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How to Winterize Your Boat

When the summer and autumn boating season have come to an end it’s time to start thinking about how to take care of your boat over the winter months. Boat winterization procedures protect your vessel from the effects of (ironically) water damage, either through freezing or mould growth. Whether or not you winterize your boat, and to what extent you do so depends on where you live and the expected winter weather conditions. Here we take a look at the things you need to consider when preparing a boat for winter.


What is Boat Winterization and Can I Winterize my Boat Myself?


Winterization procedures protect your boat and its systems from the negative effects of freezing. In sub-zero conditions, water in the systems will freeze and expand, causing ruptures and untold damage. If you live in a place where winter temperatures may dip below freezing even once, you’ll want to winterize your boat to protect it and avoid costly springtime repairs. Winterizing also ensures things like batteries and engines (inboard, outboard and sterndrive) are protected from the effects of sitting idle and unused all winter. This is the case for any boat in any weather conditions that might not be used for long stretches of time. It is certainly possible to winterize your boat yourself, and our guide will start you off on the right path. First timers might want to consult a professional, especially with regards the engine, but for the most part it is something most boat owners do themselves. 


Do I Need to Take My Boat out of the Water in Winter?


Deciding whether to take your boat out of the water has its pros and cons, and you’ll need to weigh those up with relevance to your location and type of boat. The smaller it is the easier and cheaper it will be to take out of the water (and trailerable boats should always be taken out), but for larger boats it’s obviously more of an expense. Taking a boat out of the water in winter is always the preferred option, but for those who don’t have the option to do so it’s important to ensure that;


  • Ice doesn’t form around the boat which can create pressure on the hull and damage systems

  • Corrosion is prevented

  • There is a heat source inside the boat to prevent mould and mildew and protect systems from freezing

  • Making sure that water systems and holding tanks are winterized


Even with all these measures in place, storing a boat in the water in winter still requires you to make regular trips to the boat to maintain it and ensure nothing is going wrong. 


Do I Need to Cover my Boat in Winter?


Whether you leave your boat in the water or take it out you will need to consider a way of covering it and protecting it from all the elements, whether that’s rain, snow, frost or UV rays. There are several options to choose from, all with varying costs;


  • Plastic Tarps: This is the simplest option, and ensures a basic cover. You will need to spend time ensuring it is well tied down as they are notorious for flapping in the wind and ripping. 

  • Canvas Tarps: These are more heavy duty and will last longer than a plastic tarp and create a better coverage. The downside is that you will need to create a solid frame to support it as they can be quite heavy.

  • Fitted Covers: Fitted covers for popular model boats can often be purchased from the manufacturer or even second hand. They will fit your boat perfectly, and have all the attachments to ensure it is well tied down. While these are a more expensive option they will last many years and create a sound coverage. 

  • Shrink wrapping: A last option would be to shrink wrap your boat which comes with its own pros and cons. It creates a very strong cover which withstands the elements well, snow and ice don’t accumulate on the cover, and it covers the whole boat, even most of the hull. On the downside it is an annual expense, and they can be expensive. You will need a professional service to wrap your boat and it adds to the global plastic problem. 


How Do I Winterize My Boat?


No two boats are the same and so you will need to create a boat winterization checklist and make a plan that is specific to your vessel based on your owner’s manual or with the help of an expert. But as a general rule, there are several steps you need to take to make sure your boat is winter ready;


  1. Prepare the engine: There are several steps to take when getting the engine ready for winter;

    1. First you’ll need to drain the engine oil, as moisture and acids in the old oil will cause damage when left unused. Run the engine in the water to get out all of the dirty oil and then replace it with high quality oil. You may also want to change the filters.

    2. To protect the engine from freezing water expanding and causing damage you need to drain all the cooling water from it. Flush it with clean water and once the engine is off, remove drain plugs are ensure it is drained fully. 

    3. Add a corrosion protection to the engine to ensure that fuel left sitting doesn’t cause gum and varnish to build up which can seriously affect the lifespan of the engine.  

    4. Apply a fogging oil to the internal components of the engine which, when left in winter, are exposed to harsh elements and can suffer from corrosion. 

    5. Drain the gear oil and replace it with fresh oil

    6. Use a marine lubricant to grease the engine’s fittings and to protect against rust and oxidation. 


  1. Drain Fresh Water Systems: Again, the effects of freezing water in any of your boats’ systems will your biggest enemy, so make sure to drain all of the plumbing systems fully. These include the sinks, tanks, heads and bilge pumps. You may also want to add anti-freeze to your plumbing systems. 


  1. Clean the Boat: Give your boat the clean of all cleans before winter to ensure that salt doesn’t damage the decks, hull, fixtures or anything else it can lay its corrosive hands on. Use a pressure washer and make sure you scrub it thoroughly and scrub all the barnacles off the bottom. You can also apply a good coat of wax which helps protect everything from the elements. You’ll want to open the seacocks and soak ropes in detergent to remove salt build up which can erode them over months of no use. Inside the boat make sure to clean everything including the fridge and freezer and leave the door slightly open. 


  1. Store as Much as Possible: If you have access to safe, dry storage then you’re best removing as many items from your boat as possible. This could include sails on a sailboat, gas bottles and all soft furnishings.


  1. Remove Anything Valuable: With few people around during the winter months, break in’s at shipyards and marinas do happen. So make sure you don’t leave anything valuable on your boat such as electronics. 


  1. Cover the Boat: See above. 


For more tips, guides, inspiration and how-to articles on everything boating check out Rightboat.com’s weekly blog. We share our knowledge and expertise, helping boat and yacht owners to make informed decisions and enjoy the boating lifestyle. If you have any questions at all, we’re happy to help so please do get in touch!


Written By: Rightboat

The Rightboat team

More from: Rightboat

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