End of fishing season considerations
by Daniel Kiazyk
Shutting her down for another fishing season…
Well as with everything in a fishing season all good things must come to an end. Saying the prior does not preclude the possibility that there may be another excellent start but it does say that at some time or another through the fishing year stuff is going to have to be put away for another time – and this as Canadians we are especially cognisant of given that winter makes it impossible to use our boats after the lakes freeze. So what considerations are required of you, the boat owner, given this impending end of the season? Well in what follows I'll suggest a few considerations that I include in my end of season activities related to my boats.
For the purposes of this article I'm going to imagine you've got one boat to put away and that storage (inside or out) is not going to be an issue. This is not the case with myself as the number of boats that are a part of my fleet are too numerous for the yard I keep. Some different actions are required of me when I put away my boats for the winter.
Firstly it is important that you start with the engine and systems related to its function.
Most often I'll find the time to drain and re-fill the lower transmission unit of my motors. This is a relatively simple job with the lower unit having two screws that can be loosened that will allow the oil that fills this part of the motor to drain. Why drain? Well as the part of the motor that sits below the water there is the possibility that water might enter into the system. If that water was to freeze there is the possibility that if there's enough of it in the lower unit it might blow out a seal or even crack the case –making for a very expensive replacement. I have not had a lower unit crack to this point but given the chance that this might happen it would seem relatively inexpensive to replace the unit's oil for less than $50.00.
To change this oil you'll need a pump mechanism that will force the oil into the lower unit. When the oil starts to come out of the upper screw hole you need to stop and seal the upper hole first than remove the pump from the lower screw hole replacing the original screw quickly enough so that a negligible amount of oil is allowed to escape. Be careful to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer when choosing an oil as this oil has different requirements than other oils we will commonly use. Changing this oil can also help you to get an idea of what's going on in the lower unit. If you do see metal shavings it might mean that you need to consider more invasive service.
Another consideration related to the oil in the lower unit and one that only takes a few minutes will be to take off the propeller to see if there is any fishing line or other debris present on the propeller shaft. If left un-serviced such debris can wear upon seals that hold the propeller shaft in place allowing for water to enter into the oil filled lower unit's case.
The motor itself can be treated to some extent prior to putting it away by adding to your fuel system a product that will remove water from the fuel system and will prepare the gas in the system from inevitable breakdown. Water in the fuel system will create a number of problematic scenarios from rough running to engine failure in high pressure direct injection motors. If you do have a fuel/water filter it is a good time to replace it with a new filter –some of these filters can be pricey at 50.00 or more but considering the possible alternatives they aren't all that expensive. Secondly treating ethanol based gas can help keep our presently available volatile fuel from breaking down and depositing varnish and gum on parts of the fuel delivery system which will lead to poor performance next fishing season. These additives that will protect your motor from the inside out will not cost you more than $20.00.
The motor itself will benefit and be protected from the addition of some oil to the engine's cylinders. A half an ounce or so of oil added to a cylinder via the sparkplug port. Once all cylinders are loaded with oil a momentary pulse of energy to distribute the oil throughout the cylinder needed to properly store the engine. Be careful with sparkplug installation as indexing of plugs may be necessary with the older type of electrode plug. Indexing a plug FOR SOME MOTORS can be facilitated with a black sharpie to help you know where the opening of the electrode is located once the plug is inserted and tightened TO THE TAB ON THE FUEL INJECTOR (it might be that some plugs will not install themselves safely or correctly). Over-tightening a plug may result in stripped threads and the need to make an expensive repair being made. Generally I'll buy 9 plugs and will end up using eight to properly index all plugs.
An oil and filter change for four stroke engines would also be a good idea as the acids that build up in a motor when operating over a period of time can have an impact on your motor's interior. Fresh oil can only help to mitigate any possible impact that used oil may have. Clean up of the motor with a cleaner can help to maintain the overall value of the motor. Many paint safe formulations exist that will remove deposits that will leave your engine dull and grungy.
Ok, with the motor completed there's quite a few actions that can be considered for the boat and trailer.
Firstly one of my favorite means of doing a general boat cleanup is to take the boat for a power wash inside and out. As with the motor in the last step the boat's paint can be protected and cleaned with some enviro-safe cleaners and waxes. A power wash can help get some of those cleaners off and allow you to remove some stains in carpet or grunge off the dura-deck decking. Be sure to drain the live wells and to wipe out the bunks (to avoid any surprises when you get out next Spring). Treating the various kinds of plastic in your boat with formulations can not only protect but it can also help to extend the life of plastics exposed to the sun.
Secondly a vacuum cleaner and a look around to tidy up any lose wires will be useful. Don't forget fluids separate from the engine (steering for boats above 150 hp will require oil) and an oil reservoir check for those oil injected engines. Be sure that the cap on that reservoir is tight and that there is enough oil in it to get going next season. It might be a good idea to put a few sheets of bounce in the boat as mice don't really like it and may leave your boat's interior alone. Some carpet protectors exist (scotch guard) and do need to be re-applied if you've given such material a good rinse.
And finally I'll do a bit of a check over on the trailer that I haul my boat around with. Bearings are of first order. When the wheel is lifted do they feel smooth when turned? Is there any grease on the inside of the wheel (often indicating a blown seal on units that use a bearing buddy system). When you remove the cap of the bearing is there any water present and is there an adequate amount of grease. If not add a little and check the other bearings. If replacement is required a particular process is required (the stuff of another article for sure).
If the trailer has brakes you are in for another set of considerations to make your operation of this vehicle on the road a safe proposition. Does the brake actuator system work well? Do you feel the brakes stopping the truck to some extent? If not than further investigation into the trailer's brakes is required. I'll look at the brake pads and the quality of the brake fluid in the system as a part of my trailer maintenance program throughout the year. Brake fluid has one characteristic on a trailer and that is that it tends to gather some water –resulting in some rusting and degradation of the fluid. A change of brake fluid in a momentum based system is a good idea every year (considering it'll cost less than ten dollars once you have the equipment to do it).
Certainly I've cut a few corners in this reflection on what it costs in terms of time, money and effort when putting your boat away for the winter. In effect the effort quotient is perhaps that one component that will pay your back in the long term. I don't want safe operation of a vehicle that most of us put quite a bit of trust in most times we go out to be an issue at all for me when out on the water. Do you want to take the chance of that boat going down when you might really need it….well I don't and that why a good storage clean-up and shut-down regime it is an important part of the end of the fishing season for me…