After our boat hibernation routine last week, we decided to call in a professional to winterize the motor. We took advantage of his presence to pester the heck out of him about other good practices for preparing the boat for winter. Almost everything we did last week was good, but we missed a few tricks.
First of all, our young mechanic complemented us on our clean motor and bilge tray. I liked him immediately. While Patrick was laughing, I admitted that I regularly attacked the motor with an old toothbrush and WD-40. I keep the bilge tray spotless not because of any obsessive-compulsive disorder but because it’s very important to know if the motor is dripping from anywhere.
For the motor, all was well. He changed all the filters, the alternator belt, and the water pump turbine, and filled the motor with anti-freeze for the winter. He suggested closing the valve between the fuel line and the diesel tank and he put a thick wad of paper towel in the air-intake to cut down on air circulation inside the motor. He cautioned us that we should write ourselves a BIG VISIBLE REMINDER to remove the wad and open the valve before trying to start the motor the next time.
I had drained the water tank and pumped as much water out of the toilet as possible. He told us to simply pour some anti-freeze down the toilet, give it a few pumps to get the liquid up into the joint assembly and then leave it. For the water tank, he said it was best to leave the faucet in the open/on position, open to air, so that any water in the tubes could drain down into the tank and/or move around rather than being blocked by vapour lock.
The big surprise (and embarrassment) came when we asked about the batteries. We had a mechanic working on our motor last year and we asked if we needed to add distilled de-ionized water to our batteries from time to time. He looked over the motor battery and said we had water-tight “no-maintenance” batteries that don’t need water. We looked at the two service batteries and couldn’t see any place where one would add water and so we declared that they, too, must be no maintenance.
Wrong. While the motor battery was indeed no maintenance, this was not the case with the service batteries. This mechanic ripped off the sticker label on the top of the two service batteries to reveal water refill holes. He opened one of them up and gave a whistle, instantly translatable in any language as “this doesn’t look too good”. The water levels were quite low. He said there was no harm done, but that they definitely needed a top-up.
We told him we planned to disconnect the batteries and leave them on the boat over the winter. He informed us that, for a very modest fee (I think it ended up being about $25 total), he would take them off the boat and store them in the workshop and charge them once a month until we reinstalled them next spring. They do this regularly as part of their winterizing service for customers whose boats are in the Arzal port lot. This sounded great to us since we were already trying to figure out how often we should come back to the boat to recharge the batteries over the winter.
So now we can truly say that Spray is tucked in for the winter. We’ve still got to take the sails in for some minor touch-ups but we’ll get on to that later this week and be ready to turn our attention to other endeavours… like shopping for a new boat !