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How to prepare your boat for winter storage

How to prepare your boat for the winter

The season is slowly but surely coming to an end and boat owners are faced, as every year, with the task of winterising their boat. In Germany, most boats are stored for winter in a hall or open-air storage facility, but it is also possible to leave the boat in the water over winter. All options have their advantages and disadvantages. The type of winter storage depends on the boat itself, what work has to be done and the insurance terms and conditions of the boat owner.

Leaving the boat in the water over winter

How can I winterise my boat if I don't want to take it out of the water?

If you are considering wintering your boat in the water, you should remember that not every harbour is suitable for this. In waters that are influenced by tides or changing water levels, a boat can be damaged by ice floating in the water. If you choose this option, make sure that the water is calm or that there is a steady flow that will keep your boat free from ice. When wintering in the water, make sure that all mooring lines are in a good condition and replace them if in doubt. Double up for safety's sake in order to prevent chafing and slipping. Check your boat regularly when storing your boat in the water over winter.

What should I know about winterising on land?

If you decide to store your boat for the winter on land, you can either keep it in an indoor or outdoor storage facility. Storing the boat in a hall means that it will be well protected and not exposed to the weather. It is also better protected against theft. The disadvantage, however, is that it is often difficult to find a place in a hall in some areas. Furthermore, indoor winter storage is significantly more expensive than outdoors.

If cost reasons or problems finding a place mean it is not possible to store the boat in a hall, it can also be stored outside with a good cover or tarpaulin. Covers with a material thickness of 150-250g / m² are recommended for the winter. Make sure that the cover is large and wide enough to be tied and secured underneath the boat. This not only keeps the boat well protected; it also minimises the area that wind can do damage to. Ensure that there is good air circulation under the cover. In addition to being more affordable, outdoor storage on land allows you access to your boat at all times. This means that in good weather in the autumn or spring, you can carry out work on the boat and are not reliant on hall opening times to do so. The disadvantage is that even if the boat is protected with a cover, you should still regularly check it to make sure that the cover is still in place after strong wind and bad weather, and has not slipped off or been damaged.

Nevertheless, both land-storage options require the boat to be completely dry before storage and placed relatively high up in a boat rack, so that cold and damp from the ground cannot damage the boat's hull. In open air outdoor storage, it is essential to have an appropriate bracket or mount.

Winter storage on land

What should I take from the boat before winterising?

Whether you decide to store your boat in the water, a hall, or outdoor facility, take everything with you off board that should be stored in a dry and warm place. This particularly applies to food and drink, clothing and books or paper. Bed covers and sheets, sleeping bags and if possible, mattresses and upholstery should be stored at home in the loft or cellar. If this is not possible, it is recommended to turn mattresses or upholstery on their side, in order to give them sufficient circulation. In addition, the following items should also be taken off board before winter storage:

Safety equipment (life jackets, life rafts, fire extinguishers)
Many fire extinguishers are not frost-resistant. The winter break is also the perfect time to make appointments with maintenance stations for safety checks for life jackets and life rafts. Safety equipment should be washed with clean water and all salt residues removed.

Rope
Rope should also be cleaned with fresh water before storage and then completely dried. You can then also check for damage and it can then be loosely hung up for winter storage. It is not recommended to store in a bag, as this can affect the strength of the rope. Rope worn out?

Valuables
Depending on how safe the area is where your boat is to be stored for the winter, you should consider dismantling and taking all electronic devices with you from on board, to prevent theft.

Sail
Clean your sail after the last use thoroughly with fresh water and allow to dry completely. Only then should you remove the battens and roll or fold the sail. Pay attention to any damage showing on the sail that needs to be repaired. The sails should then be stored in a dry place, not too cold, and with sufficient space, i.e. on top of a shelf.

Gas cylinders
Take all gas cylinders with you from board and check the openings of the gas cylinder for blockages.

The contents of the cockpit lockers
Empty the cockpit lockers completely before storing your boat for winter to ensure that nothing remains onboard that could be damaged or attract vermin. It is also advisable to leave lockers open for ventilation.

How should I clean my boat before winter storage?

Extra focus should be placed on the boat's hull, as this is the part that carries the boat in the water throughout the season and thus receives little care and attention when the boat is in the water. As soon as the ship is out of the water, algae and mussels should be removed from the hull. The easiest way to do this is with a high-pressure cleaner. At the same time, loose paint can be removed from the rest of the hull and the deck and tarpaulin can be cleaned. If no high-pressure cleaner is available, you can also clean by hand. Care should be taken when cleaning the tarpaulin and deck with a high-pressure cleaner. If the cover has aged slightly, the pressure may be too high and it could be damaged. Tip: Use the high-pressure cleaner at a safe distance from your tarpaulin and deck! Teak decks and specially coated deck surfaces e.g. with KIWI Grip should not be cleaned with a high-pressure cleaner.
A yellow stain remover and special cleaning agents for boats make it easier to clean the hull and, unlike household cleaning agents, they are biodegradable. Pay special attention to the ship's propeller when cleaning the boat. This is often heavily covered with growth, which can impair the boat's performance. The log impeller and sonar transducer should also be cleaned and their operation checked. Also clean the deck and tarpaulin gently with a high-pressure cleaner and do not forget to wash all fenders with fresh water to avoid any salt build-up.

What work should be carried out on the underwater hull before winter storage?

Once the hull has been cleaned, you should check the entire hull for damage. You can repair minor damage yourself with filler. Attention: the hull should be properly dried. If there is severe damage or osmosis bubbles, consult a specialist if you are unsure. You should also check the condition of sacrificial anodes and replace them if necessary. The weather conditions in the autumn are ideal for re-applying anti-fouling before the winter break. Most anti-fouling products can be easily applied half a year before the boat is re-launched. Be sure to check the product data sheet for the antifouling in question. Detailed instructions on how to apply antifouling, including a video tutorial, can be found in our antifouling guide.

Epoxy Resin, Polyester Resin and Filler for Boats » Anodes for hulls and shafts » Antifouling »


How should the anchor, anchor winch and anchor chain be prepared for winter storage?

If you are about to clean the hull for winter storage with a high-pressure cleaner, you should also pay sufficient attention to the anchor and anchor box to remove both dirt and salt residues. Also check the anchor chain and swivel shackle for damage and replace if necessary. The anchor winch and gypsies should also be cleaned and, if necessary, greased. If you find oil residues on your deck near your winch, this may be a sign that it is losing oil. It is therefore essential to check the oil level of your windlass.

Maintaining the anchor

How can I get on-board tanks & pipes ready for the winter?

Any water on board should be removed when preparing for winter, as frozen water in tanks or pipes may damage the boat. Water in the drinking water tank, outside shower and boiler (usually has its own drain) should be removed. Check whether there are any other drain valves on the tank and pump. After draining the water, the drinking water tank should be cleaned and then filled with a non-toxic antifreeze suitable for drinking water systems. Keep taps and showers running until the coloured water comes out of them. To be on the safe side, leave all taps and sea valves open. If there is still residual water left in the pipes, it will eventually drip off and can freeze without causing any damage. Alternatively, drinking water pumps can also be completely removed and stored away from frost.

The toilet system should also be drained and the waste-holding tank emptied and cleaned to prevent frost damage. As with the drinking water tank, the WC should be filled with antifreeze and then pumped until the coloured liquid comes out of the outlet. This ensures that the antifreeze is dispersed in the pump.

Before winter, check all hoses for cracks and replace if necessary. Also take a look at the hose clamps.

Water & oil residues in the bilge should be removed prior to winter storage. Oil absorbent-cloths are the best for removing oil residues. The bilge should then be wiped dry and the floor boards raised so that they are well ventilated.

What should I do with my boat battery & boat electrics in the winter?

The life span of boat batteries is enormously shortened if they are allowed to drain down and are exposed to the cold. Drained batteries can also burst in severe frost. There are several ways to avoid this.

It is advisable to take boat batteries off board during the winter and connect them to a modern charger in a warm place. If batteries are connected to a battery trainer, they can remain connected to the mains. If your battery banks are too heavy to be removed from the boat, leave the boat connected to shore power and turn off all other circuits.

If your battery banks are too heavy to be removed from the boat, leave the boat connected to shore power and turn off all other circuits.

If you do not have access to shore power: leave your batteries fully charged on the boat and clean the area around the battery terminals. Cleaning will prevent current leakage and discharge. Check the acid density of the batteries at least every 2-3 months and recharge them if necessary. Maintenance-free gel batteries can withstand long service lives at low temperatures without any problems.

Tip: To avoid worrying about how to connect the batteries at the start of the season, it is best to take a picture of the batteries showing the connections.

Small batteries and rechargeable batteries from smoke detectors, watches, portable lights and hand-held GPS devices should be removed completely and replaced at the start of the season, or changed for fresh ones, as these batteries are not leak-proof. At the same time, check that the gas and smoke detectors are functioning properly and, if necessary, schedule test appointments.

Check the mast electrics of your sailing boat and grease contacts with Vaseline to protect them from water. Switches, fuses, cables and contacts on board should be checked for corrosion and the boat lighting checked for proper function.

How do I prepare my boat engine for winter storage?

In order to winterise the boat engine, a number of tasks are necessary, ranging from changing the oil and filter to winterising the cooling system. It is best to start while the boat is still in the water. A step-by-step guide to making your diesel engine winterproof is available in our guide section.

What other tasks have to be done on board before winter storage?

Before storing your boat, clean the refrigerator thoroughly and turn it off. You should leave the refrigerator door open for the winter, just like other doors and cupboards on the boat. You should also open all sea valves after they have been checked that they are secure and free from corrosion. You should close all bulkheads and portholes such that they are tight but air can still circulate.

Manual bilge pumps should be flushed and the diaphragm checked for cracks. In addition, let the diaphragm pump run dry for a short time and, after checking, protect with a thin layer of glycerine.

On sailboats you should inspect the rig and keel: Terminals, shrouds, pins and bolts must be checked for hairline cracks and corrosion & replaced if necessary. Everything you need to know about storing rigging and tackle can be found in our guide.

Storing inflatable boats for the winter

If your inflatable boat has a removable floor, it should be taken out before winter storage. Blow up all the inner tubes and clean with mild soapy water or a special inflatable cleaner, then rinse the boat thoroughly with fresh water. Do not leave any residue in or on the boat that could damage the boat membrane. Remove oil or tar stains and inspect the dinghy for damage. Minor damage can be repaired by yourself, major damage should be left to a specialist. Damaged wooden parts can be sealed with boat paint. Unscrew the inner parts of the valves and clean them with water. Check the valve seals and replace if necessary. In winter, it is best to store your inflatable boat in a dark, dry and cool place, slightly inflated.

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