It’s called winterizing a boat and we’d never done it before.
In his hefty tome, Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual: How to Maintain, Repair and Improve Your Boat’s Essential Sysetems, Nigel Calder offers his usual weighty, complex, comprehensive advice on the topic. But when we actually, started talking to folks on the docks, we discovered putting a boat into hibernation mode involved lots Nigel missed, including a good mix of common sense and folklore.
Harbormaster Paul assigned us a great slip near shore kitty corner to his own boat and just opposite the slip of Assistant Harbormaster Arlen. He told us to dock bow out (or, rather, into the bad south winds) and to tie up real tight, lines dock to deck. Some people, including wooden boat owners, go for loose tie ups but Paul says he tightens them all lines up no matter. And woe to those who tie up deck to dock with leftover line laying about: those lines gets chewed up in the snowblowers.
But we weren’t even there yet. First we needed to change the fuel filters which meant retrieving the emergency supply of diesel from under the dinghy. Easy lift using the halyard and the Milwaukee Wrench, the unsung hero of the cruise, which deserves a picture. (Normally when sailors want to reduce effort they install spendy winches and hydraulic davits. Hardly anyone realizes that a $400 Milwaukee Wrench with a little adapter can perform as well if not better.)
Then there was an overdue oil change. Just when we thought we had it down to a system, it ended up taking all afternoon. Suction pump on the blink, oil spraying about, horrible hot sweaty day, everything invisible behind the forest fire smoke drifting down from the Yukon. To add insult to injury we couldn’t get the oil filter off and spent an hour retrieving the wrench when it got stuck. As we were taking a break from our discouraging slide down the learning curve, Howard from the Perseus walked by and told us to tell him if there was ever anything he could do for us. So we squeezed him into the space , provided light and orientation, and he got the thing off. Lesson learned: hand tighten the oil filter.
Then we topped off the tank with diesel to prevent any condensation. It was low tide and the attendant up on the fuel dock at Hoonah Trading lowered the hose 45 feet to reach us. Climbing up the little ladder to pay, I saw the Aurora from a new angle and realized I’d missed a photo op.
Tying up was heart wrenching: the absolute end of our cruise. Next we removed on to the sails, taking pictures of the cunningham and the reefling lines so we can get them back in the right place next year. The sails more or less flaked themselves right on the deck and we commended Carol Hasse for the generous cut of the sail bags, which helped us get them on with no trouble.
One morning Jack woke up with a solution to a nagging problem. On the deck of Aurora are three dorades or air vents big enough to accommodate a weasel or other animal that might choose to shelter their nests in Aurora. He ran off the Hoonah Trading for supplies and set to work. He cut ovals of wire screen, fit them over the dorade openings and clamped them on with 8-inch circle clamps. Brilliant. (I took a picture but it seems to have gone missing.)
The next job was to put new antifreeze into the fresh water system and, for good measure, into the raw water system: we closed the throughhull, dumped the antifreeze into the strainer, and briefly started the engine to suck it in.
On the last day we drained the water tanks, closed all the throughhulls, and dumped something pink and non toxic called Arctic Ban into the tanks, the sinks and the toilet. We put pots under the aft cabin mattress to let air flow under it and piled other cushions and sleeping bags onto it. We pushed the sails through the big hatch in the V-berth and brought them into the salon, where the mainsail goes clear from the head to the galley sink. Into the V berth we chucked the rescue equipment from the cockpit.
Then I hosed the mud off the anchor and scrubbed the deck, tying or bungee-ing halyards and lines off the deck surface, and fastened the dodger and covered the windshield, winches, hatches and rails.
We didn’t tarp, although many of our neighbors said they do. Sailboats are designed to have water wash over them; power boats are not.
We supplemented two small electric dehumidifiers with five buckets of rock salt, which are supposed to drink moisture out of the air. We opened up all the lockers in hopes that air would move around our clothing and bedding
That’s Aurora there in Hoonah Harbor, the tall mast behind the blue tarp. It was really hard saying goodbye.