Topic: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

Hi All,
Just thought I'd make a post, partly to help me to remember for next year and partly so you guys can give me some suggestions.  In fact, I'm still stumped on the exhaust...

Ok, so my checklist
1.  Contents.
- Empty the boat of all perishable contents; Including food, dry-goods, cushions and anything that can pick up mildew or break when frozen.
- Empty the boat of non-essential items;  Remove those items that build up over time that just way the boat down.  This is the clutter of spare or broken sunglasses, spare towels, jackets flip-flops and all the other "just-in-case" extras that you don't actually use.
- Remove and inspect all safety equipment; Flares, life jackets, buoys etc.  Make a note to double check and replace the necessary items in spring.

2.  Fresh water system
Our Contessa has a fibreglass water tank under the v-berth connected to a single Whale Pump in the galley sink.
- Open the inspection hatch.  Yuck.  Drain the stale water, either by pump or just running it through the system.
- Clean and dry the tank.  I am unable to completely disinfect the tank by hand, but we've done our best and dried it as best as possible.
- Inspect the hose.  Ours was filled with grime, so I have removed it from the boat completely.  We'll replace it in spring.
Since the tank is dry and there's no outlet hose, nothing further is required.  This saves the horrible mess of trying to deal with antifreeze in the system.

3.  Waste system
Our Contessa has a Jabsco head with a new pump that I just replaced this year.  It is connected to both an outlet as well as our holding tank via a Y-valve.  We have discovered that the previous owner has improperly added the anti-syphon vent to the hoses... they will need to be redone in spring.
- Clean the toilet and head and pipes before haul-out.  Finish by pumping it as dry as you can.
- Pump out the holding tank.  Our big mistake this year was forgetting to do this before we put her up on the hard!!!  Never again.  That was a horrible job.
- Once on the hard, pump the toilet intake dry.  Ours naturally drained with no water left in the clear hose.
- Fill the toilet bowl full of antifreeze, pump the head dry.  This will clear out any standing water in the hoses.
- Fill the toilet bowl again with as much antifreeze as you think necessary and pump through the system.  I left some anti-freeze in the bowl, just in case there is any condensation.

4.  Engine
We have a K34 single cylinder diesel.  I'm not sure if I have done this correctly, so any advice is greatly appreciated.
- Turn off fuel line.
- Fill fuel tank and add stabilizer.
- Remove and dispose of fuel filter.
-  *** Manual says to add anti corrosion oil to some fuel and run it through the engine.  Is this necessary or just a good idea?
- Change the oil.  I changed the oil, but would also like to clean the screen... I don't have a spare gasket so I will leave that for the spring.
- Remove the cover to the impeller cover and let drain.
- Remove the impeller.  Holy crap! Mine was missing two fins and I have no idea where they are!  The previous owner rebuilt that part of the engine and told me he put in a new impeller... where could the fins have gone??  The temperature gauge never told me of an issue...

5.  Bilge, Drains and seacocks...
Our Contessa has two cockpit drains and a Waterlock wet exhaust.
-  Inspect the cockpit drains and ensure they are clear with no plugs.  Since they are clear, there is nothing more to do.  (Reminder: Replace hose clamps in spring)
-  Drain the Water lock exhaust.  HOW??  The exhaust is so far aft in the engine compartment, I can't reach the rear of it where I *think* there is a drain cover.  I can't reach the hose clamps on the aft end to allow me to move the exhaust forward.  The outlet side of the exhaust is attached to a high loop under the deck... I can't get to the hose clamp with a screw driver.  I have no idea how to drain or replace this wet exhaust and I'm scratching my head how the previous owner got it in there.  *PLEASE* some advice is needed.
- Don't forget to pump the bilge dry.  After you've done so, pour a bunch of antifreeze into the bilge and pump it through the bilge pump until you see it pink out the other side.  This ensures you've got anti-freeze into any crevices in the pump itself.

6.  Electrical
Our Contessa has simple instruments but a bit messy wiring.  We are having the instruments looked at over the winter so some of these steps may not be necessary in the future.
- Turn off the main electrical switch.
- Remove any instruments that may freeze & crack.  Our JRC radar screen is definitely off the boat and so is the Mr. Man (the autopilot).
- If there are any holes in the cabin, make sure to cover these.  We have temporarily done so with plastic, but I suspect something stronger should be used.
- Remove both batteries.  Be sure to mark them with which one is fore and which is aft.

7.  Rigging and hardware
Our Contessa is being stored with the mast up.  The upside to this is that it saves me a tonne of money in storage and crane charges, the downside is that I'm worried about the components; Radio antenna, radar dome, lights, roller furler and the lack of ability for me to inspect them in spring before launch.  *sigh*
- Remove all extra hardware;  Genoa turning blocks and slide blocks, roller reefing blocks, windvane blocks.
- Remove our custom traveller;  I just replaced our traveller, including supporting block.  There is no way this is sitting outside all winter.
- Remove and store BBQ
- Remove and store anchors
- Remove and store boom, boom vang, mainsheet tackle.
*** What to do with halyards?  Should I leave them out all winter or run other lines through for the winter?
- Remove and store the sails in a dry location
- Remove dodger, sail covers.

8.  Other items...
- Don't forget to drain the hose.
- label wires.
- label blocks
- tie off halyards
- Wash... if you have the luxury of running water (we don't) scrub the decks down.  *sigh* Wish we could use the hose on our boat.
- take pictures!  It helps for the following year when you need to know where the cradle pads were located, how certain parts went together, what parts need to be replaced, and if something should have an accident, you can use the photos for insurance purposes.

9. Finally...
I haven't quite got here yet, so final items to add to my list
- Tarp the boat to keep the snow off.  The previous owner used the mast on deck as a cross beam and put the tarp over that.  However, with the mast not being taken down, we'll need to devise a system to keep the snow off.
- Lock up!  Who knows what roams the yards at night.  We've seen everything from blocks to turn-buckle split-rings disappear at other yards.

My outstanding questions
A.  (as above) I don't know how to get to my Waterlock exhaust.  What to do, what to do...
B.  Should I remove my tiller handle?
C.  Is it critical to run anti corrosion oil with diesel through the engine?
D.  (as above) What do I do with halyards?  Leave them in or remove them?

Any and all advice, tips, suggestions etc. are very welcome.  Please feel free to respond here or send me an e-mail at (remove spaces) j o r d a n @ o m a t o . c o m


2 (edited by Fessalo 2011-11-16 15:05:28)

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

Hey Jordan,
Quite a checklist. I'll surely refer back to it next fall instead of scratching my head trying to remember if I missed anything. On your waterlock issue I missed the part where you ran your engine with the intake raw water hose in a bucket of plumbing antifreeze(after it had the time to warm up enough to open the valves allowing the antifreeze to circulate where the water does to cool the engine) until she spurts pink at the outlet. This should have taken care of any water still in the system. With the engine out of commission one way to add antifreeze in the waterlock would be with some type of water gun...the large type with a pump.

...)))) May the wind fill your sails and the sun shine in your face cool

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

Hi Fessalo,

You didn't miss that part at all.  The engine manual says, "Drain the cooling system of the engine by detaching the cooling water pump (neoprene impeller pump) cover."  I assumed this precluded having to run antifreeze through the system (which I've read about for other engines).  I better call up my mechanic to see what he suggests.

It's my first boat so I'm learning as I go...


Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...


You wrote
Drain the Water lock exhaust HOW

No sure if we are talking about the same thing, with that said;

My exhaust runs to a brown plastic box, for lack a better word, before exiting the boat. The back end of the box has a nipple that is covered with a rubber plug, held in place with a hose clamp. I remove it and allow the water to drain into the bilge.It is a pain to reach but can be reached. Note that the nipple/drain is at the back(aft end) of the box not the bottom(under-side)

Great list, I will add right or wrong. I do run anti-freeze thru the engine after draining the water completely.


Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

The same antifreeze that is run through the engine will end up in the exhaust lines and in the waterlock.  Probably OK.

This is a great list and you've reminded me of more to do...


Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

Oh -- and hand cranking works fine.  If you are lucky there is a decompression lever which makes cranking easier.

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

p.s.  I managed to get at that exhaust today.  If I never have to do that again, it will be too soon.  I still have no idea how the previous owner managed to connect it...

Draining the box is technically very simple.  There is a nipple with a rubber cap at the aft end of the Waterlock exhaust.  The rubber cap is clamped onto the water exhaust with a hose clamp.  To drain the exhaust, simply:
1.  Rummage about in the engine compartment for days scratching your head.
2.  Once you figure out that there *IS* actually a drain and it *should* be able to be opened, try to reach it with your finger tips.
3.  When that fails, consider unclamping all of the hoses.  Don't do it, but definitely consider it because you'll realize it's a worse solution because you can't reach those clamps either.
4.  Get back into the engine compartment and feel blindly for the clamp.  Hopefully yours will also be a simple hose clamp.
5.  Once you have the hose clamp at your finger tips, have someone pass you a flat head screw driver so you can blindly try to unscrew it.
6.  Fail to unscrew the hose clamp because the screw driver is too long to fit between the hose clamp and the wall of the engine compartment.
7.  Ask for the short/stubby flat head screw driver which is missing from your tool box.
8.  Finally unscrew the hose clamp by any means you can.
9.  Spend at least 15 minutes trying to unscrew the rubber cap from the nipple before realizing it just pops off and spinning it is a waste of time.
10.  Attempt to lift the fore end of the waterlock exhaust and realize you don't have enough height because the cockpit drain hoses, throttle cable and gear select cable are in the way.
11.  Remove cockpit drain hoses.
12.  Lift the fore end of the waterlock exhaust and wait for the water to trickle out through nipple.
13.  Stick your arms back into the engine abyss and make sure the rubber cap is placed back on the nipple.
14.  Spend at least 15 minutes trying to use one hand to hold the hose clamp and screw driver at the proper angle to get a few twists on it.
15.  Replace the cockpit drain hoses.  Seriously, use this time to put on new stainless steel hose clamps - 2 below waterline and 1 or 2 at the drains.
16.  Go find a masseuse to fix your back after you've spent a few hours contorted in strange positions over top of the engine.

Now... time to call the mechanic about that antifreeze and then tarp the boat up!  Almost done.

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

Or take the exhaust hose off at the engine end (which you should do anyway to avoid condensation rusting your exhaust valves),  thread some hose down it into the waterlift muffler, and suck out as much water as possible with a pump or even a wet&dry vac then add antifreeze to suit your climate.   

If you are in reasonably temperate latitudes, you don't even need to drain the muffler if you have run antifreeze through the whole cooling system with the engine running.   

* Stick a bucket under the exhaust outlet at the transom, start  the engine with a hose to the intake in neat antifreeze (the enviro stuff *PLEASE*) and run till you see colour in the exhaust water. 

* Stop, dump the bucket then set up to recirculate from the bucket to the intake,  put enough antifreeze in the bucket and run again till the engine is good and warm.

* Change the oil and filter, run a couple more minutes to get clean oil into the oilways and bearings.

* Check the antifreeze concentration in the bucket with a hydrometer to be certain you have enough frost protection.

* Remove exhaust hose and water hose from injection elbow. As soon as the engine is cool, bag the engine's intake and exhaust with a freshly activated silica gel dessicant sachet in each and seal tightly.

* Isolate the battery and tape a note over the key switch so no idiot tries to start the engine!

N.B. change the impeller in the spring - if you are not planning to change the impeller, put an old one in for this procedure as it will take a set over the winter.

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

P.S. with copper prices as high as they have been, be concerned about propeller theft!
If you are unlucky the b******s may even cut your shaft to steal it.  If in doubt about security take it off and take it home.

11 (edited by Viragodeb 2011-12-07 20:20:41)

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

Maybe ignorance is bliss.  It never occurred to me to do anything specific with the exhaust, I've ignored it completely and never had a problem (that I know of...yet...).  I do, however, run plumbers antifreeze through the engine cooling system via the fresh water intake, then drain the impeller case and remove the impeller, then drain the cooling water cavities in the engine via a drain plug for that purpose (Bukh single cylinder).  My Bukh has a drain plug in it and so did the Volvo I had in a previous boat, so check your maual to see if it mentions anything about a frost plug.  In the end, the cooling water system is left dry for the winter and anywhere that may not have drained completely has antifreeze in it.

As for draining the fresh water tank, does your boat have a drain plug at the bottom of the keel for the deep sump bilge?  Mine does, and for the season or two that I used the fresh water tank, to drain it all I did was siphon the water out of the tank and into a neighbouring storage compartment and let it run through the drain hole in the compartment, down into the bilge and out that drain hole (boat is on the hard, in her cradle of course!).  Gravity did all the work for me.  And if your galley pump is the pull straight up-push straight down cylindrical type, methinks they drain themselves and don't require any attention (make sure the valve on the galley drain through hull fitting is open though).  Or maybe that's just more blind luck on my behalf as I've never done a thing to mine and it keeps cheerfully working away.

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

Thanks Deb.

If you run antifreeze through your engine, then it likely fills into the exhaust as well;  Perhaps that's why you haven't had issues?  My engine manual doesn't mention antifreeze and simply says to remove the impeller cover to drain the system... which I did.  I'm a bit worried that it didn't drain the whole system and that I'll have problems come spring time.  The engine is the original Farymann K34.

As for the freshwater tank, no, it doesn't have a drain plug.  It is fibreglassed into the v-birth and terminates in a 3D V corner under the pickup hose.  I can reach it through the inspection hatch so after we empty the water, it is easy enough to reach in and get the rest with a sponge.

I couldn't find a drain plug for the bilge;  I looked, but don't see where it would come through the hull.  You say yours is at the bottom of the keel??  Do you mean where the keel meets the hull or do you mean really at the bottom of the keel?  I have a supporting plank under the keel so I'm not even sure I'd be able to check there.

As for galley pump & hose;  We have a Whale Gusher pump and winterizing it is was a non-issue.  Particularly because the hose was full of yuck and needed to be replaced anyway.  Also,  the pump handle liked a drip each time we pumped... a niggly annoyance but one that let a trickle of water run down onto the settee as well as under the galley compartment onto our pots/pans.  A replacement kit costs almost as much as a new pump (on sale) so I might just replace the whole thing and reseal the sink in the spring.  Anyway, not an issue.

.... Man, I'm going to be so happy if I can find a bilge plug in the keel!

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

The manual for my Bukh didn't mention antifreeze either (nor did the Volvo), both instructed simply draining the system, but I figure a 3 dollar jug of antifreeze is cheaper than re-plumbing the engine, so I do both.  Do try to find out if there is a drain plug besides draining the impeller case.  When I take the plug out water comes out, and that's after I've drained the impeller housing, so draining the impeller case isn't getting it all.  But our engines are different.  Seems to me my Bukh manual didn't mention the drain plug, it was the Bukh guru at Krinmar in Kingston that told me about it.  You may want to ask a mechanic about that.  Something in my dusky memory tells me Faryman became Bukh, so I'll tell you were it is on my engine and you can see if yours is the same.  Here goes:  Looking down on the engine from above you'll see a shape on the top of the engine that is a triangle with rounded corners.  The apex of the triangle points to the stern of the boat.  Find that shape, then look down the back of the engine below the apex of the triangle.  If our engines are similar, there should be a drain plug about 2/3 the way down.  It has a regular nut-type head on it about 12mm in size (it think).  Back that out and water should follow.  As the manual didn't mention it, it's probably not crucial - maybe the voids it drains aren't full so no threat of cracking etc.  I feel better having it drained though!  On the Volvo the frost plug was a petcock drain fitting in a piece of cooling tubing below the level of the bottom of the engine - one simply opened it and all drained out.

My water tank doesn't have a drain plug either, I just stuck the sucking end of the siphon in via the inspection hatch and let 'er rip.  The drain hole at the bottom of the storage space under the vee berth is just low enough to let the siphon empty the tank.

As for a drain in the keel, I don't know if every model of Contessa has them.  On mine, an '85 JJT, it's on the outside at the bottom of the keel (read ground level), way down low on the port side, aft end.  It's a threaded fitting that you need a big flat screwdriver to remove.  If it's there, take it out and leave it out for the winter to avoid ice build up in the bilge if you have any leaks.

I'm off line once I shut the computer down tonight, so good luck and I hope all is still working in the spring!

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

Mine (JJT 1976) also has a drain in the keel. port side. very bottom aft corner. Its a 3/4" brass set screw hex head. Great for cleaning and draining the bilge after haul out.

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...


"Lolly Jo" #230
C. Paul Carter
Montreal, QC

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

Excellent!  I stopped by the boat today, now that we're starting to get freezing weather, and found the plug.  Mine is a 9/16th square head threaded plug and drained the bilge like a champ.

... Now to be sure I remember to replace it in the spring.

17 (edited by john_co26 2012-01-02 15:41:34)

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

Just starting to get freezing weather??

Jeez I live in the wrong part of the world sad   Two more weeks till the boat show so it is not all bad.

Treat that plug like it is worth it's weight in gold, I am not sure if it is easily replaced. Does anyone know?
It is tapered, plumbers taper for lack the correct terminology.  So maybe a trip to home depot would find a replacement  but then again maybe not.


Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

I think it may be straight threaded as it passes very deep into the socket without binding. 

You are right about losing it though.  I think mine is a 0.5" in diameter.  There are lots of these plugs with hexagonal socket heads on eBay these days.  I gather these are Asian knock-offs but they should serve.  Packs of 5 for about $10 plus shipping.

If the thread is indeed tapered then one might have luck finding a plug at a good plumbing shop.


Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

I wouldn't recommend a plug from a plumbing shop as they will probably rust in place. The thread should be tapered and made of brass, 1/2" diameter I believe. The plugs are available at any marine supply and should only be about $5.00. And yes Jordan, you will only ever forget to replace that plug once before launch as it can be expensive to haul it out again, not to mention the laughter from the audience.

.                               ,,,,,
                               (o o)

20 (edited by Ian Malcolm 2012-01-04 05:53:24)

Re: Winterizing my Contessa 26...

I would expect the plug to be tapered (unless there is evidence of an O ring seal) and it really should be made of BRONZE (or just possibly glass filled nylon).  If you use a cheap brass one, replace it at least every two years.  There has been a lot of fuss here in the EU about sub-standard brass thruhulls and seacocks that don't even last five years.