Jun 03 2022 All Articles

Looking after your boat over winter

Looking after your boat over winter

Boats are more than our fairweather friends. We need to pay them attention in winter too.

The boatie’s best mate website includes an article that starts with a tale about coastguards being called out in summer to boats that have broken down due to insufficient care over winter. A few simple steps taken now to “winterise” your boat can prevent a lot of aggravation and expense over summer.

The site’s tips for preparing your boat for winter are as follows:

  • Try and use your boat over winter (although do check the Coastguard forecast first)
  • If you’re not pulling your boat out of the water over winter, check it is safe. Ensure your boat is in a sheltered location, with ample fendering for the most severe of gales. Double up on mooring lines
  • Look after your engine.  If there’s just one thing you look at before you lay your boat up, it should be the motor - engines don’t like inactivity.

As for specific things to check, that list includes flushing the engine with fresh water, changing the oil and replacing the oil filter, fitting tight covers over deck-installed electronics (maybe give your boat a full wrap up), checking the hull for damage and possibly giving­­­­­­­­ the underside of the boat a clean and defoul.

It’s also suggested that winter is the time to drain the fuel tank if it’s less than half full or, if it’s fuller, then consider adding a fuel stabiliser. The most common issues boaties experience the first time they use their boat after a winter furlough are caused by stale and/or water contaminated fuel. Symptoms of spoiled fuel include failure to start, loss of power/ poor throttle response and engine stoppages.

Where possible, make sure the batteries are kept somewhere warm and dry over the winter, on a trickle charger to keep them fully topped up.

The interior of your boat is important too.  Store linen, clothing, blankets and curtains ashore. Avoid nasty, mouldy surprises by propping the fridge door open (and cupboards and drawers), for ventilation. Lift squabs and mattresses too.

The Fishing Website recognises that, due to New Zealand’s benign climate, we don’t have to go to the same lengths as many other countries in preparing our boats for winter storage. But, “winterising” your boat is advised if it is unlikely to be used for several months - there are measures you can take to mitigate the worst effects of prolonged disuse.

The Fishing Website recommendations are in line with advice available on the Boatie’s Best Mate website.  The site includes suggestions specifically pertinent to boats laid up on a mooring or a marina, plenty of general engine (inboard and outboard) advice, and reminders for boaties to check their trailers too. (A little preventative maintenance around wheel hubs and brakes before you store your boat will stand you in good stead for the new season). The advice is comprehensive and well worth a read.

If your boat is tied up and going to be idle for several months then the Fishing Website team says it pays to seal all engine and tank openings to keep out moisture: air inlets, crankcase and transmission breathers, exhaust outlets, and tank vents. They suggest taping plastic bottle caps over openings to create an airtight seal (if you cover the fuel-tank vent, puncture the cap to avoid pressure build-up).

They say wise boaties know it’s smart to visit their boats at regular intervals to air the boat interiors, check on batteries and bilges, and run the engines. Batteries should be kept charged, they advise, either with a passive solar system or some other charging system running off-shore power. If shore power is available, consider running a dehumidifier as well.

The Burnsco website features a vital checklist article for safe boating over winter. This is focused on safety but includes advice on anti-fouling your boat. See here.

Experts at Sierra International say it’s important to recognise that winter “time off” can be especially hard on your boat. The coldest season is the best time to catch small problems before they become major ones.

“Extended periods of inactivity actually accelerate wear and tear and can contribute to breakdowns next season. Left unchecked, corrosion will spread (remember, rust never sleeps), moisture can intrude and freeze, lubrication can congeal and neglect can take root over the long, cold months.

“Put another way, if you don’t get your boat ready for storage the “deferred maintenance” of a busy season can come back to haunt you come springtime. The last thing you want to face on that first warm spring day on the water is a broken boat and a hefty repair bill.”

Advice is all-encompassing, covering: checking the boat’s exterior over, flushing the cooling system, preparing the fuelling system, giving your engine close attention, lubricating, ensuring moisture doesn’t have a fighting chance, and removing, storing, and covering whatever you can.

There is most certainly solidly good advice out there and with good reason. Noting what needs to be done to your boat over winter is important. If you’re not of a mindset to tackle these things yourself, remember most boat-service centres offer packages to prepare boats for a winter layoff.

And finally, take heed… if storing your boat outside, suitable security needs to be in place for your own peace of mind and that of your insurance company.

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No matter what your plans are on the water in 2021, Mariner Insurance is here to support you. We have been offering Kiwis specialist marine insurance in New Zealand for over a decade with cover for all types of boats and watercraft. Just talk to us about what you’re doing on the water, and we can tailor one of our insurance policies to fit.