Wintering is equivalent to removing water from Alton Marina

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ALTON – Known as one of the friendliest marinas on the Mississippi River, Alton Marina celebrated its 25th year this year.

At the end of the summer, the marina staff were busy with many end-of-season tasks.

Harbor Master Greg Brown has been employed at the Marina since 2013, but has held numerous positions along the Mighty Mississippi since 1975.

As many longtime residents know, winters here are very variable – no snow one year, then eight inches of powder before Thanksgiving the following year.

“Not overwintering is not an option,” Brown said. He said that starting in mid-October, he and his staff were emptying the marina’s floating pool. “It will appear as a plug,” he noted.

Brown said it takes eight hours to pump out the pool, which holds 28,000 gallons of water, as well as winterize the pool’s plumbing, filters and pumps, etc. freeze, through the system to avoid any risk of ice later in any places they might have missed.

Then the marina irrigation system must be purged of water. He has 17 zones – “or like 17 different yards,” Brown said. The crew members use a heavy-duty air compressor to blow out the lines, which takes a day.

In late October or November 1, he said there is a complex plumbing system under the docks that also needs to be blown out and takes two to three days to complete: faucets, toilets, sinks, showers, etc. The pipe arrives from the city’s water system at a six inch diameter and as it goes around the marina it descends to sizes of four, three, two, and ¾ inches.

The only exception to this process is the Marina Administration Building, which remains open year round with manager Karen Baker-Brncic on site.

There are two waste pumps which also need to be winterized. Brown said that pumps contain many brass parts and that brass, more so than steel for example, is very sensitive to freezing. In addition, there are three waste collection stations which must also be winterized.

During the hot season, Brown said pumps and lifting stations pump “black water”, sewage from showers, toilets and other sources. Crews use an air pump to remove water from the tank and shut off the vents.

Whether it is an entire marina or a single boat, the general rule for wintering is: if it uses water, it must be emptied / blocked / extracted so that the water does not freeze. It is not the low temperatures that are the problem; it is the lack of use compared to spring and summer.

Dave Wickenhauser knows a few things about boats. The 71-year-old sailor from Godfrey has been a boater since he was 18.

Currently he owns two 23 foot long boats with outboard motors and center consoles. One is currently moored in Florida, so all he has to do is winter a boat these days.

He said he started with the Yamaha engine itself. After lifting the boat out of the water, he tilts the motor down to release all the water used for cooling. Covering the engine is also a good idea, but owners should leave enough space for ventilation so that condensation does not form.

When the engine is idling, it must be protected from corrosion. Older carbureted outboards and two-stroke engines used to require misting oil, but modern outboards are already “foggy”.

Some automakers recommend using products mixed with gasoline to leave in the fuel system all winter long, while other companies control the process electronically with the push of a button.

“The temperature here is never cold enough to take the boats completely out of the water,” Wickenhauser said. “In the north, it’s a different story.

Here there is no need to take the boats out of the water, even in the coldest months of January when the ice that forms is thin. The marina docks, where he keeps his northern boat moored, float on polystyrene billets that manage temperature expansion and contraction.

Wickenhauser described two other ways to keep ice at bay. The first method is to buy a bubbler, or a small compressor with a perforated hose or hoses to drop into the water near your boat. This creates bubbles around the boat.

Another way is to sink a self-contained propeller in water. The movement it generates in the water slows down the formation of ice.

He said either device can be used by a thermometer, so it only works at specific temperatures compared to all the time the boat is moored out of season.

Wickenhauser said there are places that will winterize boats for owners less inclined to mechanics, but it can cost anywhere from $ 300 to $ 1,200. On the other hand, this kind of work usually comes with a guarantee.

He said he had a 40 foot boat with two inboard diesel engines. To winter them, it would first close the caps and / or remove the valves before running antifreeze through the system, then run the engine until it reached operating temperature. When it reaches operating temperature, remove the intake hose from the intake valve, immerse one end of the hose in a bucket of environmentally safe antifreeze, and run the engine until the antifreeze is visible from the exhaust ports.

Inboard engines could also use a dose of fogging for corrosion resistance.

There are more than motors to consider when it comes to winterizing, depending on your boat accessories. Some have separate generators, others have air conditioning and other items which are all normally cooled by river water.

Wickenhauser said the time it takes to complete the process depends on what you have on board. Dual motors will take longer than one, add more time for a generator, air conditioning, and a formal water system.

Brown said Alton is well known to loopers or boaters who complete the Great Loop Waterway. A start / stop point on the loop is Chicago. Boaters head southwest along the Illinois River, then south along the Mississippi before moving slightly east to the Tennessee River-Tom Bigbee Waterway to avoid heavy barge traffic on the Mississippi south of the Ohio River.

Using the alternate route south, boaters follow the Intracoastal Waterway around the Gulf of Mexico and Florida, then up the intracoastal to New York City. They then head north up the Hudson River and west along the Erie Canal to reach the Great Lakes and back to Chicago.

For the adventurous, the scenic drive would require leaving New York City and bypassing Long Island and Cape Cod, passing through Maine, around Nova Scotia and across the Canadian Maritimes. Head to the St. Lawrence Seaway to reach the Great Lakes and return to Chicago.

Brown said all marinas in the area operate on the same schedule and aim to open by April 1 each year.

“Winter for us is from November 1 to April 1,” Brown said.

Open since 1996 and located at 1, rue Henry, the Alton marina has 300 berths and offers boaters a long list of amenities. According to its website, it was the first marina in Mississippi to offer room service to boaters and it was featured on the cover of Quimby’s 2020 Cruising Guide.

For questions, more details or to reserve a spot next year at the marina, call 618-462-9860.

Contact reporter Charles Bolinger at 618-659-5735


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