Finish the season strong with these steps for optimal protection of both your watercraft and our watershed.

This story was written by the Our Gem Collaborative team for the CDA Press on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Read the original article.

Each fall when the Bay Watchers field season ends, the team prepares to winterize the University of Idaho research boat, just as local boaters plan for the same. To prevent your beloved summer craft from freezing damage, here are some strategies to protect engine blocks, potable water and other systems while keeping the quality of our groundwater, lakes and rivers in mind.

  • Work with a professional boat mechanic to winterize your boat’s engine, change the oil and ensure all water is drained from the engine block to prevent freezing. Please use water-safe antifreeze, available at marinas and auto parts stores.
  • Winterize your potable water and sanitation systems by draining the freshwater tank and water lines. Add nontoxic antifreeze to protect them from freezing.
  • Remove drain plugs to drain all water. Don’t forget to check pumps, bilges, livewells and ballast tanks. Even small amounts of water can allow aquatic invasive species to survive winter and can lead to mildew or cracks from freezing.
  • If you winterize your boats at home, ensure your waste products do not flow into storm drains. Wash boats over vegetated areas or utilize commercial car wash facilities. Use spill prevention and containment measures to protect storm drains from accidental spills. Use secondary containment for chemicals; keep a spill response kit with absorbent products, broom and dustpan; and use drip pans or other containment measures under your work area.
  • Pressure wash the hull, scrub props and shafts, rudders, struts and trim tabs. Clean all thru-hulls and strainers. Make sure to remove all plant material, attached organisms and slime.
  • Be sure that batteries are fully charged and switches are turned off.
  • Take measures to prevent mold and mildew buildup on the boat, eliminating the need for excess chemical/detergent use later.
  • Seal any leaks and use a well ventilated boat cover.

Take-home messages

  • Never clean your boat or engine parts with solvents while on the water.
  • To prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, thoroughly clean, drain, and dry your boat.
  • Use nontoxic marine engine antifreeze.
  • Never dump oil or other chemicals near gutters, down storm drains, in any surface water or on impervious surfaces like concrete, asphalt or pavers.