- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

Many boat owners do not think about winterizing their boats until the first hard frost visits the Washington area, although some traditionally stop going to the water on Labor Day.

Forget guys like me. I never winterize my boat because our group never stops fishing, even in the dead of winter. Still, this is October, and there’s a good chance a hard frost may arrive later this month. If you’re not into blue-nose fishing, you know what must be done.

I visited the Guy Brothers Marine shop and boat yard in Clements in St. Mary’s County to ask one of the best men in the business what boaters should do to prepare their craft for cold weather — to “winterize” it. Professionals heartily recommend it; the uninitiated just stand by and hope nothing bad happens to their outboard motor, hoses and electrical connections.

I asked Francis Guy, who runs the boating end of the family business, about all this, and he looked at me and said, “I don’t know why you bother to ask. You guys don’t stop fishing even if it’s snowing.”

He’s right, but the one thing boaters should do religiously in icy weather is drain all water from the outboard simply by lowering the motor into the vertical position after cold-weather trips. Never keep the motor tilted at an angle with water still inside it. The water can freeze and do all kinds of damage as it expands.

Meanwhile, for those who do their boating primarily in spring, summer and early fall, Guy suggests the following list of items you can do yourself:

“When you finish using your boat for the season, by all means winterize it,” he said. “One reason is the fuel issue. Since your gasoline often contains 10 percent ethanol — a mix that can be used in outboard motors — you need to stabilize the fuel.”

Guy is an Evinrude/Johnson dealer (manufactured by the Bombardier Company), so, naturally, he recommends his company’s 2-Plus-4 Fuel Conditioner, but he knows that other conditioners also will do the job. If you don’t condition the fuel, something known as “phase separation” can occur. The fuel mix can separate, attract moisture or gum up the carburetors or injectors, along the way deteriorating all fuel-associated components, such as hoses and gaskets.

After adding the conditioner, Guy said, “You need to run the outboard until you’re sure the storage blend of treated fuel has actually entered the engine.” That is done by either attaching a water hose directly to the outboard, if it has such a receptacle, or attaching a gadget to the lower unit’s intake louvers that looks like earmuffs and carries cooling water from the hose as you run the engine.

Other “must do” items for winterizing, courtesy of Francis Guy:

• Grease all fittings, change the lower unit gear oil and spray the powerhead with an anti-corrosive spray that prevents deterioration by coating all components.

• Grease the boat’s steering cable, pull the spark plugs and spray storage fogging oil into the cylinders, then manually rotate the flywheel to disperse the oil.

• Pull the propeller, grease the shaft and address propeller issues, such as bends and nicks.

• Check the outboard’s motor oil tanks (if your boat has them) and make sure there no contaminants inside. Water is the main culprit, and a turkey baster can be used to pull out some of the oil. Squeeze it into a pan and study it to see whether water is present. If it is, get all of the oil out and start with a new supply.

• Clean the boat’s aerated bait- or livewells, drain livewell hoses and maybe even use an RV/marine antifreeze to keep remnant waters from freezing during winter.

• Now wash the exterior of your boat and outboard to remove accumulated salt (if you’re a tidal water angler), grease the trailer’s wheel bearings and check the safety chains and any electrical connections. Something known as a CRC Marine Corrosion Inhibitor can be ideal for many storage applications.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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