What Are The Best Boat Projects to Tackle in the Fall and Winter?

Boat brokers often suggest that the best time of year to buy a boat is during the off-season and the best time to sell a boat is at the beginning of the season.  In the Pacific Northwest, the off-season typically runs from mid-September through December and kicks off in January with the Vancouver Boat Show (January 17 – 21, 2018) and the Seattle Boat Show (January 26 – February 3, 2018). 

The Break-Fix Season. By the second week of May, many boaters have moved into the “fix it by Friday so I can get out for the weekend” season.  Often referred to as the “break-fix” season, mechanics and technicians are being pulled in multiple directions trying to help as many boaters as possible.  Unfortunately, they usually can’t spend any extra time on your boat or repair items that they notice while they have your boat apart.  And even though these items may be moved to the “to do” list, it usually ends up being another year later with the same items on the list.  Some boaters even have a specific notebook or a page in the back of the log book dedicated to winter project ideas.

The other challenge is that the repair or task is fresh in the technician’s mind.  Quite often, the next visit will be by a different technician or weeks or months later and they will have to start over.  During the off-season, the technician has the time to get it done right the first time. As well, they can take the time to walk through the system with you so that you better understand your boat’s systems.  You will have the benefit of a professional technician on your boat and they are going to see things that you may not notice. 

The Maintenance Season. Conscientious boaters also refer to the off-season as the maintenance season.  The problem is that most things don’t break until you start using them. However, this is the perfect time of the year to have someone on your boat to make recommendations. 

Canvas Season. In mid-November, when it is cold, rainy and dark at 4:30 p.m., you may not be thinking of solar but it is a great time to start a solar project.  You have time to properly measure your canvas, order your panels and arrange for installation.  Canvas shops aren’t as pressured to meet deadlines..  The same goes for upholstery shops, you can drop off your projects and not risk cruising without a captain’s chair or a bimini because the work didn’t get done on time.

The Best Time to Start That Big Project. If you are contemplating a big battery project or a new inverter/charger, it may be a good time to repair or replace other items while you have everything apart.  A fresh coat of paint in the engine room is an easy upgrade.  It is also the perfect time to inspect your DC and AC wiring, all you need is a bag of heat shrink connectors, battery lugs, zap straps and a wire brush. Clean or replace the battery connections, potentially re-do the heat-shrink, ensure the wire runs are secured with a zap strap and have not come loose.  Tighten any nuts and remove any wing nuts if you have them.

Often there are just things that you have a gut feeling about.  Perhaps you have been wondering if your battery charger is the right size?   Instead of waking up to a dead house-bank or starter battery in July, you can arrange for a technician to meet you in the Fall to discuss your options and make the right choice.  Perhaps it’s time to go with AGM batteries? Should you change your flooded lead acid batteries to Firelfy AGM and save space or gain more battery capacity without adding weight? You have time to make a plan, parts are easier to source, readily available and you may notice that the overall price is lower during the project season. 

At the end of the boating season, the projects are top of mind.  You have a few more “lessons learned” under your belt and the opportunity to have changes made before the next season starts.  And let’s not forget the holiday wish list, who wouldn’t love to see a touch screen, Wi-Fi-enabled multifunction display under the tree?

About the author: Jeff Cote is the owner of Pacific Yacht Systems, a full service shop delivering marine electrical and navigation solutions for recreational boats. Visit their website and blog for info and articles on marine electrical systems, projects and more: www.pysystems.ca.