How to prepare your boat for winter

Some winter boat tips and how to's to help prepare for the colder months storage of your craft


At this time of year there is one thing on many boatersí minds and that is how to prepare your boat for winter.

It may be a job you have done many times before and therefore it is merely a routine task that gets done without too much thought.

However for many, including myself, lack of thought and taking short cuts before hand can lead to expensive repairs and embarrassing moments during the first part of the following spring.

Let us also make one assumption before we go on that the following text almost certainly wonít be of interest to people like Roman Abramovich and his £329m13,000 ton super yacht MY ECLIPSE. He can probably afford for someone to take care of ďhow to prepare your boat for winterĒ without worrying about mould, water in the bilge, grease nipples and flushing the engines.

Ok, so where do you keep you boat over the winter months?

Probably the most convenient place is leaving your boat in the water until itís used in the spring. I did this one year and wished I hadnít. Seagulls make a right mess of exposed paintwork and unless cleaned off quickly the acidity can mean a long job cutting back with a compound to restore. So an obvious tip is to keep it completely covered to protect from the elements and wildlife. Remember to allow a flow of air to avoid internal moisture build up that can lead to mould and mildew.

Keeping your boat in still water over winter runs the risk of damage from ice. We all know that water expands in volume when frozen (take a frost damaged water pipe for example) and ice around the hull can inflict damage if certain measures such as de-icing bubbling systems are not used. Many marinas have these systems to help protect the marina itself as well as users. The system works by using a low pressure compressor pumping air into sunken tubing or similar that is activated by a temperature sensor. Bubbles migrate from the water depths where the water is warmer and carry this warmer water to the surface hence preventing the surface from freezing.

If you donít have this luxury then regular checks should be made ensuring your boat is safe and sound.

Check your bilge pumps are working, your float switches are working and not jammed and that your battery is in good condition. I installed a simple leisure solar panel that cost about £85 and that ensured the 95AH battery was topped up, one of the best investments for my boat I ever made.

Any valves in the hull (seacocks) should be closed.

Although this is in hindsight you should have already applied antifouling below the waterline to help stop the build up of barnacles etc.

Out of water storage has its drawbacks because you have to launch again the next time you want to use it and if youíre anything like me then you will make a right sweaty meal of it with 3 or 4 attempts at least. What was a quiet moment to launch is by now a crowd gathering time of both impatient fellow launchers queuing up with hands on hips, sniggering onlookers making obvious suggestions and the missus saying ďdo you want me to do itĒ.

Anyway the great thing about how to prepare your boat for winter storage on dry land whether it is on a cradle or trailer is that itís dry!

Make sure your boat is tilted back to allow all remaining water in the bilge to drain and leave the plug out. Donít forget to put it back in though before your next launch. Iíve heard of seasoned boaters forget this simple task. A big bright reminder notice somewhere should do the trick.

Seacocks should be opened.

Empty any water storage tanks and clean thoroughly.

Remove items that could get damp like clothing and lifejackets and buoyancy aids.

If you have the use of a pressure washer then go to work giving the hull, the outboard engine, linkages, aux engine props and rudders, decking etc a good blasting. Flush the engine with clean water. Some engines have flush ports others you can use flush muffs attached to a hose pipe. They look like a pair of headphones and fix around the impeller intake part of water cooled engines or outboard leg. This helps reduce salt and silt settlement solidifying when the engine waterways dry out during storage times. Some small outboards are air cooled so this isnít an issue.

If you have removable fuel tanks but choose to leave your fuel tanks on board with fuel in them the consider the following:-Start the engine and let it run (ensuring it doest overheat) for a short while after adding a fuel stabiliser to the fuel tanks. This can be used to help prevent fuel degradation over long periods of non use. Donít forget to use the muffs for cooling if youíre letting the engine run longer periods.

Only when the engine is cool:-The use of fogging oil to spray into cylinders (first having removed the spark plugs) as well as other parts of the engine will help prevent corrosion.

Grease up linkages with marine grease and give your electrics a spray of water dispersing lubricant.

Donít forget youíre trailer. Security devices like wheel locks, hitch locks and even removing the wheels will help deter a would-be thief.

Now is a good time to check the boat insurance cover also and see if you can get a better deal.

If your boat is in a temperature controlled boat storage facility then these organisations will help you with how to prepare your boat for winter.

There are plenty of other things to tend to on even the most simplest of boats but these are probably in my experience some of the more important ones. Indeed, many people work on their boats all year round as it is as much a hobby as it is fun to use.