretty much everything in the boat. Spray 9 is like the sister from another mister to the amazing Roll Off. Spray 9’s cleaning power is fantastic plus there’s the added benefit that it’s also a disinfectant.

Use extra large garbage bags to cover the cushions and leave them on their side. This is especially important if you have storage areas under and behind your cushions. All space should be able to “breathe”. Open every drawer so air can circulate through the boat. Of course, if you can store your cushions off the boat, that’s the optimal choice.

Be sure to take off any liquids that will freeze. Heck, take off all liquids. I take off anything I possibly can like paper, pens, books, cushions, line, fenders, etc. I’ll leave extra blocks, tools, and the like but that’s about it. Granted, my locker here in the yard is full come winter time, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Batteries; be sure they are fully charged before leaving the boat. Our battery service stores the batteries in unheated space. If you are storing your boat indoor heated, request that the battery service get performed onboard your vessel without removing the batteries. Fully charged batteries that are in good condition will last through the winter in cold climates. Click here for the online Fall Service Form or call Customer Service at 773-221-9990.  

Sails off! Crowley’s requires that all furling head sails are removed. Really, you should remove all of your sails and have them serviced each year. If you don’t want to remove them, we can remove them for you. Leave the sail bags out in the salon area and we will de-rig your sails for you. If you want them serviced, we can get them to your local sail maker of choice and have them dropped back off in the spring. Click here for the online Fall Service Form or call Customer Service at 773-221-9990.

If you are leaving your mast up, I highly recommend taking all lines off the boat. Halyards, sheets, and all other lines are constantly exposed to UV, wind, and all kinds of weather when left out in the elements. To help protect your investment consider the option to messenger your halyards out of the mast and any other line you want protected from the elements.

Using 1/8 or 3/32 cord, attach the halyard and replace it with the messenger line. At $.06 per foot, it’s well worth the time and investment to use messenger line and save your lines. Plus, you can reuse your lines each year. Messenger line can be purchased in the Ship’s Store. Please use good quality messenger line. No “Home Depot specials” please. We are always asked to re-install a few halyards every spring because the cheap messenger(s) broke. 

This is also a great way to inspect your rigging to ensure your lines aren’t chaffing through to the core. I even take my halyards out with the mast down. I like to inspect every inch of every line for wear and tear and it allows me to clean them as well. If you want Crowley’s to perform this service for you, click here for the online Fall Service Form or call Customer Service at 773-221-9990.

Rig Tension and lube. If your shrouds and backstay are wound on tight, this puts a lot of stress on the rig and the deck. Consider taking your shrouds down to hand tight and then give the turnbuckles a couple of quick turns to secure the rig. You only want to leave enough tension on the rig to keep it up and stable. Any additional pressure is just stress creating more wear and tear.

Consider using Boeshield’s T9 on all of your turnbuckles. T9 is a “unique formula that penetrates and cleans, displaces moisture, and dries to a thin waxy film that lubricates and protects all metals for months.” You’ll only need a few drops on each turnbuckle. After dropping a bit on the threads, work the turnbuckle a bit so the material will work its way in. This stuff can be used on tools, guns, electrical circuits, bike chains, and more.

If you have a furling head sail, use McLube’s One Drop Ball Bearing Conditioner on the bearings in the drum. This stuff is genius and all you need is one drop. Clean the drum with a little dish soap and water, allow it to dry, apply a drop to the bearings, spin the furler around a few times to work in the product, and you’re done. This will keep your bearings lubed up for the winter. Follow this procedure in the spring, then mid summer, and this little product becomes the cheapest insurance you can find for your furling unit. ONLY FOR USE ON FURLERS WITH TORLON BALLS. Stainless bearings need waterproof grease.

Winch Servicing – The winter is a great time to service your winches, especially if you don’t service them regularly. Clean and properly lubed winches are critical. If you want to do it yourself and are a little uncertain, check out our YouTube video on winch maintenance here. You can also schedule your winch maintenance through Crowley’s. Click here for the online Fall Service Form or call Customer Service at 773-221-9990.

What about the mast? When was the last time your mast was down? Have you inspected each and every shroud above and below? Electrical connections? No? Why not start this year. We highly recommend that you have your mast unstepped every 3-5 years and have it professionally inspected. Click here for the online Fall Service Form or call Customer Service at 773-221-9990 to schedule your mast un-stepping and inspection.

Seacocks are an often forgotten part of winterizing our boats and yet a critical step to ensuring a safe launch in the spring. Check out Andrew Spaulding’s article in the blog on seacock maintenance here

Extra! Extra! Come to Crowley’s and spend $50 or more on winterizing products in the Ship’s Store and get 20% off your antifreeze. This deal is good through Saturday, November 22nd. We’ll see you at the yard. Sail safe friends.

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