What is the issue?When a boat is lifted out of the water for the winter there is a range of tasks that will help it come through the winter intact, the most important being to prevent frost damage when it turns cold. It is vital that these tasks are undertaken to protect the equipment and the longevity asset the vessel represents. Moreover many insurance policies do not cover damage caused by lack of maintenance, so you could also be out of pocket in the short term.
Why address this?Your boat is a deserving investment to look after, so don’t skip any of these important maintenance standards. By doing all the appropriate maintenance tasks and inspections before your vessel is put to sleep for the winter, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your asset is protected, no unnecessary degradation will take place and no harm will come to the equipment.
Furthermore spending time and replacing inexpensive parts when putting the boat down will be repaid tenfold when it comes to the springtime fit out. You will have your boat in great shape for an easy and quick launch as soon as spring is in the air.
How to address this?The below winterising checklist is prepared with the intention that the vessel will hardstand in a boatyard that has round the clock reliable shore-power to support an appropriate number of dehumidifying devices and thermostatically controlled heaters below decks. The ability shore power provides to control the environment below decks and guarantee the vessel will not freeze, as well as keeping the batteries in good condition makes this process much easier. If power is not available extra measures, as set out in the winterising 'checklist' for hardstanding where power is not available , are required to prevent frost damage and mildew. But the steps presented below are applicable in all cases.
Before commencing it should be noted that this is a generalised checklist that is broadly applicable to most boats and is intended to serve as a scoping list and helpful reminder of the area that needs to be attended to. It is a general checklist that provides a broad overview and the best source of information for winter storage will always be the vessel's specific Owner's Manual and those of the individual pieces of equipment aboard.
It is a lot easier to work with a boat whilst she is alongside a pontoon. Contents are much more easily unloaded into a marina trolly than hauling everything up and down a ladder when on the hardstanding. A once a year top-to-bottom inspection of the rig is a simple way to prevent minor problems before they become major. It is more safely done from the water and it is the ideal time to spot any problems should the rig need to be also unstepped as part of the winterisation.
- Gear Removal:
- ☐ Remove as much as possible from the boat. Empty lockers, cupboards, removing food, clothes, bedding, floor mats, personal floatation devices, flares, fire extinguishers etc as well as external deck equipment such as danbuoys and lifebuoys. Check their condition and repair these over winter.
- ☐ Wipe out all storage lockers to remove any salt deposits that will keep them damp. Leave doors ajar and the locker lids off to aid ventilation.
- ☐ Wash down all surfaces below decks to remove any dirt or grease that will allow mould to grow.
- ☐ Remove sprayhood and other external canvas items. Standard canvas is not designed to withstand the harsh elements of winter. Clean all canvas thoroughly, lubricate all zips with Teflon lubricant prior to storage in a warm dry place.
- ☐ Take off easily removable equipment that would be attractive to thieves and store in a warm, dry place. This includes portable electronics, outboard engines, VHF radios, portable plotters as well as tools such as electric tools.
- ☐ Pump out and clean freshwater tanks. Clean the tanks and wipe internally with a chlorine solution.
- ☐ Drain water from all freshwater system lines and pumps. Inspect hoses for signs of softening, cracking, bulging, leaks or pinholes and replace, if necessary.
- ☐ Scrub or pressure wash the deck, mast and rigging to remove salt and grime.
- ☐ Clean teak with teak cleaner and then reseal it for the winter. Depending upon the amount of teak aboard this will could be one of the most time-consuming tasks to attend to.
- ☐ Touch up any damaged varnish or paintwork to prevent water ingress.
a protective coating
Photo: Michael Harpur
- ☐ Take your sails off and have them checked by a sailmaker. They will usually store them in their sail loft for the winter if you take them during their quiet period. As an absolute minimum, the furling jib must be removed as it can flog loose in high winds, shake the supports loose beneath the boat and cause untold damage to the vessel and any others standing nearby.
- ☐ Avoid any creases when folding or rolling or flaking the sails as they can cause the fabric to break down over time.
- ☐ If you intend to stow the sails in the yacht keep them clear of the batteries. Battery acid has been known to break down sailcloth, and hydrogen gas given off whilst charging, can degrade the sail's metal fittings.
- ☐ Flush all open bearings in the roller reefing gear with warm fresh water. Lubricate as instructed in the owners manual and turn bearings to spread lubrication around.
- ☐ Lubricate bottle screws and slacken them off a turn or two to release undue tension.
- ☐ Get out the bosuns chair and inspect the standing rigging. Inspect for signs of corrosion, distorted mast walls around the spreader base, crazing, hairline cracks around welds and cutouts. Inspect clevis pins. Tape over the split ends of cotter pins. Inspect shrouds for broken strands and swages for hairline cracks.
- ☐ Check coax connectors for water ingress and repair as necessary and reseal. Remove masthead instruments and lights, aerials and wind indicators as part of the inspection to enhance longevity.
- ☐ Remove all running rigging, wash synthetic lines with mild detergent and rinse in fresh water, dry and hang below or at home.
- ☐ Wash all blocks. Disassemble and clean where possible if required. Hot water and vinegar will remove stubborn salt deposits then lubricate as recommended in the owner's manual and reassemble.
- ☐ Check and clean navigation light terminals. Daub them with silicone grease to prevent poor connections.
- ☐ Drain any water and contaminants from the fuel tank.
- ☐ Top up your fuel tank to leave no room for the condensation that promotes the growth of the diesel bug .
- ☐ Check the condition of the engine coolant and top up if required.
- ☐ Change fuel filter and fuel pre-filter/separators in engine.
- ☐ Treat your boat's fuel with a stabiliser/biocide. Read the instructions on the stabiliser container for quantities - it is typically difficult to cause damage by overestimating the ratio. After adding it to the fuel, run the engine for 15 minutes or so to be sure stabilised fuel has circulated throughout the engine.
- ☐ Flush the engine’s raw water cooling system with fresh water to prevent saltwater slowly corroding it over the winter. Run a hosepipe to the raw water intake stopcock or use a large bucket. Close off the valve and disconnect the hose from the head of the stopcock and run in the freshwater pipe or drop it into the bucket. Start the engine and run it until the freshwater has run through the system. Turn off the engine and reconnect the hose to the seacock, or insert a bucket of antifreeze as described in the winterising 'checklist' .
- ☐ Drain the oil while the engine is still hot from the fuel circulation. Replace with new engine oil and filter to eliminate moisture and prevent any acidic traces in the old oil damaging engine parts over the lay-up. New oil will prevent internal corrosion and protect the engine as it sits there over winter.
- ☐ Close off seawater cooling stopcock. Remove rubber pump impellers, lightly grease with petroleum jelly and store in a sealed plastic bag in a cool place. Replace with a new impeller during the Spring refit, if in poor condition.
- ☐ Check all control cables and treat with a rust inhibitor.
Rigging & Sails:
Once ashore it is time to clean the hull and topsides to finish off the winterisation process in earnest. You will probably not get a say in where your boat is stored in the boatyard but if by chance you have the choice, pick one with reduced wind exposure and that is less subject to falling leaves.
Best winter storage results, for all methods of storage, will be achieved by thoroughly cleaning your boat inside and out first and then covering the body with wax. The wax will create a protective layer to corrosion of your boat’s body and is particularly important if you plan on storing your boat outside. A boat that starts its winter holiday clean, will help keep dirt and corrosion from getting a foothold, and will be much quicker to get ready in the spring.
- Above Decks :
- ☐ Remove fenders to stop them attracting grit and grime, which will then prevent them from scratching the topsides when blown about in the wind.
- ☐ Clean the hull and saildrive directly after taking up the boat before it dries - this is usually part of the haul out service. Be careful not to direct the pressure washer's water jet at the saildrive so as to damage areas of paintwork, the propeller shaft seal, grommets etc.
- ☐ Clean off transom exhaust stains. Left to sit over the winter they will likely bond with the fibreglass.
- ☐ If it is a wooden boat, drop a pallet under the stem and let down the anchor and chain to prevent its unsupported weight distorting the hull.
- ☐ If the anchor has become rusted in the places where it chafed against mountings or rocks during the season, loosen the rust with a wire brush and then apply a rust-conversion coating where needed. Then spray the areas with an aerosol cold-galvanizing compound that's at least 65% pure zinc by weight.
- ☐ Inspect and replace all zinc anodes as necessary - hull, rudder, saildrive, bow-thrusters etc.
- ☐ Cover up if you can. The spring work and deterioration can be dramatically reduced by placing a cover over the boat .
- ☐ Thickly wax all fibreglass surfaces to provide a protective winter skin to take the worst of the elements .
- ☐ Apply wax to stainless steel or spray on a moisture-displacing lubricant such as 'Corrosion Block' to prevent discolouration and pitting.
- ☐ Tie off a few lines of ultrasonic sound emitting polypropylene Bird Scare Humming tape where it can vibrate in the breeze. Birds find the humming sound annoying and it stops them from perching and fouling.
- ☐ Open seacocks to allow complete drainage of water. Flush then through to remove the salt, and then service and grease them liberally to stop them seizing.
- ☐ Close all seacocks except for cockpit drains and the drain that the dehumidifier drains out through - typically the galley sink.
- ☐ Inspect bilge pumps to ensure proper operation then pump out, bail, wash and dry the bilges.
- ☐ Wipe out all the places where water tends to pool such as below the engine in the shower sump etc.
- ☐ Light the stove then close off the supply at the head of the gas bottle and allow the stove to go out. Then close off the supply at the stove.
- ☐ Inspect gas lines for damage and support, then remove gas bottles sealing off the end of the line.
- ☐ Repack stuffing box if required or check the rubber seal between the drive and hull carefully in the case of a saildrive.
- ☐ Prop cushions and soft furnishings at odd angles so air can circulate underneath and around them which makes the boat less damp and therefore less susceptible to mildew.
- ☐ Secure all ports and hatches, open all locker doors, access hatches, bilge access and anything else that will improve air circulation before leaving.
- ☐ Seal all air intakes, breather pipes, tank vents and exhaust outlet with duct tape or plastic seals.
Photo: Courtesy of DREW MARINE
Below Decks :
With an onboard smart two-stage marine shore power battery charger delivering a maintenance level charge it is safe to leave the batteries in the boat. If you do not have a smart charge system attach a reliable trickle charge to top up every 30-60 days. Check the yard power lead has an integral protection breaker and check the external AC shore power socket is in good condition.
- ☐ Ensure it is fully charged and charging.
- ☐ Clean corrosion off the terminals and connectors and protect with petroleum jelly.
- ☐ Check water levels and top up if necessary.
- ☐ Check any switches and circuit breakers to ensure they are turned off and disconnect any unnecessary cables so as not to inadvertently drain the batteries.
- ☐ Spray electrical system components with moisture repellent spray.
Place an oil-filled heater on board with a thermostat set to low, and a dehumidifier. Best results are achieved by distributing a range of different sized tubular greenhouse heaters around the boat and rigging them to come on via a thermostatic switch when the temperature drops to 5° or less. The heaters are economical to run and only come on when needed.
Photo: Courtesy of DIMPLEX
We used a standard timer for the dehumidifier to come on for an hour a day in the afternoon and set it to drain out through the galley sink. This little touch of occasional heat combined with a regular turn of the dehumidifier was enough to keep our vessel perfectly dry and fresh for the winter.
It is important to check the boat periodically throughout the winter and leave a spare key with the yard manager. Each time you visit the vessel, clear the scuppers and cockpit drains of leaves and dirt. This will stop the dirt bonding with the gel coat and the water pooling and freezing. Check the boat is plugged in and powered up. On a busy boatyard, it is easy for people to casually unplug your boat's shore lead to power a tool and forget to plug it back in. A trivial oversight that could cause untold damage in a frosty time. It is worthwhile asking the boatyard if a locking plug is available on the distribution panel.
One of the mechanisms we used was to wire a bright LED light into the heaters thermostatically controlled circuit and place it in a prominent porthole so it is easily seen across the boatyard. When the temperature drops to less than 5°C the light then activates alongside the heaters, and no light meant no heaters. If you live a long way from the boat when a heavy frost comes along it is easy to ask a member of the yard staff to step out and check if they see the light is on at dusk. If it is lighting all is well with the heating and if not you have been forewarned that there is a problem to resolve.
Finally, the boat's tender needs to be put away for its winter sleep too. The outboard engine needs particular attention after a season's use to ensure it will be ready for the next season and provide a long life.
- Outboard Engine:
- ☐ Flush engine with fresh water.
- ☐ Wash down engine with soap and water.
- ☐ Disconnect fuel hose and run engine until it stops.
- ☐ Spray fogging oil in the cylinders.
- ☐ Apply grease to propeller shafts and threads.
- ☐ Drain gear case and add fresh engine oil.
- ☐ Lubricate all grease points such as tilt/trim, steering, control cables, etc.
- ☐ Drain and replace lower unit gear lube.
- ☐ Wipe a light layer of lubricant on exterior of engine or polish with wax.
- ☐ Inspect/replace anodes
- ☐ Fill installed fuel tanks and add stabiliser. Empty fuel from portable tanks into car tank and take them home for storage.
- ☐ Thoroughly rinse off the inflatable with fresh water.
- ☐ Remove floorboards and flush out accumulated sand and grit.
- ☐ Remove the drain plug and clean to ensure a continued tight fit.
- ☐ Clean off fresh stains with a dinghy cleaner or a damp cloth dipped in vinegar and sprinkled with baking soda.
- ☐ Wash afterwards with warm water and washing-up liquid, and then rinse thoroughly.
With thanks to:Michael Harpur, Yacht Whistler.
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