Prepare your boat for winter with our expert guide. Learn how to safeguard your boat from the cold, prevent damage, and ensure a cosy winter afloat.
As the weather takes a chilly turn, the time has come for boat owners to gear up for the winter season.
British winters can be notoriously unpredictable, which makes it vital to ensure your boat is well prepared to endure the colder months.
In this guide, we'll walk you through the essential steps to keep your boat in tip top condition this winter, so whether you're mooring up for the winter in a marina or on the cut, you can ensure a cosy stay afloat.
Returning to your boat after a long winter can be a less-than-pleasant experience if you arrive find smelly, mouldy furnishings.
To prevent this, consider relocating any soft furnishings in your boat to a warm and dry environment over the winter months.
The heart of your boat, the engine, requires special attention when winter arrives. The best way to protect your engine is by changing the oil, following the manufacturer's instructions. This ensures clean filters, the removal of water and the elimination of any corrosive elements that might accumulate inside the engine. Give the engine a good spray with WD-40 to keep the damp away.
For boats with sealed water systems, don't forget to test the engine antifreeze strength. Top it up if it's less than 50%, as this will prevent freezing and corrosion by keeping air from reaching internal engine components.
Disconnect hoses where drain plugs aren't available to drain the water system partially. Although this will not empty the system completely, it will allow for expansion should the water freeze and reduce the risk of ruptured pipes. It's also a good idea to insulate tight bends to minimise fluid collection. Before you set out cruising again, reconnect the pipes and refill the system.
Remember to clearly mark the winterised engine and its controls to prevent accidental operation. Additionally, place an oily rag in the exhaust outlet and cover the air inlet to prevent corrosion.
Frozen pipes can be a nightmare for boat owners. Disconnect and run your water pumps dry to remove any lingering water. Empty water tanks, calorifiers and pipe work to avoid potential issues. Leave the taps in the open position, and drain the shower while removing the showerhead, keeping the valves open.
Maintain your boat's batteries by ensuring they are fully charged, and ideally left on a float charge from a marine battery charger. If this isn't possible, check their charge monthly and top them up when needed. Verify the electrolyte level and check the battery terminals remain free from corrosion.
If you're moored on a main line, you might find that when the cut is frozen, passers by will need to break the ice to get to the water points. This can create ice sheets, which can shoot across the top of a canal and cause damage to your boat. A handy tip is to drop planks of wood by ropes into the water alongside your hull, which can help absorb the impact of ice sheets.
To prevent pipe splits and fractures, drain down the water system, leaving the taps open. Install an automatic bilge pump float switch for peace of mind, as it ensures small amounts of water are consistently removed from your bilge.
Grease the stern tube before leaving your boat to prevent water ingress. Ventilate your boat using wind socks and make sure to leave plenty of slack when securing your boat's mooring pins and ropes, as the water levels will rise and fall.
Regular visits to your boat are essential to check mooring ropes, bilge pumps, and batteries, especially in extreme weather conditions. Running the engine during these visits is a good practice to prevent rusting and top up the battery. Be sure to spray terminals with a silicone free lubricant, grease all available grease points and lubricate linkages and gear/throttle slides to give these components a longer life.
If your generator is not in use, store it safetly in a gas tight locker.
The same regulations as Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) apply.
Even if you have a secure mooring for the winter, it's wise to remove or hide any alcohol, valuables and electrical items when you're not on the boat.
Make sure your boat is equipped with good locks and has adequate insurance. Don't forget to check all windows and vents are firmly closed.
If you'll be leaving your boat alone during the winter, be sure to visit regularly (after all, it's lovely to spend some time by the water). While you're there, remember to turn over the engine regularly and charge the boat's batteries. Run the engine for at least 30 minutes until it reaches its normal operating temperature for 20 minutes.
You should also pump out any rainwater and clear cockpit drains and bilge pump suctions of leaves. Boats should never be left unattended for extended periods without some form of inspection by the owner, a friend or a boatyard to check the boat's mooring and condition remain in good shape.
Preparing your boat for winter is crucial to ensure it emerges from the colder months in top condition. By following these essential tips, you can protect your boat's engine, plumbing, electrical systems and more, while also safeguarding your valuable possessions. Regular visits and maintenance checks will help guarantee a smooth transition into the boating season when the snow melts and the waters thaw.
Stay prepared and enjoy your boat all year long!