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Prevention | Winter storage

Winterising tips for your boat

Some owners like to keep their boats afloat all year round and enjoy bonus time with winter sailing, taking advantage of the welcome and sometimes surprisingly calmer sunny days. However, for others, the option is to haul out and lay up ashore for a period of time which can often seem a rather daunting task with a works list to be completed.


The good news is that no matter whether you still want to get out on the water as much as possible, or plan for yard time during the winter months, a Pantaenius UK boat insurance policy covers you 365 days of the year. 


When putting your boat away for the winter, a number of processes should be observed and correct storage throughout the colder months will prevent issues such as corrosion or the ingress of moisture. Making sure you are effective at placing your boat into hibernation, the easier it will be come spring, when you can successfully enjoy a straightforward relaunch and plan for even more time out sailing!


A main focus should be service and maintenance of your engine, as this is your lifeline and thorough winterising is vital to avoid starting the new season with problems. There are different levels of preparation depending on the boat or engine type, but generally, as a minimum, observations should be carried out in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Across the board the addition of a fuel additive will prevent oxidisation, corrosion and the dreaded diesel bug in the case of diesel tanks.


Those with outboard engines might choose to remove the engine completely from the boat during the winter and store it securely under cover. If so, store it trim-down to allow water drainage, prevent the block freezing and relieve pressure on the transom plate. If removing, store the engine standing up securely. It is recommended the engine should be flushed fully through and washed down, especially if you operate in salt water as it helps avoid internal corrosion of the aluminium waterways. Then drain the engine of fuel, change the gear oil and lubricate the cylinders plus engine exterior, check spark plugs and grease the propeller shaft, all moving parts, joints, nuts and bolts etc.In order to avoid condensation fill the fuel tanks and change the fuel filter and water separator. 


Inboard engines should be run and the oil and filters changed, then the engine flushed with water and biodegradable antifreeze added. Change the transmission fluid at recommended intervals. Fogging oil can be sprayed into the carburettors and cylinders as a protective coating to prevent any corrosion occurring. For the start of the next season ensure anodes for both propeller shafts and outdrives are replaced if depleted. 


For batteries, if possible remove them all, charge up and check the water levels (consider if needed to operate bilge pumps). When done, assess their condition with a hydrometer. Lightly grease  the terminal ends, store in a cool, dry place and if any are over four years old, it is probably worth replacing them. Blocking off the exhaust and if possible the air inlet to the engine is a good idea in order to prevent moisture getting into the engine - but remember to remove closures before relaunching!


A good clean is essential. Give the exterior a thorough pressure washdown to remove the salt from hull, topsides and decks, plus remove any barnacles lurking, before you apply a coat of wax. Soak your ropes in domestic detergent and rinse with fresh water, close seacocks if remaining on the water, but open if ashore, then remove any sails and sail covers. Allow air and rain to get to the anchor chain, this will help to give it a thorough clean. 


Inside the boat, take away any equipment that needs cleaning or checks/servicing, including gas bottles and soft furnishings. Then give the interior a good scrub with disinfectant, getting into all drawers, fridge/freezer spaces and the like, then leave these ajar so that the air can circulate. If your lay up space has electricity, a small dehumidifier draining into a sink on a timer can be a good idea to minimise moisture or try to make sure there is as much air circulating as possible. Plumbing can be completely drained or filled with biodegradable antifreeze while tanks can be flushed and cleaned with a sterilising solution. Clean out bilges thoroughly using a hard bristled brush and detergent. Also carry out a thorough check for leaks plus make sure your bilge pump is float switched in case any water gets in if remaining on the water. 


Regardless of where your boat spends the winter months, she will need protection from the elements in the best possible way. A well fitted cover over the cockpit is important and to remove items such as sprayhoods, dodgers, sail covers and sails. If you are planning on leaving a furling headsail on during the winter however, ensure it is secured and tied up so it cannot come free and potentially cause damage. If moored, double up your boat’s lines so there is security if one happens to fail. Other points to remember are a good check of all electrics and also check your insurance cover is current and that your insurers are made aware of any material changes.

With the cold months ahead, now is the time to be winterising your boat and, even if continuing to sail throughout the winter, it is still prudent to give systems a thorough check over anyway. Good boat maintenance, both internally and externally, will keep your pride and joy in the best condition whilst extending its  life, bolstering residual value and minimising any potential damage. Putting the time in now is well worth it, as effort and money spent later, when you want to use her in the warmer months, will not seem so appealing!


For flexible boat cover, complete our online enquiry form. Or if you’d like to chat it through, ring us on 01752 223656, and then leave the rest to us.


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