Winterizing

Ideally one stays south of the cold, and it is our intention to do that at least a few years in the future. But there will be years, including this one (2020/2021) where we stay North. Now, the Chesapeake is not the same as Northern Maine. As I write this, mid January, the Bay is still at 38ºF. There have been a few nights where the mercury went meaningfully below freezing, and we spent the night on board with heat going. Which by the way, means the heat pump in the aft salon and master stateroom on and an oil filled electric radiator in the hallway by the mid lav, and one in the galley. Another thing I did was plug the engine room air inlets. Big difference.

But, if we are going away for any length of time and/or a serious cold spell hits the boat needs to be ready. I have winterized many boats and RV’s and I am a “pink man”. Fill the systems with anti freeze and you know it’s protected. I’ve also learned that some modifications that make the process easier are well worth the effort. Here’s the systems in question:

  • Potable water
  • 3 heads
  • 2 engines
  • 1 generator
  • AC cooling system

I divide them in two categories: Above and below the water line, and salt and fresh water. The two coincide btw. Potable is above the water line and fresh. Well above the waterline: Deck wash on the foredeck, sink on the back deck and then all the plumbing below decks. It is most at risk.

The rest is mostly below the water line, the AC compressors are above, but all sea water. If the temperature below is kept at or near freezing they are all safe. This could be done by running an oil filled radiator on its lowest setting, unless it gets REALLY cold, and then we’re talking 100 year freeze. Still, I want to be able to go to Florida for two weeks and not worry about it, so all of it needs to be “winterizable”.

I did a bunch of plumbing modifications to make the process more efficient, next time.

So starting with the potable water system I ran the main tanks dry. Then I installed a “T” in the line from where the tanks meet to the pump. This allowed the last of the water to come out. Especially the forward tank shutoff valve does not need to be full of water. As an aside I ran the tanks dry while I thought I still had water. The aft tank sticks at 1/4 and no amount of percussive encouragement makes it move lower. On the list. The forward tank gauge is cooperating. Oh, and the “T” with open hole caused a minor calamity….. read on. 😉

As mentioned above I am a “pink” guy. This is a lot of plumbing though and that would be a lot of gallon jugs. So I talked to the nice lady at the NAPA store and she gave me a nice price ($200) on this:

Good for the RV too. There’s people that say that it is corrosive to iron and not to put it in your engine (not as a coolant but on the raw water side as freeze protection)….. I can’t find anything to substantiate that. It’s propylene glycol based……

To get it out on the dock I created this setup:

Then I installed a 4-way valve in the supply line to the pump, gravity filled the hose on the dock, ran it downstairs and connected it to the valve:

Opened up the shutoff, turned on the pump and it primed right away and viola I was able to run all sink faucets, showers, deck wash, aft deck bar faucet, the windshield washers and the faucet in the port engine room. Worked like a charm. And then I shut it off. Here is were the side story starts, as it so often does in this game. The pump kept running every 30 seconds or so…… hmmmm. Marked the Pink Tank but wasn’t losing any fluid. None showing up in the bilges either. So I concluded the pump must be losing pressure out the intake side, back into the pink tank. Then the light bulb went off. Where the “T” in the master MSR closet was I took out a check valve. Wasn’t sure why it was there and forgot about it. I now realized PO had put this in to mitigate the bleed down. Well, easy enough to check. Take the handy dandy 4 way valve and shut off the intake side. And that did the trick, so no problem I’ll put the check valve back in the line. Except I made one minor error and put the valve in a position where the pink feed was connected to the supply line and through the newly installed drain “T” I had dumped 35 gallons of pink in the bilges…….nice. Managed to pump about 90% of it back out and ran it through a strainer back into the pink tank.

So now most of the potable water system was protected. With the exception of the City water feeds. Above the pump they both go through a check valve, then T into a pressure regulator and connect to the plumbing. There’s a check valve in the pump output to keep city water from backing up into the pump.

Heads.

Galleymaid pumps. One motor with a fresh water pump head on one side, and a waste pump head on the other. Push the button, fresh in waste out. Fresh being seawater which comes in through a Groco sea strainer. So, I shut off the through hull, and emptied and cleaned the strainer. This needs to be done once in a while anyways, even if it looks clean from the outside. Once a year at this time seems as good as any. Then I put a “T” in the supply hose to the pump, with a connection for the pink hose. Once again because of the positive syphon pressure the pump primed instantly and I ran a generous quantity of pink through the mid ship lav so as to make sure the long run forward was protected. This lav dumps into the (smaller) SB waste tank which was hereby also winterized.