Equipped for the Off-Season
For folks in many parts of the country, boating season is already a memory. For others, it’s winding down. Still others will enjoy it all year. Whenever it is that watersports are no longer on the agenda, don’t forget to properly prepare all the gear for its off-season nap. Leaving it aboard the boat and “dealing with it in the spring” isn’t really an option. Check out our quick-and-dirty guide to equipment cleanliness.
While towable tubes are built for life outdoors on the water, too much sun can damage them. The sun, while it adds color to fair-skinned tube riders’ complexion, drains color from an inflatable tube. It can also fray a tube, so make sure tubes are stored where harmful UV rays can’t get to them. Make sure tubes are clean and dry before they go into storage. Partially inflated tubes hold their shape better; partial inflation also keeps unwanted tiny guests outside the tube, where they belong. Folding them is not advised, because they can get creases in them, which could weaken the PVC. Spray them with Aerospace 303 Protectant or a similar product and wipe them with a clean, dry towel.
Boards & Skis
Skis, wakeboards and kneeboards require a thorough cleaning with mild soap and warm water before they are put away for the off-season. To clean those hard-to-reach places, remove the bindings and use a soft-bristle toothbrush to detail the nooks and crannies. When you’re satisfied with the job you’ve done, wipe everything dry with a soft towel or hit it with a blow dryer, but be sure it’s on the no-heat setting.
Rubber bindings on boots are subject to dry rot during storage, so spray them with a product such as 303 Aerospace Protectant and wipe them with a clean, dry towel. Screws that are showing signs of rust need to be cleaned well. To make them look like new again, partially fi ll a plastic water bottle with vinegar, drop the screws in and shake the bottle periodically for about 10 hours.
If you want skis that are warped, dinged or otherwise in worse shape than when you put them in storage, by all means, lean them in a corner. Let the kids and dogs try to avoid them all winter as cabin fever sets in. Any skis can easily be marred by a tumble, and wood skis can warp.
Long-term storage of high-end skis and wakeboards is enhanced by a case, which many of them come with, but in the absence of a case, wrap the skis in a blanket or a towel and put them under a bed or on a closet shelf. Don’t, however, wrap up the bindings. They can deform if they’re folded over for months. No matter the chosen storage location, observe one rule: Ensure it’s out of the sun, because UV rays will age just about everything.
Ropes and Vests
Make sure vests are fully clean and dry — a thorough rinsing after each use holds odor at bay during the season and can alleviate the need for a really deep cleaning at the end of the season — and then store them in a cool, dark place. Dishwashing liquid and warm water are the keys here.
Tow lines and anchor rode, especially those used in salt water, can accumulate salt or other impurities and are often overlooked during post-outing washdowns. To keep them clean and supple, presoak them in a light solution of mild detergent and fabric softener. After that, rinse and coil them tightly. To ensure a thorough cleaning, place them in a pillowcase, secure it with a tie wrap and run the bundle through the washing machine on the gentlest cycle. Air dry them and find a cool, dry spot to store them.
Boat owners are always looking for a way to extend the season or tolerate the chill of cold-water locations. A wetsuit certainly answers that call. But store one improperly just one time and you’ll need a new one next season. Treat it like you would vests. Rinse the suit after every use; if you don’t, it can acquire a strong funk. A high school locker room comes to mind. If a deep cleaning becomes necessary, do not use a washing machine, because it can damage the neoprene. Instead, use mild dishwashing liquid, warm water and a soft-bristle brush, and clean it by hand.
When the time comes to store a wetsuit, the most important factor is to make sure it’s thoroughly dry. Don’t try to fast-forward the process, though. High heat and the sun’s UV rays are contraindicated for a wetsuit and can damage the exterior, so never sun-dry it or store it where the temperature can get high, such as in the trunk of a car. Turning it inside out is always a good idea, because doing so protects the outside from random UV rays; plus, if you have to use it before it’s totally dry, it’s easier to put on if the inside is dry.
Neoprene is very heavy, so don’t store a wetsuit on a regular coat hanger; instead, use a wide hanger that is specially made for wetsuits. If folding it is required, don’t treat it like it’s a T-shirt going into a drawer; rather, make only one fold, which will minimize creasing.
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