This month Bill looks at all the main areas of your boat that will need to be winterised to avoid disappointment in the spring.

Image: Shutterstock/Olga Miltsova

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed and it’s time to make the decision on whether to lift the boat early to have a good few months of drying out or to stay in the water until early spring and try to make the most of the glorious crisp winter days we often have. Another advantage to staying in the water is the opportunity to hone my single-handed skills, as The Admiral does not do ‘cold weather’ sailing! With four key areas to concentrate on for winterisation – below decks, engines, sails and general hardware – there many decisions to be made.

Either way, whether we lift early or stay afloat, the end results are the same. Starting with the below decks – I think that in all cases most of us will de-clutter the boat, if for no other reason than to prevent adding more and more of the “must have and very important items” (also known as clutter) each season. It also allows lockers to be cleared and allow air to keep circulating and therefore reduce damp. Damp air is the best medium for mildew and is best kept at bay by good ventilation. For those of us in marina berths with shoreside power, I have been advised that it is worth considering a small wattage heater to keep the boat dry (but not warm) and also a small dehumidifier that can be set to 60 per cent humidity or less. I am reliably informed that this will also keep the headlining, cushions and woodwork clear of mildew and the boat’s interior smelling sweet. Before we moved to the marina berth and were without the option of heaters and dehumidifiers we had to remove as many of the soft furnishings as possible to be stored ashore in a dry ventilated space (spare bedroom, much to The Admiral’s misery!).

Engines that have a recirculating fresh-water cooling system should have the correct concentration of anti-freeze in the system. This is especially crucial if water was added during the season as the ratio could be incorrect thus still resulting in frost damage. A boat in sea water should not have a problem here in the UK with engine icing, but if ashore make sure the seacocks have been opened after lifting to clear as much water as possible. Outboards should be flushed with fresh water, and better, with a flushing agent and an anti-freeze added to ensure all water chambers are protected from freezing. Where possible take the outboard home and store ashore for the winter.

Sails are best taken down, dried and stored in a dry ventilated place, along with covers that are not needed to keep deck equipment and electronics dry. At this stage, it is worth carefully looking at the condition of the sails before they are folded and put away. If there are problems with chafe, stitching and other damage, this is the best time to take the sail to a sailmaker for remedial treatment. This saves disappointment in the spring when sailmakers are deluged with work by customers who have not heeded this advice. This also applies to cushions and covers. If any of the above need replacing this is also the best time to place an order.
There can be mixed views about taking the sprayhood off – on the one hand it is best for the sprayhood itself, but the sprayhood continues to protect the boat from the elements. You will know your own boat, and how much protection it gives, but the ability to ventilate the interior without rain getting below may well be worth the additional weathering of the cover. Sheets and control lines not likely to be used should be stripped of the deck then washed (domestic clothes washing soaps work well), dried and stored. This massively increases the life and appearance of all rope. Halyards should be clipped well away from the mast to prevent excessive wear on the anodising on the mast’s surface that would result by slapping over extended periods.

Whether ashore or afloat take the anchor chain out of its locker and wash away the dirt and salt and give it a good inspection for damage. Once done it can be returned to the locker.

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