Ask Andrew: Off-season maintenance tasks – Part 2

Checking Anodes

Feb 23, 2023

checking anodes for wear and replacing as necessary

Despite sub-zero temperatures and snow on the ground across the country, we still believe that warm winds and sunny days are coming. In only a few short months, boat prep will be upon us. Boat shows are in full swing from East to West coast which gets the ideas flowing and forces us to think about upkeep and upgrades.

This is part two of a two-part series on off-season maintenance and upgrades (Part 1 is here)  that are ideal to get a jump on now, and aren’t dependent on warmer temperatures, unlike fibreglass, painting and caulking). 

With proper planning plus a simple internet search on YouTube most of these can be straightforward DIY projects.  They’re great tasks to chip away at on those days when the sun shines and temperatures are comfortable enough to spend a few hours at the boat yard. Here are some of my favourites, divided by task type.

This issue, we’ll cover standard annual maintenance items, and some ‘forgotten’ tasks that are often pushed back.

Annual Maintenance items:

• Anodes – checking the condition of each of the vessel’s anodes and replacing them when visually worn, and confirming that the correct application (zinc for salt water and magnesium for fresh water) are being used

• Filters – changing water separating, canister and screen fuel filters, and lubricating oil filters

• Cleaning water strainers – removing strainers, giving them a thorough clean, looking for damage, greasing seals, and ensuring a tight seal before the vessel is summer-ized

Messy Bilgecleaning out a messy bilge

• Cleaning the bilge – now is a great time to shop-vac, scrape, scrub, deodorize, clean and re-paint any bilge areas that require it.

• Cleaning tools, supplies, sharpening knives and scissors, etc. There is an old saying: “A man who takes care of his tools, will have his tools take care of him”. This is especially important if/when something goes awry and needs to be fixed quickly.

• Replacing cleaning and maintenance items: soaps, polishes, teak oils, etc. Take advantage of some off-season sales and promos at your local chandlery to make sure all your needs are filled


Forgotten or pushed back tasks:
• carburetor or injector cleans. Sometimes considered a ‘dirty’ job, and sometimes these tasks are out of a boat owner’s skill set; but nothing ruins a beautiful day than a rough start, poor performance or engine bogging. It’s great to get a jump on the season by taking care of these cleans in the off-season

• Replacements or cleaning of props. Not only is it easier to source the right size and style of prop for your application, but it’s also a great time to get performance advice, place a special order or investigate new options

• Gas hinge arms – doors or access panels. Rarely more than an annoyance, these struts, hinges, and arms are easily replaced and often can be fixed in minutes. Sometimes we get so used to enjoying being on the water that we forget these minor inconveniences. While the ‘fun on the water’ isn’t in the way, it’s a great time to get these items repaired

• Tightening keel bolts. If your sailboat has a keel that is bolted onto the hull, through the bilge area, the off-season is the only time to effectively tighten the keel bolts. This is done by carefully lowering the cradle pads (while still supporting the hull) until the full weight of the hull rests on the keel. Once the hull is resting fully on the keel, the nuts can be torqued (often using an oversized socket and breaker bar or long-handled ratchet). Once the nuts are as tight as possible, the cradle pads can be re-adjusted to correctly support the hull.

Checking for Leakschecking (and fixing) leaks

• Hunting down leaks. The severity of leaks can range from minor annoyance to catastrophic failure. Fuel hoses, threaded fittings, water hoses, drain hoses, seacocks, windows, hatches are all common areas where liquids can leak and end up in undesired places. Test, mark and find the best practice for your application to make the repair.

• Replacing O-rings and wearable parts. As components are squeezed, pressurized, turn, vibrate, heat-up and wear; they break down and create later problems.  While you’re itching to start the season, take stock of any worn pieces.

This is far from a detailed or comprehensive list, and neglects to reference standards or checklists. If you’re interested in those, consult a local trusted surveyor. If you find that a task is beyond your skill or comfort, check with your local shop, dealer, or marine tech. They’ll appreciate the chance to get ahead on the season, too.

Andrew McDonaldAndrew McDonald is the owner of Lakeside Marine Services – a boat repair/maintenance firm based in Toronto. Andrew has worked in the marine industry for 12 years and is a graduate of the Georgian College ‘Mechanical Techniques – Marine Engine Mechanic’ program.
Questions or comments for Andrew? Email him directly via:

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