First published in several Maryland newspapers, 2/10/89
Visit your boat in midwinter
by Tom Dove
She is sitting out there patiently waiting for you. All she needs is a little attention and a few kind words and she will repay you next summer with support in your stormiest hours, shelter from the outside world and absolute dedication to your safety, comfort and mental well-being.
Go see your boat this week. It will be good for both of you. Although the winter has been a mild one, it is not over yet and cabin fever hits us all about this time. There are several ways you can use your boat, even if it is too cold to take it out on the water.
When there is a break in the weather, slip down to the boat, go aboard with a book, light the stove for a bit of warmth and read for a while. This is guaranteed to lift your spirits, especially if your vessel is afloat and you can remind your body of how it feels to rock gently in a snug harbor.
Be sure to have enough ventilation that the stove does not deplete the oxygen supply in the cabin. Carbon monoxide poisoning could spoil your entire day.
If the weather is dry, open the cabin and let the air circulate through the boat to dehumidify it. Fresh air will prevent mildew and preserve the hull and upholstery.
If you have a gasoline engine, this would be a perfect time to replace spark plugs and ignition wires that you neglected in the fall layup.
Is there a small improvement project you could do aboard? How about installing a teak rack to hold the handheld VHF radio or chart plotting instruments? Should you replace that broken door hook or lubricate the drawer slides with wax or silicon spray?
It is too cold to take on major projects, but little things that can be done in less than an hour will reduce your spring outfitting by that much time and give you a feeling of accomplishment to shorten the winter.
Did you spray the electrical wiring with silicone spray when you laid up the boat in the fall? Do it now and preserve the entire system. The back of the main electrical panel is the most important place but remember the battery terminals and engine electrical connections, too. If the batteries are still aboard, check them with a hygrometer and bring them up to full charge. You will welcome your solar charger now, if you have one.
Be sure water is not collecting anywhere inside the boat. If it is stored ashore, be sure it is level so rain and snow run out the normal cockpit drainage system.
If your boat is afloat, check the connections of all hoses where they attach to the through-hull fittings. Inspect them for freeze damage and close all except the cockpit drains.
Boats that sleep on land in winter must be properly supported. Be sure the jackstands, timbers or cradles are on firm ground and that they press on the hull evenly.
If your boat is covered, insure that fresh air can get underneath the canvas or plastic tarp so things do not rot and mildew.
A midwinter visit to the boat can be a welcome break in these short days. I have a ham radio station aboard and often spend a half hour or so chatting with other hams around the world until the cold of the cabin gets too severe.
Tinkering with a boat in midwinter is not as nice as cruising the Bay or chartering in the Caribbean, but it is better than sulking at home and your boat will respond by being ready for springtime when you are.?
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