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Winter Maintenance

by Tim Harrington, Madison Marine and ABA Member

When you finally pull your boat from the water this fall, give it a good looking over. If you notice maintenance that needs to be done, the temptation will be to put it off until next spring. However, many of these projects are perfect winter projects. By taking care of maintenance issues this winter, you will avoid the inevitable rush that occurs at marinas every spring as owners scramble to get their boat ready for launching. More than one boat owner has missed a targeted spring launching date because of waiting for maintenance to be done. So make a list of things that need to be taken care of and enjoy the leisurely pace of getting them done during the off-season.

A good item to check is your prop. Does it need rehab? This is a perfect off-season job. Make arrangements to have your props delivered back to you in early or mid-spring. This will save you time, plus you will be able to avoid last minute problems, such as finding out that the prop is beyond rehab and needs to be replaced. Most marinas provide this service through other shops that service props full time. When you get them back they are usually painted and ready to go. Brass props are shiny and ready for installation.

If your prop just needs basic maintenance, why not try the work yourself? The first thing to do is to apply several clear coats of antifouling. This will help reduce the growth of barnacles, both for fresh water boating as well as salt water boating. Keeping your props free of foreign growth will keep your props operating at maximum performance.

Greasing is also a good off-season job that you can do yourself. One brand that I like is OMC Triple Guard. It seems to stand up well to the rigors of the marine environment. For trailer owners, use marine grease in the bearing buddies. For trailers with tilt tubes, do yourself and your technicians a favor - grease your tubes periodically with MARINE grease. There is nothing worse than getting a boat ready to launch and having to spend time freeing up frozen tubes, either because of lack of marine grease, or because the regular grease hardened from non-use.

Another good project is to bottom paint. There are numerous bottom paints on the market, each with their own advantages. Use the time that you have to do some research. Check out the manufacturers' websites and take advantage of the "contact us" or "technical support" feature to ask specific questions about their product. Only you know the conditions that your boat will likely encounter and what kind of results you are looking for. A major decision that you need to make is if you are going to do the work yourself or if you are going to have someone else do the job.

Perhaps you are wondering what kind of return you will see in tackling such a large job as bottom painting. If you put a lot of hours on your vessel, you will undoubtedly notice that your fuel expenses are less. The more parasites and bacterial growth that you have on the bottom of your boat, the greater the drag; thereby decreasing your fuel efficiency. Extra power and rpm are needed to push the same amount of displacement through the water and increased stress is placed on the shaft and outdrive. Excessive stress means more maintenance bills and wear and tear on your equipment.

This is also an excellent time to deal with the hull and topsides of your vessel. To help save and maintain the longevity of your color, whether gelcoat or paint, wax and compounding will do wonders to stave off the effects of oxidation, UV damage, and the harsh marine environment. If the color has started to fade, compound it back. If doing yourself, ask questions and take the time the off season provides to do your research. What compound is best for Awlgrip? Can I use this compound on gelcoat? What is the best rpm for buffing? Compounding can get some into trouble as too high an rpm while buffing can burn or even remove the product you are trying to shine. Go to credible sources and ask; information is free. This is a prime time, while the boat is out of the water, to do any gelcoat repairs that may be needed. There are several sources for step by step instructions that will walk you through the repair of minor (and not so minor) scratches and digs in the hull. Doing it during the off season gives you the time to do the job right and not be rushed.

Another benefit of the off season is that everyone has more spare time and other boaters and yard staff will likely have the time and inclination to discuss all of the various intricacies of any job you feel like tackling. The problem may be more one of getting too much advice!

Make a list as you find things so you remember to complete them before spring is upon you. Instead of the off season being a time of lamenting your lost time with your boat, make it a time of intimate contact with her preparing for many memorable days on the water.

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