Preparing Your Boat For Winter

When the nights start drawing in and the temperature plummets, it can mean only one thing; winter is coming and it is time to protect your boat from the elements.

The safest place for your boat to be over the winter is out of the water. However, hauling and storage can be rather costly. Shrink-wrapping your boat is a cheaper option or, if your budget is very tight, you can use a tarpaulin or similar cover to keep nature out. Allow for some air circulation under the cover to prevent mildew.

Storing Your Boat Out Of The Water

If you’ve chosen to store your boat out of the water over winter, it’s a great opportunity to clean the barnacles, algae and other foul off the hull, propellers, shafts and rudders etc. Open all the seacocks and let them drain. Drain the bilges by removing the drain plug and leave it out. Make sure you remember to put it back in before your boat goes back in the water next season.

Storage In The Water

For boats stored in the water over winter, the main problem is freezing of the water around the boat. Water expands when it freezes creating huge pressure on your boat’s hull which can be very damaging. Keeping the water around your boat in constant motion can prevent it freezing. Bubbling and de-icing systems exist for this very purpose, so make sure there’s one available if the water is likely to freeze.

Ensure all the seacocks are closed and none are leaking and make sure the bilge pumps, float switches and battery are all in good working order.

You should also check the boat at regular intervals to be sure it is safe and secure; the marina or Harbour Master may be able to do this and report back to you.

Further Winterization Techniques

Add stabilizer to the fuel in your fuel tanks to prevent the fuel from degrading over winter. Then run the engine to let the stabilizer get into the fuel system and engine to protect them. Refer to the fuel stabilizer instructions for the appropriate quantity.

Flush the cooling system and protect with anti-freeze. Every two to three years, the water pump impeller should be changed to keep the cooling system running efficiently.

Clean out rust and sediment from both outboard and inboard engines by removing the block plugs and letting the water drain away. Pump anti-freeze in to prevent ice damage. Spray the engine with an aerosol fogging oil to prevent rust. When the engine is cool, remove the spark plugs and spray fogging oil into the cylinders through the spark plug holes. Replace any spark plugs that are worn out.

Replace the oil filter and oil and make sure you dispose of the old oil responsibly.

If your engine is an outboard, store it in the upright position.

To ensure your electrical terminals and fuse panel remain rust-free, spray them with a lubricant to displace moisture. Read the label to make sure the spray is safe for electrical items.

On inboard engines, clean out the backfire flame arrester with carburettor cleaner.

Life jackets, seat cushions and any other fabric items should be hung up or positioned so they can air out easily.

Pump out the holding tank adding fresh water to the bowl and flushing several times. Use a toilet cleaning product, but refer to your owner’s handbook to make sure the product you use is safe for your system.

If your boat is to be stored on a trailer, remove the tyres and place the trailer on blocks to preserve the tyre rubber and also make your boat harder to steal.

It is certainly worth remembering that a little money spent winterizing your boat could save you a small fortune later. Your insurance company may actually insist on a certain level of boat winterization to keep you covered. In addition to these general instructions, it is wise to check your boat’s handbook for any winterization required that is specific to your type of boat.