By Mike Milne

The environment isn’t usually top-of-mind for boaters during haulout season, but storage choices and winterization procedures can have a big impact.

The main goal of post-season care is ensuring your boat makes it through to the next boating season undamaged and ready for a quick, easy launch. If you don’t have to repair or replace any of your boat’s components next spring, that’s good for the environment and your wallet.

Boaters who trust their boat to a marina should ensure it follows best environmental practices. About half of the marinas belonging to Boating Ontario are certified through the Clean Marine program. Boating BC has a similar program. If you’re with a non-certified marina, check their environmental practices yourself. Do-it-yourselfers need to take responsibility for their own practices and products.

On the product side, both Natural Marine (from Alex Milne and Associates) and Aurora Marine are Canadian companies committed to environmentally friendly cleaning products.

First step is cleaning the hull and interior. Research any products you use and read the labels. Pressure washing and scrubbing should be enough to remove scum and growth from freshwater boats. Inside, shock-treat the holding tank and clean up all spills or mildew.

Anti-fouling paint needs careful handling. If a fall cleanup turns into a paint removal project, you’ll need to use personal safety gear and collect any dust or paint particles for proper hazardous waste disposal. Regulations call for specific handling, collection and disposal of all wash water and anti-fouling debris. If you’re not sure you can do so properly, consult a qualified marina.

Boaters who can get along without anti-fouling should consider a product like Natural Marine’s Easy-On Bottom Wax for easier, non-toxic fall bottom cleanups.

Plumbing systems (pumps, water heaters, heads, tanks and piping) need to be drained and treated with a propylene glycol antifreeze solution. It is not “non-toxic” but is low in toxicity and easily diluted and cleaned out. Automotive-style ethylene glycol antifreeze, on the other hand, is highly toxic, should never be used in plumbing, and should always be collected and recycled after being used to winterize your engine cooling system.

Heated indoor storage means fewer worries about freeze-thaw cycles, but many cautious boaters still winterize engines and water and waste systems. Any indoor storage will mean a cleaner and more easily commissioned boat in the spring. And if you opt for shrinkwrap, make sure it gets recycled.

To keep fuel usable, fill the tanks, add fuel stabilizer, and then run the engine long enough to ensure stabilized fuel is in all lines.

When changing engine oil before storage (and again in the spring), dispose of it properly. Ask your marina if you can drop off used oil or check with large non-marine retailers – many have recycling programs and also recycle automotive-style antifreeze.

On the other hand, boaters don’t want to have to recycle their batteries, so disconnect, remove and store them in a storage area or garage that won’t freeze. An additive called Battery Equalizer can help prevent plate sulphation and increase battery life. Check regularly and recharge every 30 to 90 days. Batteries that can’t be removed should still be disconnected, checked and recharged regularly. Properly treated, they will be ready to fire up your engine in the spring, when you’re ready to head back on the water.

This article is featured in the Fall 2014 issue of Boats&Places.