With the winter drawing in, Rick Channon shares some advice in preparation for boat hibernation
Rick Channon prepares for winter and the Fleming in our fleet gets a new mattress
Winter layup is probably not a boater’s favourite time of year – but at least this year we can look back on a fantastic summer of warm settled weather. I certainly put my boat Greyfin, a Beneteau Antares 8, to good use, clocking up over 25 nights on board and 80 hours on her inboard diesel engine. However it’s now time to put the boat away for winter.
A FLOAT OR ON THE HARD?
My first decision was to winter her ashore rather than in the marina. This was largely a personal choice, but a decision nevertheless that affects winterisation tasks.
A boat sitting in the marina is bathed in water that won’t freeze thus keeping the extremes of temperature at bay. The boat can also still be used, which not only keeps all the systems running but also gives you the opportunity to take advantage of an Indian summer or the occasional beautiful winter’s day. The price you pay, however, for leaving it in the water is increased wear and tear in a harsh environment as winter gales roar through. In the black of night you will wake wondering whether the fenders have ridden up over the pontoon or if the warps have held. You only have to look at what happened to Holyhead Marina in March to see the potential worst case scenario.
I chose to lay Greyfin ashore up a sheltered valley where shore power and water is provided (this is essential as you are going to need them). Make sure your diesel tank is full before she comes out and add some diesel bug biocide solution – then you will get minimum condensation in the tank and prevent bug growth. Diesel, unlike petrol, does not lose its potency over the winter.
Bringing Greyfin ashore for me simply involves giving the boatyard a date and they collect her from the mooring, hoist her out, pressure wash the hull and chock her up in the yard. There will be a choice of how you lay her up; in a purpose-built cradle, on adjustable legs or on simple wood chocks. I am happy to opt for chocks as the yard is sheltered. If it wasn’t I would use more secure metal legs.
I also get the boatyard to winterise the engine – this in fact is her annual service and it is far better to do it at the end of the season rather than at the beginning as more harm can be done while the engine sits idle over the winter than when regularly used in the summer. The oil and filter should be replaced, as used oil has carbon in it which is corrosive. The impeller should be removed otherwise having one of its blades squashed all winter will misshape it. The belts should be loosened or removed to prevent stretching and antifreeze should be checked on the fresh water side and added on the raw water side, which should be flushed through with the filters emptied. Finally the fuel filters should be cleaned or changed along with the air filter. Don’t forget that if your boat is relatively new or valuable then a professional service is necessary to maximise its value, maintain guarantees and ease the process should you come to sell her – and don’t forget to get your service log stamped.
WASH AND GO
This is as far as it goes for me with the boatyard, who at the extreme could do everything and I would simply turn up in the spring with her back on the water. However I will do all the other less technical tasks myself as a therapeutic close to
the season. Firstly I thoroughly wash the topsides to remove all salt, which would otherwise attract moisture. I also polish and wax the topsides now rather than in the spring. Some people even leave the polish on the hull without buffing it off. This adds an opaque white layer that further protects the boat from the elements but looks a little odd until buffed to a shine six months later. I like to cover my boat as there are plenty of trees around and the leaves can block drains and leave stains as they rot. I use a cheap polyester tarpaulin that will last two seasons, but I appreciate that bigger boats would be trickier to cover. I leave the dinghy inflated, albeit at lower pressure, and under a tarpaulin on the foredeck to aid water run off.
I then move inside – again washing down all surfaces with disinfectant and doing a tidy up, but I leave soft furnishings on board and have never found they deteriorate.
Next I tackle the domestic water systems. I run the water tank and all the pumps dry, drain the water heater as much as possible using the pressure relief/drain valve and, importantly, drain the pipework leading to the deck wash and transom shower, as these are vulnerable.
Dependent upon where you live and the harshness of your winter, you may wish to flush these systems through with non-toxic antifreeze that you put into your water tank. Cornwall is pretty mild, so I find a heater and dehumidifier are enough to stop it freezing.
I leave my batteries on the boat and connected to the boat’s charger using shore power to trickle charge them over the winter. I also visit the boat once a month to use the batteries heavily as they like to be discharged. I will switch on items like the fridge, TV and plotter to do this while I’m busy with other jobs.
Lastly I set to lubricating anything that moves, open the seacocks, clean the windlass and replace any anodes that have eroded by more than a quarter.
I set up a desiccant dehumidifier in the main cabin that drains through the sink. I find this type of dehumidifier much better than the compressor type as it actually heats the air and you can get a 10-degree gain in air temperature. Unfortunately air humidity drops as the weather gets colder so you can’t guarantee the dehumidifier will kick in just when you need its heating effect the most. Therefore, just to be safe, I also set up a small 60w tubular heater on frost setting down in the bilges so that it will come on should it get very cold.
I have now done the best I can to leave the boat clean, aired, frost protected and mechanically sound – however, I won’t stay away as I’m sure to find projects to do over the winter – totally unnecessary but fun!
I f your boat is new or valuable then a service is necessary to maintain guarantees
Greyfin chocked up on the hard standing
Rick rigs up a heater in the engineroom Draining the water heater avoids frozen pipework
Rick leaves the seacocks open when the boat is on the hard A dehumidifier helps keep damp at bay
Prepare for the worst that the winter weather can throw at your boat