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Bedding Down Your Outboard Motor for Winter

A sad but necessary chore 

     Getting the boat ready for winter causes me emotional upheaval. It is not only a burden of hours but also an unwelcome recognition that one of my great avenues to peace and contentment will soon be closed off. 
     I’ve made my checklist, only to avoid it for weeks. Each item is a step closer to a kind of prison, so I’m not fond of any of the unavoidable tasks facing me.
      Item 1 is the big salt flush. Belting the flush muffler on my outboard motor’s low unit water intakes and coupling it to the garden hose and fresh water is the first step in this necessary process for put-up. Salt never sleeps. That simple substance, if given opportunity, can punish any internal combustion motor.
      You dare not allow a deposit somewhere in the inner channels to do its dirty work over the upcoming long and frigid months. I will run the fresh water flush for at least 15 minutes to be sure the motor is warm, all thermostats are open and most salt deposits are gone.
    I’ve flushed the motor periodically during the fishing season, but a thorough cleansing before put-up always makes me feel better. As insurance, I’ll hook up a mixing unit adapter to the hose and fill its container with Salt Away, a specialized marine product for heavy-duty salt removal.
     Salt Away is non-toxic, biodegradable and safe to use in any environment. Its intense blue color guides the length of the flush. As soon as the container looks like it’s almost empty of the blue concentrate, in just a minute or so, I’ll stop the flushing so as to ensure some remains in the motor over the winter to continue its salt protection.
     The next procedure is the lower-unit gear grease. Draining the lower unit is a simple matter; just remove the lowest drain plug near the propeller. Place a tub or a bucket under it to catch the old lube. Lever the motor near vertical, then remove the plug located higher above the unit to allow it to drain.
     Pay close attention to the color of the lube as it drains. It should not be any shade of gray. Black is a sign of a well-used lube. If water has infiltrated through any of the driveshaft seals, the lube will turn gray and indicate that the seals (there are usually two) need to be replaced. Not to do so is to risk your motor’s lower unit bearings, driveshaft and the very gearing itself.
     Do not wait until next spring to address this problem, especially if you intend to have the work done at a marina. Winter months are a slack time for the industry, but spring is always bedlam. Starting in early March, it could take many weeks for a mechanic to get the time to do a lower unit while you sit stranded in port.
     Replace the lower unit lube by filling it from the bottom vent to the top. When lube begins spilling out of the top plughole, firmly replace that plug. The heavy viscosity of the lube will prevent any draining back out the bottom vent while that plug is being positioned. Use the very best quality lube as this 80-to-90-weight lubricant protects the motor’s transmission gears.
     Next you’ll want to change the motor oil (assuming a four-stroke) and the oil filter. Once again, this is not the place to save money. I recommend only the best synthetics.
     I top off all of my motor’s grease fittings to ensure there are no internal cavities to attract condensation, then spray down the entire top end under the cowl with WD-40. That product was originally developed to protect NASA rocket parts, so I assume it will defend my outboard.
     I know all these steps are important, and I will surely do them one sad day soon.
 
Fish Finder
     The fall rockfish bite remains hot but only during the early morning hours and the last. Chasing the birds can lead to fish.
     Trolling is your best bet. Try small to medium white bucktails at 15 to 20 feet or right on the bottom. Adding a lip-hooked minnow will up your odds.
     Shoreside anglers are doing best with large bloodworms and fresh alewife. The bite here remains best during the darker hours.
     Catfish are the best alternative for filling your freezer. Look to Love Point and up into the Chester, Podickery and Hacketts rivers in depths up to 40 feet. Alewife, big worms, big minnows, chicken breast and chicken livers are the most reliable baits.
     Perch are plentiful in waters up to 40 feet but frustratingly small.
 
Hunting Seasons
Deer, antlered/antlerless, archery: thru Nov. 29
Rabbit, limit 4: thru Feb. 29
Sea ducks, limit 5: thru Jan. 10 
Snow geese, limit 25: thru Nov. 29
Squirrel, limit 6: thru Feb. 29
 
Regulations: www.eregulations.com/maryland/hunting