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Old 08-09-2020, 19:05   #1
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Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

How do you guys store your boats on the hard over winter in the northern Great Lakes? The boat is currently on double stands, all canvas and sails removed, decks cleared, and most everything removed from the interior. My concern is heavy snow and ice loading as well as any water leaking inside and freezing. What to do about this? I was told dump a few gallons of RV antifreeze in the bilge but that doesn't seem right to me. Anything else I should considered. Never stored a boat in the snow belt. Any and all ideas will be much appreciated.
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Old 08-09-2020, 19:30   #2
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

So, you don't say where your boat is located. There's quite a range of conditions stretching along the so-called "northern" great lakes. I say that as a Canadian. None of the American side of the Great Lakes would be northern Great Lakes.

Regardless, the approach is the same anywhere where there is persistent freezing and possible heavy snow loads.

First, if there is going to be heavy snow loads I would definitely cover the boat. You can build a decent winter cover with PVC conduit and hardware tarps. I've always covered my entire boats.

Of course if you're in one of those northern areas that doesn't get a lot of snow, then you may not need the cover. But I always do.

Critically, you must winterize all the water-based systems. This usually means plumbing and engine. If it's an inboard engine, run antifreeze through the water intake side until you're spitting antifreeze. I use engine antifreeze for this.

On the plumbing side, I dump antifreeze a gallon of plumber antifreeze into the tank, then pump it out through all the faucets. Make sure you see it running pink through all the pumps and taps.

For the head, dump some in, first make you're you're pumped clean. Then dump some in and pump it back to the holding tank.

The principle with all this is to have antifreeze run through all the pumps and taps and small places so you've can be sure there is no water.

As for the bilge, unless you can guarantee it will remain water-free (and this is rare), then yes, dump a bunch of antifreeze in. This will ensure that the water that gets in won't freeze/thaw.

Oh, and make sure you are positioned properly on the stands. You want any water that gets to the deck to drain off, and not sit there. This will avoid the freeze/thaw cycle.
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Old 08-09-2020, 20:04   #3
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

I am on west coast (wet coast), so this will be a lot different than your situation. We rarely go much below freezing in Winter here, but we get a ton of rain, so here it is important to tarp everything to keep the rain off.

Snow presents different issues for us as well, because it tends to be very wet snow, which is heavy, and that causes the tarp to stretch into pits, where the water fills up, so there is a lot of work to be done over Winter to keep that from happening. Putting the boat under a hard cover would be ideal, but doesn't work where I live.
I installed a heater in my boat last year that was set to 8c, and I also put in a dehumidifier to keep mold out. The dehumidifier stops working around 5c, hence the need for the heater. This kept my boat bone dry inside all Winter last year.
Be sure to bring in your cushions and anything soft so it doesn't go moldy. Maybe things are bone dry, but cold, in Winter where you live, so the heater and dehumidifier is not necessary. I have outboard motor and bring that into house for Winter.
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Old 08-09-2020, 20:23   #4
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

Shrink wrap
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Old 08-09-2020, 20:36   #5
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

We dealt with Great Lakes fo several years. Mike offers very good advice.

For antifreeze I used the pink minus 50 stuff for most water lines. Purple is minus 90. I used that in the bilge. I drained the water side of the engine cooling. Easy, just pull the plugs and hoses off the fresh side in my case. Glycol flush is what most people do. Completely tarp to keep out blowing snow but figure what will let some air vent through. When it first turned cold at night, warm days, we had a lot of condensation inside. We collected enough water to require pumping and more antifreeze to be added. What worked was to prop the hatches about 1-1/2 inch with a wood block. Make sure the snow canít reach them. Prop a few floor boards up as well. Remove all cushions and canvas. Leave no fabrics on board. For our AGM batteries I brought them to float and disconnected the negative. After any snow accumulations I crawled inside and popped the snow off the tarp, otherwise, the load was too heavy. Any time I was there for a while I connected the batteries to the charger and checked systems.

One other thing. Some LCD displays donít like extreme cold. Check on their ratings or just take the stuff home.
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Old 09-09-2020, 05:21   #6
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

Shrink wrap or canvas covers to minimize snow loading, etc. Winterize all water systems (fresh water, cooling, etc.) with antifreeze. Make sure bilge pump hoses are empty if there are any check valves. If in doubt, a gallon of -100 antifreeze in the bilge will keep any condensation or water that can't be removed from freezing, although a tiny bit of frozen water in the bilge shouldn't really hurt anything.

Personally, I don't remove batteries or anything. I just turn off all unnecessary breakers (light breakers stay on for when I check on the boat) and any time I'm there to check on or work on anything, it gets plugged in for a bit to top off the batteries.
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Old 09-09-2020, 07:43   #7
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

Thank you Thank you Thank you! The boat is on the upper west side of the GL in WI. The engine and plumbing systems have already been done. Everything was removed from the boat, especial all fabrics and canvas. I'll need to look into the bilges to make sure they are treated with AF. The boat is completely exposed with no cover. I'll have to do that. No big deal there. The boat is in a storage yard with no electricity.




What do you guys do in spring to catch the AF that comes from the bilge and plumbing systems? What is the approved method of disposal for the AF?
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Old 09-09-2020, 08:26   #8
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

I'm in the Minneapolis area. There are various approaches.


Some people leave their boat in the water, in harbors that have aerators or that are naturally ice free due to river flow. I don't recommend it. Usually an approach for LOBs and lower value boats.



Most people remove the mast. I do. Icing conditions combined with wind can push a boat off the stands/cradle/trailer if the mast is left up. People who leave the rig up have their boat on a cradle, which (if well made) will provide more lateral support than stands or a trailer.


Most people have their boats shrink wrapped, which costs several hundred dollars. I don't do this. Moisture gets trapped under the shrink wrap, and can lead to mildew problems, especially if the shrink wrap isn't removed promptly in the spring. (Which can happen if some sort of family/medical matter intervenes and you're not there to do it) The shrink wrap also impedes access for winter maintenance and for the situation where your kid is absolutely sure he left his passport under the mattress in the quarterberth since he can't find it anywhere else. And then it has to be removed and disposed of in the spring, and can't be recycled.



It is possible to have solar fans, vents, zippered doors, etc added to the shrink wrap, which drives the cost up further.


It is difficult and time consuming to secure a tarp so that it will not blow off or fail because of ice and snow load. I've done it. One trick is to tie washers or coins into the tarp as anchors. I have not been able to get more than two years out of the blue polyethylene tarps, when using them for boat covers.



I am confident that my boat doesn't have any deck leaks and so I'm not going to cover it this year. Not worth it. But then I have an older boat



I use a wet-dry vac to remove all the water from the bilges once the boat is on the hard. I have a Milwaukee battery wet-dry vac that makes this very convenient.



Some people replace the companionway boards with a piece of plywood for the winter.


I don't use much antifreeze. My present boat doesn't really have a freshwater system (there are separate jugs of water for the hand pump under each sink) but in the past I have blown lines with compressed air and then pumped in just enough antifreeze to fill the lines and valves. I don't put antifreeze in the bilge.



It is important to leave all the thru-hulls open so that they do not trap water and burst.


Some people remove running rigging including halyards (leaving messenger lines).



I don't remove a lot of stuff. You can pull out all the cushions, electronics, galley cookware, PFDs, etc etc etc but it all has to be stored and then put back. I do take out the food.
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Old 09-09-2020, 08:44   #9
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

If you use Propylene Glycol pink antifreeze (NOT ethylene glycol!), then it is fully safe and biodegradable, so there is no need to catch it when pumping it out in the spring. Propylene glycol is routinely used in foods. It's safe, and won't contaminate the ground or water. Just make sure to read the label and get the right stuff.
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Old 09-09-2020, 08:51   #10
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

Mike had good info above. I am on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Bath to be exact. I only cover the cockpit ( Bimini & Dodger) and let the solar panels sty on. That keeps power but it also serves to circulate air in the cabin with inverter. I leave Mast up but take off sails. For me the most important point is to position the boat so that any melting snow or ice drains off. I usually take a jug of water after boat settles to watch that water flows off well. Do not count on the scuppers. In 10 years I only had to remove ice once when I thought I removed 4 tons of it. Count on getting water in bilge so I use -50 C rv antifreeze for bilge and also for all the lines. I also use same on engine systems as it is environmentally friendly whereas straight antifreeze is not. I did shrink wrap of the whole boat one year and suffered bad condensation as boat was too well sealed. Now I make sure it breathes.
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Old 09-09-2020, 09:17   #11
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

I have not yet seen any mention of animals.
I am in Toronto and our boats are ashore and winterized from about late October until May.
Animals regularly get inside boats and cause a mess:
Racoons love winteriong over in a cockpit locker or interior and they have babies about end of February. Many boat owners have had to chase out mothers and babies and clean and deodorize their boats.

Squirrels: A hollow mast is like a hollow log. We remove our masts, as we have had stands jiggle loose in high wind winter storms and the boat falls over.
But storing that hollow mast is an invitation for squirrels to winter over in it. I have had a squirrel crawl up my mast in the mast rack over the winter, and chew up all my internal halyards to make a comfy nest. Plug/cover over the end of your mast and boom. Boom ends make great bird nesting sites.
Mice: Do not have any power cords or tarp lines lying down on the ground where mice can climb up, get into the cockpit and into the boat. They need a warm winter place, too. If there is any food onboard, they will stay. They love shredding paper towels and toilet paper to make a comfy nest. I have also had a hole chewed in my mainsail stored in a forward berth.
Do not leave hatches open, put screening over vents.
Vermin and varmits love wintering over in boats.
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Old 09-09-2020, 09:23   #12
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

At the risk of kicking off a whole other debate, while propylene glycol is less toxic than the more common ethylene glycol antifreeze, it is still toxic and should not be discharged by winterizing a boat in the water. Rules vary by jurisdiction, i.e. federal, provincial or state and even municipal.
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Old 09-09-2020, 09:25   #13
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

Propylene glycol is theoretically non-toxic. It's used as a food additive in some cases. Also, both propylene glycol and ethylene glycol are biodegradable, just with the caveat that ethylene glycol is highly toxic until it biodegrades.

Realistically though, I almost never hear of anyone (including marinas and boatyards) making an effort to capture the propylene glycol stuff during winterizing or de-winterizing.
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Old 09-09-2020, 09:43   #14
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

Quote:
Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
Propylene glycol is theoretically non-toxic. It's used as a food additive in some cases. Also, both propylene glycol and ethylene glycol are biodegradable, just with the caveat that ethylene glycol is highly toxic until it biodegrades.

Realistically though, I almost never hear of anyone (including marinas and boatyards) making an effort to capture the propylene glycol stuff during winterizing or de-winterizing.
Great Lakes is a zero discharge zone. Flush on the hard. No possible connections From black water allowed, no Y valve etc. Many yards collect run off and other fluids. Oil spill in the water is $5000. Plan for a CG inspection. My advice is a pre-launch courtesy inspection by the CG Auxiliary, free, no fines, good advice. When your boat has passed you get a sticker that mostly prevents future inspections and boarding.
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Old 09-09-2020, 09:48   #15
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Re: Winter storage prep for northern Great Lakes area

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Originally Posted by Nicholson58 View Post
Great Lakes is a zero discharge zone. Flush on the hard. No possible connections From black water allowed, no Y valve etc. Many yards collect run off and other fluids. Oil spill in the water is $5000. Plan for a CG inspection. My advice is a pre-launch courtesy inspection by the CG Auxiliary, free, no fines, good advice. When your boat has passed you get a sticker that mostly prevents future inspections and boarding.
No discharge means no discharge from the black water system, yes. And that's easily adhered to. It means nothing regarding antifreeze from the fresh water system or from engine raw water systems.

The yard I'm at collects water from powerwashing after haulout and such, but I don't know of them doing anything to collect antifreeze from winterizing.
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