Winterizing your boat – Fall haul-out checklist

Making a checklist – temperatures are dropping, and leaves are changing color. Can only mean one thing….boating season is coming to an end. Many boat owners let the seemingly endless amount of work in order to prepare for winter overwhelm them. Often to the point of not doing even some of the most basic necessary requirements in order to ensure next boating season isn’t spent sitting in a shipyard such as ours.

Lets take a look at some of these basics to ensure your boat makes it through the winter safely and so next season is spent enjoying the seas and not the shipyard. This checklist is designed to breakdown the various onboard systems and list what we feel needs to be done for each. This list is meant to be a starter checklist for a typical inboard cruiser or working vessel. For those tasks outside your comfort zone (and many will be), be sure to consult a full service shipyard such as Commodore’s Boats or hire a marine technician or shipyard in your area and without getting in the way, watch what they are doing and ask questions in order to familiarize yourself with your vessel.

Commodore’s Boats is a full service shipyard with all-access capabilities. In short Commodore’s Boats has the experience and capability to repair/ restore/ maintain any aspect of  a vessel and the boatyard we operate allows owners to work on their boats side-by-side with our skilled shipwrights, mechanics, welders and electricians.


Exterior – Hull, Cabin, Flybridge

  1. Wash the hull to remove dirt, grime, algae, muscles
  2. Detail fiberglass gelcoat by removing stains, black streaks and oxidation. If the gelcoat is badly stained and/or oxidized, then compounding may be required. Ask us about our 4-step detail process.
  3. Clean and polish all metal hardware and than wax or coat with a moisture displacing lubricant to prevent corrosion and rust
  4. Scrub all decks, fish boxes, bait wells and exterior coolers
  5. Clean all canvas including dodgers, bimini, tops, curtains and strataglass. Clean with fresh water and mild soap. If mold is present than use a mold spray remover. Canvas zippers and snaps should be lubricated. Store ashore if possible.

Is shrink wrapping a boat a good idea? – the main reason to shrink wrap your boat is to protect it from weather damage.  Shrink wrap will help protect against rodents, insects, bird droppings, and dust. The wrap also provides greater warmth which may help eliminate pooling and a buildup of snow, along with the tight seal to withstand high winds. Ensure adequate ventilation. YES! Commodore’s Boats has the ability to shrink wrap your boat.


  1. Remove all food items, liquids (which can freeze and burst), bedding and clothes ashore.
  2. Clean the bilge and properly dispose of any oily wastewater. Oil absorbent sheets and proper bilge cleaner should be utilized.
  3. Store cushions ashore or prop them up to allow proper air circulation. Do not leave damp cushions on the boat.
  4. Clean all upholstery, cushions, carpets and curtains.
  5. Clean all cabinets, storage lockers , refrigerator and oven with a proper spray and leave all doors slightly ajar in order to promote proper air circulation.

Bilge Pumps

  1. Drain water from all pumps
  2. Visual check to check for damaged or worn parts and replace any if found or replace pump entirely
  3. Verify proper operation of all automatic floats, manual switches and alarms

Fresh Water System

  1. Drain fresh water system entirely including head, galley and add in antifreeze, Draining eliminates the requirement to flush the system in Spring, but double check all water is removed from the systems (inside pumps, hoses etc) in order to prevent freeze damage.
  2. Drain the water heater and leave all faucets open
  3. Open water tank plates and clean

Sanitation System

  1. Flush and drain completely and add a solution of antifreeze to the system
  2. Check all sanitation hoses for leaks, loose clamps and permutation. If a hose is suspect, wipe it down with a rag in hot water. If the rag smells such that it appears it has been contaminated  than replace the hose.


  1. Check for loose or corroded wires and terminal connections
  2. Top off wet cell batteries with distilled water
  3. Clean battery terminals and protect with a corrosion inhibitor
  4. Place batteries on a float charge or bring to a full charge monthly
  5. Unless they are being float charged, it is recommended to remove batteries and store in a garage or other warm and dry area


  1. Change the oil and filters to prevent sludge and contaminants from resting in the crank case over winter. Run your engine up to operating temperature before hand (the warm oil is easier to change and have more contaminants in the suspension). Run the engine for 5 minutes afterwards to properly distribute clean oil throughout the engine.
  2. For gas engines use fogging oil to protect the engine where appropriate. Fogging oil coats the internal engine components to prevent corrosion. It displaces moisture from metal to protect cylinder damage at start up.
  3. Check cooling system zincs and replace those required.
  4. Check transmission fluid levels and change if recommended by the manufacturer
  5. Change primary and secondary fuel filters and clear bowls of water and sediment.
  6. Clean the engine exterior of oil and grime using engine cleaner or degreaser. Once clean, inspect the engine for corrosion, loose hardware leaks and other noticeable issues that should be repaired immediately.
  7. Flush the cooling system. For open systems, drain completely. For closed systems, drain the raw water side and fill with antifreeze, then check the level of antifreeze in the closed side.
  8. Inspect all hoses to ensure properly attached, leaks or signs of deterioration (soft, cracked, bulges, bubbles) and replace if questionable.
  9. Clean all water intake strainers, then drain or add antifreeze
  10. Block exhaust outlets and air inlets to prevent rodents and insects from coming inboard

Note: Always be sure to follow engine manual procedures as recommended by the manufacturer


  1. Remove all electronic equipment and store ashore in a warm, dry location to prevent damage and theft.

Running Gear

  1. Check the engine transmission to shaft coupling for loose or missing hardware, ensuring all shaft retaining bolts are secured properly.
  2. Check prop blades for corrosion, dents, bends, corrosion or misalignment. They should be sent in for service annually
  3. Check shaft cutlass bearings for loose and replace if worn
  4. Verify strut mounting bolts are tight and that all hardware is in good shape
  5. Check prop shaft for trueness and any signs of corrosion. This may require bringing the shaft to a machine shop where they can check for straight on a lathe
  6. Check condition of all sacrificial anodes (zincs) and replace if required. If they are worn they are worn, they are doing their jobs. If not this could be an indication of electrolysis.


  1. Inspect the system for corrosion, loose or missing hardware or wear and binding.
  2. Top off all fluid reservoirs and inspect hoses and seals for leaks (Hydraulic systems)
  3. Inspect and grease all cables, check sheave mounts for loose hardware and sheaves. operate the steering wheel fully from port to starboard while doing this inspection (Cable steering systems)

Fuel System

  1. Top up all fuel tanks to avoid condensation
  2. Add appropriate fuel stabilizers.  In addition to stabilizers, diesel fuel should also be treated with a biocide additive to inhibit algae growth. E-10 gas requires additional additives to prevent phase separation due to water absorption
  3. When using E-10 it may be suggested that you completely drain the tank then refill with fresh gas in Spring. Although draining a built in tank may be troublesome so a more practical solution is to fill to 95% capacity and allowing expansion. This will reduce condensation and minimize explosive vapors.
  4. When filling gas tanks use the highest octane available to compensate for octane loss over the winter.
  5. Once you have topped off the tanks and treated your fuel, run the engine for 15 to 30 minutes to disperse freshly treated fuel throughout the system.

To download the above checklist click here

Contact Commodore’s Boats at 604-247-2628 with any questions or to schedule a haul out for purposes of Winterizing your boat.


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