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post #1 of 15 Old 09-16-2003 Thread Starter
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How/what to winterize for living aboard in Great Lakes

We will be living aboard a 1981 Catalina 38 in S.E. Michigan on Lake Erie (we are currently on Lake St. Clair). What do I need to do to winterize the systems? Do I have to empty my water tank (under the V-berth), or will the cabin heat keep it from freezing? Will I have to clear all the lines for the engine then shut the seacocks? Add antifreeze? Since we will be living on it and it will be heated, I don''t know what level of winterization is necessary. Any help/advice would be appreciated.
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post #2 of 15 Old 09-16-2003
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How/what to winterize for living aboard in Great Lakes

I wintered a bit on my C36 last easy winter in southern connecticut.

I had a very nice heavy custom made canvas with frame cover for the boat from the Fairclough canvas co. That helped create a nice greenhouse effect when it could(

I pretty much didn''t use nor heat the forward V-berth and used that for storage and kept the door closed. I emptied my forward tank and ran the pink antifreeze through the line up to the water valve selector manifold & disconnected it there. I also disconnected the water lines to the cockpit shower and did the same thing.

My two aft water tanks I left alone and used for water

I also winterized the engine.....thats all...I did heat my boat at least to a minimal level, but I did nothing to the thruhulls...most were in the warmer areas of the boat.

It was a hell of a winter with the whole marina frozen over thick for a while, but with bubblers I was ok.
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post #3 of 15 Old 09-18-2003
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How/what to winterize for living aboard in Great Lakes

Fall Lay-up
by Don Casey (From BOAT-US Newsletter)

Sorry, I lost the link - so re-typed it in full ...

Nothing is harder on your boat than neglect, and neglect is exactly what recreational boats are subjected to when cold weather settles in. But proper lay-up techniques can minimize the ill effects winter disuse will have on your boat.

A prime objective of lay-up is to prepare your boat for the inevitability of freezing conditions. Fluids must be removed or protected, and nothing should be aboard that might be damaged by low temperatures.

Prepare a checklist
The most important tool for properly winterizing your boat is a pencil. Unless you prepare a comprehensive checklist--and follow it--chances are good that you will miss a step or two. Spending a few minutes now tailoring the generic checklist below to your specific requirements will next spring save you hours of dealing with the consequences of an oversight.

Empty lockers of perishables
Also take off any cans or bottles containing liquids that could freeze.

Freezeproof the toilet
Every toilet I have ever removed has dumped water (I hope) on the cabin sole when turned sideways to pass through the head door, so pumping a toilet "dry" may prove inadequate. Disconnect the inlet hose from the closed seacock and submerge it in a 50-50 mix of water and propylene glycol antifreeze. Operate the head until you are sure the antifreeze has passed through the toilet and all lines.

If you have an onboard sewage treatment system, follow the manufacturer''s instructions for winterizing.

NOTE: For all pump, tank, and hose winterizing, use only non-toxic propylene glycol antifreeze. Never use the ethylene glycol type--common automotive antifreeze--which is poisonous.

Pump out the holding tank
If the holding tank was empty and clean when you treated the toilet, you can leave the antifreeze mix in the tank, but an empty tank is better.

Empty all freshwater tanks
Antifreeze is not practical because a 50-50 solution is required, and you then have to empty the tanks in the spring anyway. Remember that the pump pickup is above the bottom, so you will have to pump or sponge the tank dry through the clean-out port. This is a good time to wipe down the interior of the tank with a chlorine solution.

Drain the water heater
If your water heater has an electrical element, electrically disconnect the heater before you drain it. Because the element will burn out unless submerged, attach a tag to the electrical connection to remind you to refill the tank before restoring the connection.

Drain or protect pumps and hoses
Even though you are going to drain pumps and hoses, it is advisable to pump a 50-50 antifreeze solution through them to protect pockets or low spots that could be harboring residual water. If your boat is fitted with a water heater--now empty--bypass it (by disconnecting inlet and outlet hoses and connecting them together) so the antifreeze reaches the hot-water side of your plumbing.

NOTE: For uncomplicated water delivery configurations, draining--without the antifreeze treatment--will be adequate as long as you make sure no water remains in pumps or low spots in hoses.

Drain the accumulator
Water doesn''t actually flow through your accumulator tank, so pumping antifreeze through the lines puts very little into the accumulator--like pouring more water into a full jug. If it doesn''t drain when you remove the hoses, blow through the T connector, or dismount the tank and shake it empty.

Protect refrigeration and air-conditioning condensers
Internal loops in the water passages typically prevent complete drainage, so disconnect the raw-water connection from the closed seacock and submerge it in a 50-50 antifreeze mix. Run the system to force the antifreeze through the pump and all lines. Drain.

Drain baitwell and/or washdown pumps and hoses
Check valves can prevent the lines from draining completely, so you may need to disconnect hoses at both ends. Baitwell tanks must, of course, be empty.

Empty shower sumps
Don''t expect the pump to leave the shower sump dry. You will need to release the sump and pour it empty or sponge the sump dry.

Empty propane lines
Light a burner on the galley stove--and any other gas appliances--then turn off the manual valve on the propane tank(s). When the burner(s) goes out, close it and flip the solenoid switch to off.

Remove sails and canvas
Exposing awnings and sails to winter storms--even folded or furled--definitely shortens and too often terminates their lives.

Lubricate furling systems
If your furling system requires lubrication, this is the time to do it.

Service winches
If you do this in the fall, you will know that the internal components are well protected from corrosion for the winter, and the winches will be ready for service in the spring without further attention.

Remove electronics
Spending winters in a warm, dry place prolongs the life of your electronics. Taking them off the boat also eliminates the risk of theft. Spray the open connectors with a moisture-displacing lubricant to protect the contacts from the formation of corrosion. Extract the log impeller and replace it with the plug.

Protect batteries
If wet-cell batteries are allowed to discharge the electrolyte becomes pure water, which will freeze and ruin the battery. On small boats, bring batteries to a fully charged condition, then remove them from the boat and store in a dry, cool (not frigid) location. Wash and thoroughly dry the tops of stored batteries to reduce the potential for self-discharge. Do not leave stored batteries connected to a portable charger. Unless the charger turns off completely--few do--the batteries will suffer damage. However, stored batteries should be brought to full charge once a month, so post yourself a reminder.

If the batteries will be stored aboard because they are too heavy for convenient removal, they must be maintained in a full charge condition all winter. This requires a power connection and a charger with a "float" stage.

Winterize the engine
A helpful checklist for this essential component of fall lay-up is available as a separate Don Casey Shows You How... sheet.

Scrub the exterior
Flushing salt residue from hardware and rigging reduces the potential for corrosion, and grime left on fiberglass or painted surfaces until spring will be that much harder to remove.

Touch up brightwork
Do not leave damaged spots bare all winter.

Wax fiberglass surfaces
A light coat of soft wax will protect the fiberglass from dirt and moisture. There is no need to buff it until spring

Empty the bilge
Bilge pumps typically fail to remove all water from the bilge. Any that remains will freeze. Pump and sponge the bilge completely dry.

Open drain plug
Trailerable boats should be stored with the drain plug removed and the bow elevated so precipitation that finds its way inside the boat will drain out. Sailboats are sometimes fitted with a garboard drain plug to serve the same function when wintering ashore. Remove the plug and tag it conspicuously so you cannot forget to reinstall it in the spring.

Close all seacocks except cockpit drains
If the boat is hauled, lubricate and exercise the seacocks--all of them--before closing them for the winter. Out of the water an open seacock still admits moisture, frigid air, and perhaps vermin, so close them.

Vacuum, clean, and polish
Dirt and grease promote the growth of mold and mildew. Vacuum cushions, clean cabinet interiors, and damp-wipe all hard surfaces. Scrub the interior of refrigerators or ice chests with a mild chlorine solution. Place an open box of baking soda inside and leave the lid open or off.

Prop up cushions
Air circulation to all sides of cushions is essential. Better still, remove all loose cushions from the boat entirely and store them somewhere warm and dry for the winter. This also applies to other fabric items aboard, like linens, blankets, and PFDs.

Open lockers and drawers and hatches
Adequate air circulation is the best way of combating mildew. Latch-hooks can be employed to hold cabin and locker doors slightly ajar. Prop bilge access and other compartment hatches open. Hanging a mildew control bag in the cabin is a good precaution.

A canvas or shrink-wrap winter cover doesn''t just keep precipitation out of the boat''s interior, it also protects the deck. In the winter, moisture between hardware and the deck or in minute cracks in the gelcoat repeatedly freezes, jacking the cracks wider with each cycle.
Covers should be padded to prevent chafe, well secured to resist buffeting, and well ventilated to allow the circulation of air beneath the tarp.

For more information about boat maintenance, consult This Old Boat by Don Casey.
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post #4 of 15 Old 09-13-2006
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Hi Tsenator,
I've lived aboard in Connecticut for most of three winters. My boat was stored in the water with a heavy canvas cover. The salt water in my area freezes, but not to a thick layer of ice. Most of the ice "damage" was a scraping action that took off the top 3" of bottom paint at my waterline.

Even though you're living on board I'd recommend a full winterization. We had several folks here at my marina who were counting on electric space heaters. All went well until the power went out for two days. If you're near to the boat, and have a backup generator and plenty of gas, then maybe you could catch things in time to prevent damage.

Hope this helps,

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post #5 of 15 Old 09-13-2006
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Please for god's sake, do not use GREEN toxic anti-freeze in any systems such as domestic water or even your engine while winterizing.

There is PINK non-toxic anti-freeze available specific for this task, and if there is a small residual amount left in your domestic system after spring commissioning, it wont kill you, not that I drink water from my own tank, but it is non-toxic!
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post #6 of 15 Old 09-14-2006
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Our boat will be in coastal central NC for the winter, after living its life in FL until now (it's a 1983). There's not a whole lot of freezing weather, but it is possible...not enough, I wouldn't think, to need the full winterizing, though. Anyone in a more temperate clime than the Northeast or Great Lakes have advice? I plan to be working on the boat all winter, and we may even do some weekends aboard with a good forecast...


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post #7 of 15 Old 09-14-2006
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JSW...we're in NC as well. I would certainly winterize your freshwater systems but you shouldn't have to worry about your engine systems if you are going to be on the boat and able to run the engine if we get a cold snap. The salt water should not freeze. Ditto the head system but I would certainly keep the through hulls closed then you are off the boat. I assume you'll be plugged in at the dock so you can keep your batteries topped up. Run the engine when you're aboard. Keep the cockpit scuppers clear as debris and ice can form there and sink you!
This all assumes you will be in close proximity to the boat and making regular visits. Even though the bay waters don't freeze here, fresh water will in a good cold snap so if you can't be there to pay attention I'd do everything Casey says above except for the engine.
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post #8 of 15 Old 09-14-2006
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If you decide to winterize your water system, consider what I've done for 12 years to mine, also in Detroit. I added a T with a valve to the output of the water tank before the pump. In the fall, I drain the water tank and then hook a hose to the T and put the other end of the hose into a gallon of the pink antifreeze. Then turn on the pump and feed the pink stuff through the entire water system. What I've just done is to winterize the system without adding pink stuff to the water tank itself. Cleaning out the pink stuff from the water tank in the spring is a royal pain, but flushing the hoses isn't nearly so bad. The pint or 2 of water left in the tank won't hurt the water tank, it'll probably evaporate anyway.

You should plan on backup power systems for power outages if you do live aboard in the winter. I've read that shrink wrapping with the transparent stuff created a very good greenhouse effect. Sorry I can't help you further with your prep.
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post #9 of 15 Old 09-14-2006
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Camaraderie, we won't be there all the time (we don't live full time in Beaufort, unfortunately!), but I am there a couple of times a month throughout the winter, and am close enough to run over for hurricanes or freezes. And we will have shore power, but I don't know that we would leave it hooked up unless we were there -- don't know a lot about that, but would think you wouldn't want to expose yourself to surges or bad wiring unless you were there to have a quick remedy? All that said, probably a pretty thorough winterization would be in order just in case...


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post #10 of 15 Old 09-14-2006
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Ahh....Beaufort...I don't think you need to worry about freezes with that current! I would leave the shore power hooked up assuming you have an on-board battery charger...otherwise you need to get the batteries off the boat. I would winterize the head lines as well gien the 2 week absences but still think you can get away without doing the engine if you can run her every couple of weeks and get there in the event of a really hard freeze.
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