From The Boathouse: Yes, we still need to prepare for winter


My recent Alaskan cruise aboard the Princess Cruises' Star Princess has brought boat winterization to the forefront of my mind, especially when we saw chunks of glacier ice float by the ship.

We are lucky to live along a portion of the Pacific Ocean where our boating season really never ends, especially because Newport Harbor will not freeze over for us to go ice skating. For some this is the end of the boating season until the Christmas boat parades.

Let me explain before I get a flood of reader's emails that we do not need to winterize our boats for freezing temperatures along Southern California's coastline, but we do need to protect our boats from freezing conditions in our local mountains and high deserts. Keep in mind that the temperature only plays a role of how in-depth you will need to perform your winterization.

If you have a trailer boat stored in the mountain areas or high desert, you will have to completely winterize it.

But it's a different matter for boats stored or moored in one of Orange County's harbors.

Because we do not have any lasting freezing temperatures, you do not have to worry about the expansion of ice. Therefore, you do not need to drain your fresh water tanks nor add antifreeze nor blowout the lines to the boat's plumbing. I do recommend that you pump out your holding tank and add in an odor treatment product. A professional tip is to also dry out your sump pumps to keep the unpleasant odor from the organic gases creeping up the drains.

One of the biggest culprits is mold — which loves to grow in dark damp areas — sounds like a boat to me. Wet towels, swim fins, bedding and cushions, basically anything that might grow mold, should be taken off your boat. Open all the cabinet and shower doors to allow air circulation and hang dry towels over the top of the stateroom doors to keep them open.

Do not forget the lifejackets. Wash and sun dry the PFDs while replacing any that are worn or damaged.

Electric dehumidifiers work well if your boat has shore power or you can use the dry chemical dehumidifiers, but you will have to empty the containers once in awhile.

This is also a good time to change the oil to protect your engine(s) (mains and generators). The used oil contains contaminants and water that you do not want sitting in your engine all winter, plus change all the filters including the fuel filters. Remember during the off season to start your engines at least once a month and let the engines come up to operating temperature.

Now, pickle your water maker if you have one, check the water levels in your batteries, and replace the water pump impellers. To top off or not to top off your fuel tanks is the question, whether 'tis nobler to suffer water condensation in the tanks or stale fuel. I will write more on this topic in an upcoming column; however, fuel docks will have a fuel stabilizer that you can add at the beginning of next boating season. Also, I recommend that you empty and dry out any portable fuel tanks that you might use for your dinghy. The fuel docks in the harbor can assist you to dispose of the fuel properly and safely.

Double check that all your bilge pumps are working and the scuppers are clear of debris before the winter rains arrive. Give the interior a good cleaning, and do not, I repeat, do not use bleach (chlorine solutions) or petroleum based solvents to clean the sinks, showers and heads on a boat. These solutions will erode the inner lining of the plastic drain hoses and the inner linings are specially coated to help prevent obnoxious odors. Finally, close all the sun shades, exterior hatches, portholes and interior anchor locker access to keep moisture like fog from creeping inside the cabin.

Lastly, you can start planning for any necessary haul outs, bottom painting and repair work in the off season when shipyards and mechanics are not at their busiest times. Each type of boat will have a specific list of winterizing recommendations, so check with the manufacturer of your boat.

Tip of the week is a new law, Assembly Bill 2443, that Gov. Jerry Brown signed at the end of September that will cost boaters more money. The law is to levy a quagga and zebra mussel prevention fee on the state's boat registration.

The main concerns are that a vast majority of boaters never leave the state to a body of water infested with the mussels, but these boaters will still be required to pay the fee. Additionally, the Department of Boating and Waterways (Cal Boating) will be responsible for managing the funds, however, Cal Boating is merging under the State's Parks Department. If you recall, the Parks Department was just caught with $54 million in hidden funds and heads are still rolling. The enjoyment of boating will eventually be taxed and regulated out of existence.

And don't forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead's "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network at noon Saturdays and replayed at 10 a.m. Sundays.

Safe Voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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