Getting Your Boat Winter-Ready: A Comprehensive Guide

As winter’s chilly embrace approaches, it’s time to prepare your beloved boat for the frosty season. Whether you plan to leave her moored or continue enjoying her throughout the winter months, proper winterisation is key to safeguarding your vessel and ensuring it’s ready for action when spring returns.

Why Winterise Your Boat?

Winterising your boat is not just a matter of aesthetics; it’s crucial for protecting its vital components. Neglecting this important step can lead to issues like mould growth due to poor ventilation, clogged fuel lines from diesel bugs, engine failures, and damaged batteries. By investing time in winterisation now, you’ll save yourself from potential headaches, expenses, and effort when you’re ready to set sail again in warmer weather.

The Winterisation Process

Winterising your boat may seem daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. However, we’ve broken down the process into manageable steps to help you tackle it successfully.

1. Remove Items

Before storing your boat, clear it of as many items as possible. Cushions and soft furnishings are susceptible to dampness, so it’s best to keep them at home. If you choose to keep them on board, ensure proper ventilation by propping them up. Valuables are safer at home, especially if your boat will be moored for the winter.

2. Choosing a Storage Option

Ideally, store your boat undercover and out of the water during the cold months. While this provides the best protection, it can be costly and may not be an option for everyone. An alternative is to cover your boat with shrink-wrap or a tarpaulin. Keeping your boat out of the water reduces the risk of weather damage.

3. Ventilation and Dehumidification

If you’re leaving your boat moored without power throughout the winter, maintaining proper ventilation is crucial to prevent mould and mildew growth. Stagnant air can lead to these problems, which are not only unsightly but can also cause health issues. You can use moisture absorbers or traps as a cost-effective alternative to dehumidifiers. If you have access to power, a dehumidifier with a small heater is ideal. Ensure your dehumidifier has a continuous drain mode with a hose running into the sink for efficient operation.

4. Drain Water from the Boat’s System

Prepare your boat by removing water from its system, including toilets, bilges and water tanks. Flexible water tanks can be removed for cleaning at home, or you can fill them with sterilising fluid to soak before draining and cleaning. Ensure seacocks are firmly closed if your boat is on the water; if it’s on dry land, leave them open.

5. Protecting Your Boat

Whether your boat is on the water or ashore, protect it from the elements. Use a well-fitted cover over the cockpit and consider removing items like sprayhoods, dodgers, sail covers, and sails. If you plan to leave a furling headsail on, secure it properly. If your boat stays moored, double up on your boat’s lines for added security. Check for leaks and install a float-switch-operated bilge pump for any unexpected water ingress.

6. Preparing Your Engine

Properly winterising your boat’s engine is vital. Change the oils and filters, top up the fuel tank, and add an anti-bug additive. Flush the raw-water cooling system. For boats with a closed-circuit cooling system, add anti-freeze. Smear Vaseline on the fuel filler cap thread to prevent rainwater from entering the fuel tank.

7. Additional Tasks

Don’t forget these important tasks:

  • Check electrics
  • Remove lights
  • Wash and store lines
  • Review your insurance coverage

By dedicating time to winterising your boat and ensuring it’s properly stored and maintained during the colder months, you’ll save both time and money when you’re ready to embark on new adventures come spring.