Winterising your craft might be time consuming but it's necessary to keep her protected during the cold season. We've put together a list of guidelines and asked surveyor and former boat builder Ben Sutcliffe-Davies to share his best tips for a safe and thorough job.

Winterising your boat is essential to avoid any damage and potential long term issues.
From filling your fuel tank to the brim to avoid condensation and diesel bug contamination to removing all sails, there are plenty of things to do to make sure your craft is ready for the colder months. We’ve spoken to surveyor and former boat builder Ben Suitcliffe-Davies who shares his best tips for a thorough, safe and efficient job and we’ve also put together an easy to follow checklist to help you get her ready for winter.

David, when is the best time to bring the boat ashore and winterising it?

“In the past I have always taken my boat out of the water around the middle to end of October, properly winterised her, as my father had taught me.  (One October) I had taken the decision not to take my own boat out of the water, mainly due to the last five years our winters have been very mild and the possibility of going out on the boat with the kids has been fun on a mild day, but when the ice was packing around my boat and everyone else’s I was starting to think that really I had made a very bad decision and for some it was! Several owners had left their skin fittings open and water was freezing in the cockpit drain hoses and water intake and discharge pipes ended up with either the hoses splitting or the hoses even being popped off! The results are as you can imagine are devastating!”

What are the main steps to winterising a boat?

  • Drain off water tanks and hoses and winterise the engines 
    “And don’t forget the heads. Also run antifreeze through the engine’s water systems by using an old bucket with a hose coming out of the bottom and hung over the exhaust outlet with the hose run to the engines water inlet, filled with 50% antifreeze and 50% water. Make sure the engine is working properly, and no water is obvious in the oil and likewise, before the marine engineers get too busy and delay your season why not ask them to winterise the engine and also give it the once over prior to launching.We always winterise the engines and even then would still pop down every couple of weeks just to turn it over.”
  • Protect your boat from bad weather
    “Always remove the mast and put a decent hard back frame over her with wood battens on the guard rails with a good heavy canvas cover over her with plenty of ventilation.”
  •  Boat ashore:  Prop up your craft using pads
    “Make sure the vessel is well propped up with the pads supporting the hull in the right places. Pad should be positioned where an internal bulkhead or stringer runs, quite often over a very short period of time it becomes very obvious when the GRP hull starts curving inwards with the load! With readymade steel cradles it is important to insure the craft sits in the frame properly to meet the bulkheads. Likewise if storing the craft with the mast up -which I don’t recommend – extendable arms to the bases should be fitted to prevent the potential of mast in strong winds making the craft unstable.”
  • Check for water
    “Sometimes owners do not think about is how the craft is built, many GRP craft have different ways to stiffen the deck and cockpit areas but many rely on using a balsa or foam sandwich systems, both are good, but again when I have surveyed craft, I am always amazed at how many owners screw minor fittings for boat hooks or other equipment without sufficient sealant to the deck or proper support behind it allowing water to slowly penetrate the moulding. I always use a moisture meter on the underside of the decks and this soon finds areas of moisture ingress. With the types of winter we have just experienced high moisture could lead to water trapped and when turned to ice the small expansion could seriously damage decks too.”
  • Invest in a small heater
    “Lastly the cost of running a small heater on a thermostat is pennies. If power is available it’s a very prudent investment!”



Checklist and tips:

  • Remove all sails.
  • Grease the screws and replace split pins.
  • Burn off any gas in the pipes and turn it off at the bottle.
  • If the boat is ashore for the winter, fill your fuel tank to the brim to avoid condensation, which can facilitate the diesel bug contamination.
  • Keep batteries dry and warm. Top them up every month/month and a half. Remove them where possible.
  • To avoid rust forming, remove or relax belts and protect the drive wheels.
  • Remove all soft furnishing, including cushions, towels, beddings and clothing.
  • Remove all food from the fridge, clean it and leave the door open to avoid mould.
  • Remove any external navigation tools and take home.
  • Pump the toilet dry after flushing with fresh water. Clean and disinfect the holding tank.
  • If your boat is very damp, invest in a humidifier.
  • Service and shut the seacocks if the boat is ashore.
  • Remove the anchor and chain from the anchor well or foredeck. The weight, especially on wooden boats, can distort the hull.

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