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Tips For Getting Your Boat Ready for Fall
As summer winds down and cooler autumn weather approaches, it’s time to start preparing your boat for the coming fall season. Take these fall boating tips to properly transition and protect your vessel will ensure it’s kept in optimal shape through the changes in weather and use that autumn brings.
Inspect and Address Boat Wear or Damage
Give the hull, deck, interior, mechanical systems, and electronics a thorough inspection as you remove the boat from summertime use. Look for:
- Cracks or gouges in the hull or deck that need sealing or repair
- Deterioration or corrosion of railings, hardware, or trailer parts
- Loose, damaged, or leaking hoses that need replacement
- Faded or cracked vinyl/canvas that needs treatment or reconditioning
- Electronics in need of wiring check or replacement batteries
Take care of any issues to protect your investment and prevent bigger problems down the line. Consider having a professional marine mechanic do a full systems evaluation.
Clean and Protect Boat Deck Surfaces
Give your boat a complete post-summer deep cleaning from top to bottom before the fall, when there's still warm weather and time for surfaces to dry fully.
- Wash the hull, deck, exterior cushions, sail covers, bimini tops, etc. Allow a couple days for drying.
- Clean, disinfect and protect onboard head systems from freeze damage. Pump antifreeze through.
- Shampoo dirty carpet and upholstery that saw heavy summer use. Extract cleaning solution thoroughly.
- Buff and wax the hull to restore shine and protect the gelcoat from oxidation and water spots during fall weather.
Winterize Boat Engine and Systems
To prevent freeze, corrosion, and wear damage over the colder months, properly winterize engine and boat systems. This may include:
- Flush salt and sediment from the motor and allow to dry fully. Change oils/filters and lubricate.
- Fog the engine by spraying fogging oil into cylinders to create a protective coating for storage.
- Add stabilizer to fuel tanks and fill with fresh fuel to prevent gumming. Consider adding moisture absorbers.
- Drain cooling and engine water systems fully. Add antifreeze where needed.
- Disconnect, clean and charge batteries. Store in a temperature stable area on boards. Clean terminals and wire ends.
- Drain waste systems fully and add antifreeze. Cap vents.
Protect The Boats Exterior Surfaces
Use protective coverings specifically made for marine use to shield exterior surfaces from fall through spring:
- Install a waterproof, breathable fabric boat cover or tarp over the main vessel, secured tightly.
- Cover outdrive units and lower units of engines with weather resistant gear oil to prevent corrosion.
- Place bimini tops/sail covers over frames and attach securely. Remove canvas first if needed.
- Use waterproof, UV resistant mooring covers for exterior seating, helm seats, and electronics displays.
- Cover open fuel/water inlets and fittings with shrink wrap or waterproof duct tape to prevent insect/debris entry.
- Inspect the hull for any cracks, blisters, or signs of damage.
- Apply antifouling paint if needed to prevent barnacle growth.
- Clean and wax the hull to protect it from autumn storms.
Charge and check Battery and Electronics
- Fully charge onboard battery bank and disconnect terminals once charged or remove batteries to store off board.
- Unplug and remove any electronics or gear that can freeze, corrode or become damaged. Safely stow off board.
- Charge handheld radios, flashlights or other removable electronics to storage levels. Remove old alkaline batteries which may leak.
Fall boating requires extra attention to your boat's electrical and mechanical systems:
Batteries and Wiring
- Check battery voltage and charge levels.
- Inspect and clean battery terminals to prevent corrosion.
- Verify all electrical connections for tightness and functionality.
Check the Bilge Pump
- Ensure the bilge pump is in good working condition.
- Clean the pump and strainer to avoid blockages.
- Test the pump to confirm it activates when needed.
Propeller and Steering
- Inspect the propeller for damage or debris.
- Lubricate steering mechanisms and cables.
- Confirm the proper operation of the rudder and steering system.
Protect Boat Interior and Furniture
Fall's unpredictable weather can pose a challenge to your boat's exterior and interior. Take these precautions to safeguard your vessel from the elements:
To keep cabin and cockpit interiors protected:
- Thoroughly clean and dry all interior spaces. Open doors/hatches for ample ventilation.
- Remove and properly stow any foodstuffs, beverages, paper goods or supplies that may attract pests. Remove trash.
- Remove canvas covers and store them properly.
- Clean and waterproof canvas materials to prevent moisture damage.
- Check zippers and snaps for any issues.
- Cover upholstered cushions and mattresses with leak-proof mooring covers. Take screenshots and cushions off boat if possible.
- Use anti-mold treatments in enclosed cabins. Install moisture absorbing dehumidifiers.
- Make sure all seacocks are properly sealed/winterized to prevent freezing and leaks.
Preparing Your Boat for Autumn Navigation
Autumn is a magnificent season for boating, but it also presents unique safety concerns. Here are some essential steps to ensure a safe and enjoyable boating experience this fall:
Check Safety Equipment
- Ensure life jackets are in good condition and accessible.
- Verify the functionality of fire extinguishers and other safety equipment.
- Test and inspect all navigational lights.
Review Weather Conditions
- Stay informed about changing weather patterns.
- Be prepared for sudden temperature drops and shorter daylight hours.
- Keep an eye on wind forecasts, as fall can bring unpredictable gusts.
Fuel and Engine Maintenance
- Top off your fuel tanks to prevent condensation from forming.
- Change engine oil and filters for optimal performance.
- Inspect and clean the cooling system to prevent freezing.
Autumn-Specific Boating Safety Tips
To fully enjoy fall boating, consider these boating safety tips for equipment and other preparations:
Safety in Cooler Water
- Wear appropriate cold-water gear, like a drysuit or wetsuit.
- Ensure everyone on board has a personal flotation device (PFD).
- Familiarize yourself with cold-water rescue techniques.
- As the days grow shorter, ensure your boat's navigation lights are working correctly.
- Carry spare bulbs and fuses for quick replacements if needed.
- Use reflective tape for extra visibility.
- Stock up on emergency supplies like flares, first aid kits, and a VHF radio.
- Carry enough provisions and warm clothing for unexpected situations.
Planning Your Fall Boating Adventures
While safety and boat maintenance are top priorities for fall boating, it's also crucial to plan and make the most of your autumn excursions:
- Research fall-friendly destinations known for stunning autumn scenery.
- Plan your route and create a float plan for added safety.
- Embrace the flavors of fall with hearty, warming recipes.
- Consider a picnic on board or cozy up with hot beverages.
- Autumn is a prime time for wildlife observation.
- Bring binoculars and a camera to capture the beauty of migrating birds and fall foliage.
By following proper preparations for transitioning your boat to lower-use fall and winter months, you can ensure your vessel stays in peak shape and ready for next season. Take care of maintenance needs, deep clean and protect all systems, surfaces and interiors. Your efforts will pay off with years of continued smooth and worry-free boating.