Winter Boat Maintenance

The Winter months can be a rocky time for dedicated sailors. A chance to rediscover the warmth of the indoors, see some familiar landlubbers and enjoy the Christmas holidays, sure, but that's just the beginning of a long wait until Spring. Worse, during that wait your boat requires a fair bit of looking after should you want to take her out next season. To help you protect your vessel from the never-ending threats of corrosion, freezing and more, here's our own guide to Winter boat maintenance.

Preparing your boat for the cold

Getting your special sleuth or well cared-for catamaran ready for the Winter months means you're in good stead to be back on the water nice and early. Properly preparing a boat should be a thorough process, one that might require a bit of spending and a huge checklist.

First and foremost is finalizing the day of your final voyage. Your last trip before hauling her out however is not an excuse to gaze upon your local coastline one more time. It's actually a perfect opportunity to get a real feel for every part, electronic or piece that you might want to repair, modify or completely replace. Once back on sure, begin your preparation by removing and safely storing all extraneous items from the boat, including your marine radio & GPS, batteries, gas bottles, fire extinguishers, lifejackets & safety equipment, the contents of your fridge/lockers/cupboards and any worn & damaged rigs.

Once you've got a bare bones boat devoid of any clutter, it's time to move onto everyone's favourite part...

Tips for pre-Winter boat cleaning

The most essential method for giving your boat a fighting chance against the weather and minimizing the work needed in Spring, washing your boat should be nothing but exhaustive. Obvious areas to scrub down, wax and polish include the underwater part of the hull (likely covered with weeds, algae and barnacles), topside, bottom, deck, superstructure, sails, bilge as well as the more house-familiar items like carpets, windscreens and furniture. Check for blisters if you have a fibreglass boat, and remember to let all canvas items dry thoroughly before storage.

Your boat's inner workings will be a huge job in of themselves. For the engine, ensure it's topped up just short of full (to allow for expansion after Winter), adding a fuel filter and marine fuel stabilizer per instructions to keep the entire system clean whilst it's not being used. Turn the engine on to check that the stabilizer circulates well through the system, and then whilst it's warm you can begin a good seasonal round of lubrication that should begin with your engine oil, and extend to the fittings, engine coupler, steering tilt tube, engine trim mechanism and any of the various moving metal parts in sight.

Moisture is a deadly force over Winter; creeping into freeze if left unchecked. Checking the bilges, removing stagnant water and cleaning up every speck of dirt and drop of oil should be a no brainer, but remember to also drain your fresh water tanks and heater. Add a non-toxic antifreeze directly to the tank, as well as your ice makers, air conditioning pumps, fish wells and bilge as applicable.

Major storage whirlpools

  • Remember to keep your Winter boat maintenance routine. Checking every few weeks is the best way to spot little problems before they grow big, especially after heavy bouts of bad weather. It helps to arrange for someone experienced to check it for you if you plan on going anywhere over the Winter months.
  • Periodically check that the actual shores and legs providing structural supported to your hauled out boat remain secure and stable.
  • Even if you've applied anti-freeze ad nauseum, put moisture absorbers in the cabin and lockers. Remember to check the bilge for any water ingress.
  • Always strive for a storage location that minimizes your boat's exposure to wind, weather and even falling foliage. A canopy or garage is suitable, and a custom-fitted cover is ideal.
  • It is possible to have your boat professionally shrink-wrapped, which creates the best defence against the elements, however costly. Whatever you do, never tie off your own boat cover or tarp to the boat stands.
If you've got any tried and tested methods for proper Winter boat maintenance, let everyone share in your knowledge by sharing it on the Seachest Facebook page, our Twitter and via Google+.


Post By Graham