Know-How

Decommissioning Checklist

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By Charles Mason

Before you do anything else, compile a detailed list of all the projects that need to be done before the boat goes back in the water next year. Detail each item as carefully as possible and take photos and measurements of the project area so you can use them when ordering materials and in planning work sessions.

Make this list when the boat either is still in the water or before you put the winter cover on. Trying to create a ‘to do’ list when the boat is covered with two feet of snow is bound to produce errors, and probably a lot of wasted time.

Next, develop a detailed decommissioning check off list for your own boat and if possible put the estimated time to complete the job next to the task. Doing so will show you how much time it will take to do all the required work and can help you better plan your time. While different boats have different systems and procedures—and you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when dealing with a specific piece of on board equipment--there are general areas that you need put in your own list.

Before hauling

  • Run the engine until it is warm then change the oil in the crankcase and replace the oil and fuel filters.
  • If the cooling system is fresh water replace the antifreeze and make sure the mixture can handle the maximum expected low temperatures.
  • If possible top off fuel tank to prevent condensation

After hauling

  • Clean bottom and check for damage to hull surfaces, the keel, centerboard, and rudder.
  • Check and clean all intake valves and water strainers in cooling system
  • Clean all intake and discharge lines, check valves for smooth operation and lubricate valves as necessary.
  • Winterize toilet with non-toxic antifreeze and overhaul it if necessary to replace gaskets and other components that need an annual check.
  • Spray all electrical fittings, contacts, terminal posts and other parts of wiring system with penetrating rust-preventative lubricant such as WD-40 or similar product.
  • Check all external underwater and internal engine zincs. Note amount of deterioration and if they are excessive, have the entire system checked by a professional. Otherwise replace zincs as necessary; make sure metal underneath it is shiny before replacing zinc.
  • Drain freshwater system and fill it with non-toxic antifreeze.
  • Wash topsides before covering. Give all chrome and stainless hardware surfaces a light coat of boat wax. Don’t polish or buff surfaces. Leave that for next spring.
  • Cover all port lights and hatches with a light film of paste wax. Also leave unpolished until next spring.
  • Check condition of all blocks and fittings on mast and deck. Note items that need to be replaced and either do so now, or order replacements for installation next spring. Protect from corrosion by spraying a moisture dispersant onto all turnbuckles, chocks, cleats, winches, stanchions, windlass and all other metal items on deck and below.
  • Remove all loose gear including batteries and electronic equipment. Clean all lines, cushions etc. with mild detergent and store in a dry space.
  • When the boat cover has been installed, make sure it is snug and there are no potential chafe spots. Make sure there is adequate ventilation belowdecks.

When you have created your decommissioning list double check it to make sure everything that needs to be done is included. Be sure to design the list so it is easy to check off an item when it has been completed.

Always take time to do a job correctly. Short cuts can lead to problems next spring. If you are going to do something it is worth taking the time to do it correctly.

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