Dewinterizing Your Long Island Watercraft

April 16, 2019

Getting a boat of jet ski ready for the season can seem like big chore. Youknow you have to do it but you just want to get out on the water.

But there's a way to make the task easier and faster, without missing any key jobs. It's simple. Follow a careful checklist -- and make it the same one each year.

The first and most important thing is to do it at the right time. Do it too early and you'll end up doing it twice. Leave it too late and you'll miss some of the fun of the early season.

Obviously timing varies according to location and, as it happens, mid to late April is exactly the best time in New York's coastal waters, lakes and waterways. 

(If you happen to be reading this in another part of the country, here's a useful map showing when it's safe to dewinterize: )

When you're ready to dewinterize, make sure you allow yourself plenty of time. Rushed jobs may lead you to overlook key checks or to do them incorrectly.

How to Dewinterize a Boat

Then, if you don’t already have a set routine, here are the key steps to follow:

    • Remove the tarp or any other covering and carry out an overall visual inspection, checking for damage or infestation. Yes, those critters can find a way into even the most inaccessible spots!
    • Clean all fabrics, from carpets and upholstery to vinyl and canvas. Wash down topsides and decking.
    • Check the hull, rudder and propeller for damage. Check the hull for cracks or blisters and clean it. Unspotted hull damage accounts for about a third of all sinkings. Replace worn propeller bearings.
    • Change the oil and filter, as well as other fuel lines.
    • Flush, drain and refill the cooling system, and replace anti-freeze.
    • Check belts, hoses and cables, and replace where necessary. Inspect hose surfaces for brittleness and cracking, look for belt looseness or residue near the pulley, and identify telltale cracks or swelling on cable casing.
    • Check the carburetor for corrosion, cleaning with a wire brush if necessary. Clean the distributor and tighten or replace spark plugs.
    • Charge and reposition the battery, and check the rest of the electrical system. Clean terminals with a stiff brush. Use a battery tester to check voltage and ampage. If in doubt, have your battery checked by a professional and install a new one if required.
    • Run the bilge pump and inspect the automatic switch for normal operation.
    • Check and test navigational and radio equipment and GPS (after you've done the battery!).

  • Check (and replace where necessary) your safety equipment including lifejackets, fire extinguishers, flotation devices, horns, flares, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Check and, if necessary, restock your first aid kit. You can find a downloadable list of Federal and Coast Guard safety requirements here:
  • Ensure you are carrying your government approved boating safety certificate in case of a coast guard inspection. All personal motorized watercraft operators in New York state are required to complete a boating safety course. Find more details of requirements and courses here:
  • As an additional step, consider arranging a free vessel safety check (VSC) by the Coast Guard Auxiliary or United States Power Squadrons. This can be done at home, in a storage yard or at the marina. There are no legal requirements before or after the check but passing will enable you to set sail with an easy mind. Start here:
  • Polish and wax the structure, cleaning and preparing windscreens, installing new blades if you have wipers. Polishing metals and teak will also help extend its life. If the hull is in a poor visual state, consider painting it provided it's the right material.
  • Arrange lifts and transportation to harbor or marina if you don't have a trailer or your boat is too large.
  • Plan a short proving trip to that you can test out everything and make any final adjustments and repairs.

Don't forget your boat trailer, especially tire pressures, brake lights and turn signals. Look for signs of rust on brackets and suspension and treat accordingly. Lubricate.

By the way, if there's a warning of late frost or ice after you've dewinterized, don't shrug it off. If it looks really bad, you may want to rewinterize. At the very least, consider using an engine compartment heater

Dewinterizing Jet Skis

Dewinterizing a jet ski or Sea-Doo craft may be a simpler task but it’s equally important to run through a checklist of preparations for the season.

Spark plug maker E3 suggests the following six critical steps:

· Charge your battery, which you should have removed and trickle charged out of season. Put it back in position or replace it if it doesn’t seem to hold a charge well.

· Completely drain and refill fuel and oil, plus any other fluids that were left in the craft. Make sure you know the different fuel requirements between two- and four-stroke engines.

· Clean salt, sand and dirt from bearings, Then grease and seal them.

· Inspect wires, cables and belts, looking for signs of wear and tightening up connections where necessary,

· Install new spark plugs, ensuring you have the correct plugs for your craft. Find a useful table here:

· Clean and polish -- and do this after every outing to keep salt and other contaminants away. 

Saving Money

Do you have to dewinterize a boat? In a word, yes.

Dewinterizing your pleasure craft is not just important to keep you plain-sailing in the months ahead. As with your car, in the longer term, the way your look after your vessel, the longer it will remain in good condition and the less you'll have to spend on costly repairs.

Boat dewinterization costs are not high -- just materials and maybe professional fees. But it’s all money well spent. Makes sense doesn't it?

Another potential money-saving and sensible investment is having the correct boat insurance or jet ski insurance.

Although watercraft insurance is not mandatory in New York state, it's crucially important to safeguard not only the investment you've made in the vessel but also to protect against the potentially huge liability costs you could face in the event of a collision or even an injury to your passengers.

If you’d like to learn more about low-cost boating insurance, please contact Newbridge Coverage.

Happy sailing!