From the Boathouse: Winter is coming to the harbor


October is upon us, and my friends are telling me that they are getting snow in Utah and Colorado already.

Our weather is still very pleasant, with this weekend forecast to be in the high 60s to the low 70s along our coast. However, hearing about the recent snowfall has brought boat winterization to the forefront of my mind, especially when many boaters are securing their vessels until next season.

We are lucky to live along the coast in Southern California, where our boating season really never ends because we do not experience long periods of freezing temperatures. The ocean temperature helps to maintain our mild air temperatures for Orange County.

However, you can drive a couple of hours to our mountains and find freezing winter temperatures. Hopefully this winter, the snow pack will be better for skiing and replenishing our water supply.

Let me explain before I get a flood of emails saying boat owners face different degrees of winterizing, depending on where the boat is located for storage or mooring:

Along Southern California's coastline, we do not need to protect our boats from freezing conditions, unlike those stored in the mountains and high deserts. If you have a trailer boat stored in these areas, you will have to completely winterize it.

Keep in mind that the temperature plays only a part of how in-depth you will need to perform your winterization. Have you heard about a critter like a raccoon moving aboard a boat for the winter and causing a good amount of damage — which the owners discover in the spring?

Boats that are moored in one of Orange County's three harbors and vessels dry-docked nearby do not need to be completely winterized. Because there are no lasting freezing temperatures, you do not have to worry about lines breaking because of ice. So there's no need to drain your fresh water tanks, add antifreeze or blow out the lines to the boat's plumbing as you would in the mountains.

I do recommend you pump out your holding tank and add an odor treatment product. Another tip is to also dry out your sump pumps to keep the unpleasant odors from the organic gases creeping up the drains.

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

Don't forget 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 dry chemical dehumidifiers, but you will have to empty the containers once in a while.

This is also a good time to change the oil to protect your engines (mains and generators). The used oil contains contaminants and water that you do not want sitting in your engine all winter.

Also, change all the filters, including the fuel filters. Remember to start your engines at least once a month during the off-season and let the engines come up to operating temperature.

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. Each type of boat will have a specific list of winterizing recommendations, so check with the manufacturer.

Tip of the week is to 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 fluids will erode the inner lining of the plastic drain hoses, which are specially coated to help prevent obnoxious odors.

Finally, close all sunshades, exterior hatches, portholes and interior anchor locker access to keep moisture from creeping inside the cabin.

Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network. See times at, and

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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