How to winterise your yacht

The best way to stop a yacht deteriorating is, of course, to keep using her. However, most of us have outgrown the enthusiastic February-bash up the coast and opt, rather sensibly, to lay-up our pride and joy for a few months, at least until the pontoons stop icing over.

If you are winterising your boat for the first time, here are a few tips;

  1. Wash down decks, brightwork and all clutches, etc with fresh water.
  2. Run the engine and check the fuel and fuel filters. If you have a problem with fuel, best to know now rather than in April.
  3. If the fuel is fine, add some anti-fungal fuel treatment and brim the tanks. This protects the fuel chemically and by limiting condensation that would otherwise be present in half-empty tanks.
  4. Replace the fuel filters / cartridges and bleed through the fuel.
  5. Rub a small amount of vaseline on the threads for the fuel and water tanks and secure them. This is to protect from rainwater ingress.
  6. Run the engine for a while. This is going to be necessary anyway if you are lifting her onto the hard for the winter.
  7. When laying her up, try to arrange for the bow to be a fraction higher so as to allow rainwater to run-off the decks and flat surfaces.
  8. Isolate the batteries
  9. Remove the engine oil. This is best done whilst the engine is still warm, using a specialist pump to extract the oil into a container for proper disposal ashore.
  10. Replace the engine oil with the correct amount and grade of oil and change the oil filter. Replacing the oil and filters now is sensible as the acidic deposits in used oil will damage an engine over time.
  11. Drain the coolant and replace with anti-freeze and/or a strong anti-freeze coolant mix.
  12. Remove the raw water impeller/s and hang them on the outside of the housing so that they are visible. As changing impellers is a regular maintenance task, consider replacing with a new impeller next season, retaining the old one as a spare.
  13. Exercise the seacocks, then grease them sparingly, then close the seacock to the engine. Consider hanging the keys from the engine seacock so that accidental starting cannot occur with the sea cock closed.
  14. Consider putting a few drops of engine oil into each cylinder and turning the engine over (without starting it).
  15. Remove the air filter and stuff a bung or oily rag into the air intake and exhaust to stop water ingress.
  16. Make sure the batteries are left fully charged. If possible, disconnect them and store them somewhere dry and warm. Otherwise, make sure they are regularly charged over the winter. A charged battery is less likely to freeze or become damaged. 
  17. Make sure all hatches are secured and if possible allow the accommodation area some dry ventilation. If you are leaving her connected to power, running a dehumidifier, located in the sink to allow drainage, is worth considering if shoreside facilities allow.
  18. Remove all sails to dry storage or at least make sure all sails are properly flaked and covered.
  19. If you are leaving the vessel for some time, remove all halyards and reefing lines, making sure to run mousing lines first.
  20. Consider installing a plastic bird of prey and/or spinners on the rigging so as to keep birds away.
  21. Clean the engine and engine bay and inspect for items needing attention.
  22. Write a detailed list of all actions undertaken and make sure it is properly affixed to the chart table / engine panel. It would be too easy to forget there is a rag in the air intake or the impellers are not installed!
  23. Remove cushions to launder and store in a dry place.
  24. Remove any valuables and secure the main hatch.
  25. Make sure all instrument covers are properly fixed
  26. Remove any essential equipment that may need servicing (such as flares, liferafts, etc)
  27. Make sure the yard has your up-to-date contact details, just in case

When Spring comes along, recommissioning should be pretty simple. Just make sure you check your owner’s manual for recommended servicing and winterisation / recommissioning procedures.

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