By John Burton
RB business sees sure seasonal sign as boats come out of the water
RED BANK – Labor Day is now long gone, kids are back in school and the air has taken on a distinctly autumnal nip. That means boat owners, who may have been putting off the inevitable, are thinking about the coming winter and their crafts.
“The first cold snap, that’s what wakes everybody up,” said Don Kimber, service manager at Irwin Marine, located in Marine Park.
“Everybody kind of forgets about their boats,” as they think about everything else going on like getting the kids settled in school and other responsibilities, he said. “But it’s better to get it done now,” before the severe weather gears up.
As the temperature drops, people’s boats, like their homes or cars, can face damage if not prepared. Irwin likened the larger cabin cruisers he sees to small condos. It’s important to drain water and oil and drain and replace the propylene antifreeze (a more environmentally friendly cousin to what is used in cars) to get it ready.
“A boat’s a big investment,” Kimber stressed. “Like anything, you take care of it, it’ll take care of you.”
Irwin Marine provides the services needed to haul boats out of water and then store them indoors or out. Other options include putting them on trailers or keeping them in the water.
If boats are taken out of the water for the season, Kimber said, they get power washed, the engines are winterized and – importantly – the oil and filters are changed. “Oil as it breaks down is corrosive. So you want all of that out of it,” he said.
Many owners ask Kimber and his crew to apply shrink-wrap to their boats that are being hauled out of the water. The work, which provides an airtight seal, is done using propane torches. Mechanics also can apply the wrap to boats that will remain in the water. However Kimber said he tends to “shy away from doing it” because it’s really difficult to get a good tight fit that way.
Many boat owners decide to keep the vessels in the water over the winter, and that is all right, too. The key is the prep work, Kimber said. Irwin can provide an additional service to protect the boats by pumping warm air through a series of lines just below the surface, surrounding the boats, when the air temperature begins to dip below 32 degrees.
Kimber has some recommendations for owners before they bring in their the boats. He has noticed that many people don’t do enough to protect the craft’s exterior, which can take a beating over the summer and winter.
“The UV rays just bake it,” he noticed.
Owners should also top off the gas tank, but not completely fill it, leaving a little room. Boat fuel in this state has about 10 percent alcohol, which tends to absorb moisture. “If gasoline isn’t prepped properly,” he advised, “your fuel system just gets contaminated.”
This week Kimber has begun fielding more calls from owners looking to winterize their boats. The calls were not unexpected.
“It’s getting busier and busier,” he said.
Last year Irwin serviced about 150 boats, ranging in size from 11 feet to about 47 feet; many of those had spent the summer docked at the Marine Park marina. He expects about the same number this year.
Irwin charges $50 a foot for the winterizing service, and offers an a la cart menu of services and charges accordingly.
Kimber has been working nearly 30 years at Irwin, which has been in business and run by the Irwin family since 1884. He expects to be busy servicing the boats until the holiday season.
Just a few short months later, beginning in March, it all starts up again. That’s when “we’re putting people back in the water,” he said.