It's really getting cold now where I live. If it's not too late, can you tell me what I should do about storing my electronic gear for the rest of the winter?
Mark Sloan responds:
Most of today's marine electronics can handle the cold winter weather to which they may be subjected, but to really protect your investment, it is recommended that you move whatever you can into a more moderate environment. Vulnerability to theft is also an excellent reason to remove some of your expensive gear from the boat. With today's smaller and lighter instruments, portability works both ways. In addition, many of the instruments today can be taken home, programmed, and utilized over the winter. For example you can add and delete waypoints, set up routes, and download up-to-date charts in many GPSs and chartplotters.
If you are going to store portable instruments that use small batteries, like many GPS units, replace the batteries prior to storage. You'll want to protect the unit's internal battery that is responsible for memory storage. You don't want to lose all those waypoints that you collected during the season.
If you elect to move your radar display inside be sure to protect the large plug from the antenna with a balloon or other waterproof covering around the end. An inexpensive bag of balloons can protect all of your larger plug ends from the elements. The radar radome is sealed and should be just fine outside. It is, however, a good idea to cover an open array radar scanner if possible.
Things that move are particularly susceptible to wear and tear. At the top of this list is your masthead transducer. Sitting out in the elements all winter long, spinning away, can only wear down bearings. Most masthead transducers easily detach at the masthead. It is a really good idea to oil the bearings with light sewing machine oil and store the transducer in a safe area where it won't be damaged.
When you disconnect any piece of equipment be sure to label all the wires to ensure easy reinstallation the following spring. This is also a good time to inspect and clean the wires. A small wire brush can be used to clean the connections, and it is good to coat the terminals with petroleum jelly or corrosion blocker.
Finally, think about things that you might want to accomplish before the next season starts. Take a look at your EPIRB battery's replacement date. Most of them can be renewed, but the unit may need to go to a factory authorized service center. The winter season is a great time to work on upgrades and special projects.