Saturday, November 8, 2008


Each boat has a similar list of storage and winterization tasks, but each boat is different too. To prepare for winter storage, I collected information from Columbia Yacht Club members, fellow sailors in the yacht yard, the yacht yard manager, and the Internet. The Mad Mariner featured a winterization series of articles that was very helpful. I also learn quite a bit from Practical Sailor and the Yanmar engine manual. What got me started was a bit of advice from Wayne, a harbor neighbor, whom we had first met in Leland, MI on Windstar. Wayne suggested that I hire a mechanic for an hour to show me what is to be done and how to do it. This I did and it was an hour that saved me days of time later.

I still was very worried about winterizing the sea water system and changing the oil on the engine. As the mechanic showed me, I must run the engine without the benefit of a large lake providing cooling water. Instead of the lake, I must use a bucket and garden hose. The very thought frightened me to death. It had to be done for two reasons. First, the oil must be warm before it could be pumped out and new oil replaced. The engine would have to run for about 5 minutes to get it to operating temperature. Second, antifreeze must be sucked into the system so that it would not freeze in the subzero temperatures of a Chicago winter.

I went to the yard, climbed into Speakeasy, exposed the engine compartment, and studied the hoses until I knew what each one did. I followed each hose from intake to output--fuel, "fresh" water (coolant), hot water, exhaust, and sea water. I removed the intake hose from the sea strainer and rigged a second hose from it to my bucket. I prepared the garden hose with water from the yard's supply. I practiced how I would start the engine by sticking my head through the starboard hatch where I could reach the binnacle where the starter switch and kill pull were located. I went through starting and stopping in my head. I set a timer so I'd know when to stop the engine. Finally, it was time to do it. I turned the key, pushed the switch, and then opened the garden spigot. I looked carefully for signs that the water was diminishing in the bucket. Yes! Yes, water was being sucked from the bucket through the engine. I knew it was alright, but the 5 minutes of running the engine from a bucket were agony.

I purchased a small pump prepelled from a drill to get the old oil out of the engine block. After a few false steps in which I pump little but air, I got the hang of it an empty most of the oil from the engine. I changed the oil filter, and filled the the engine with fresh oil. I started the engine once again to pump the oil through the engine and then topped it off with more fresh oil.

I needed to start the engine one more time to suck RV antifreeze into the sea water hoses. For this step, I needed a helper to watch the output on the port quarter. Fortunately, there is always a friend at the yard. I was especially lucky because Wild Thyme was right next to Speakeasy and her owner, Wally, was busy installer her storage cover. Wild Thyme is a Catalina 30 that spent the summer tied to a mooring ball just next to Speakeasy in Monroe Harbor. The two boats knew each other well. I poured a couple gallones of pink RV antifreeze in my bucket and started the engine. I watched the fluid decrease in the bucket until I heard Wally yell--pink fluid was coming out of the exhaust port. I killed the engine. That was that. The engine wouldn't be started again until spring.

My mechanic suggested that I put a couple gallons of RV antifreeze in each of the two water tanks and pump it through each of the faucets--galley, head, and swim platform. I had read that one didn't want the smell of RV antifreeze in the hot water tank in in the spring, so I attempted to bypass the tank by removing an intake hose and plunging bungs into the openings. This was an utter failure. All I managed to do was fill the bilge with antifreeze as it sprayed out of the the hoses. I set this job aside for a couple weeks until Beth returned from Switzerland where she was working. We decided to bypass the tank next year. This year, we would make sure the hoses were filled with antifreeze. I replaced the hoses to the water heater and began the pump. We checked each faucet to make sure it ran pink.

Finally, I tacked the head. Previously, we had flushed the holding tank with fresh water a few times during out final pump out of the season. Since then, the head hadn't been used. During our final cruise to the yard, we used a bucket instead of our fine toilet. Again, I followed the advice of my mechanic. I drained the fluid from the commode, catching it in newspaper. Once I cleaned the area and replaced the valve, I poured RV antifreeze in the bowl and pumped it through the hoses to the hold tank.

The last chore was to get a cover on Speakeasy. We were having the local sailmaker create a canvas cover for her. The alternatives were to have the yard shrink plastic over her or rig rectangles of canvas over her. Canvas covers are expensive, but they last many years and there is no plastic to add to the trash stream each spring.

I took a deep breath and hoped that Speakeasy would be fine over the cold, windy, snowy winter.
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