The golden rules for a successful wintering of your boat

24 November 2023

The beautiful season is coming to an end. The days are getting shorter, and already, socks are reappearing from storage! The time to prepare the boat for long winter months is approaching. Winterizing requires some technical gestures and precautions for the boat, as well as getting oneself in the right mindset to conclude a sailing season and better prepare for the next. Here is a list of precautions that will greatly facilitate the reunion next spring.

1. Take Notes for Wintering Your Boat!

Whether the follow-up and maintenance of the boat are entrusted to a professional shipyard or not, no one knows your boat better than you. You have sailed on board, experienced every flaw, noticed the loose screw, frayed rope, annoying little leak, or the sticking hinge… None of this is inherently serious, but if you haven’t taken note in a timely manner, everything will be forgotten in the spring, and the new season will start as the previous one ended! The best preparation for wintering your boat is to have a notebook and list everything that is not right or could be improved on board. This way, nothing will be forgotten, and a simple day of tinkering on board will check off a good part of this list. If you want to sell your boat, take advantage of the wintering preparation to take photos, inventory, and note everything that could be essential for posting an ad.

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2. The Big Cleanup: Empty Your Boat

Start by emptying the cabinets of any food, even long-lasting, which will be less appetizing in a few months. Unload all items that could absorb moisture: brochures from ports or expired magazines, or even duvets and pillows that deserve a good wash… Don’t forget to take with you maps and documents, essential supports for future navigation plans. After emptying the cabinets of their perishable content, take the time to thoroughly clean every nook, lockers, bottoms, and all places where salt, crumbs, or anything else that would attract and retain moisture could accumulate. Once done, leave everything open: cabins, cabinets, lids, so that the air circulates. In passing, inspect and unload all equipment that needs checking, such as flares, fire extinguishers, or inflatable life jacket cartridges. Batteries will be removed from devices to limit the risk of acid leaks. The drinking water tank will be emptied to avoid retaining stagnant water. Before flushing the toilet bowl, add a few drops of salad oil. This homemade trick will prevent the seals and valves from sticking. Finish this step by closing the valves.

3. Last Check on the Mechanics and Engine

It is always preferable to do engine maintenance at the end of the season rather than in spring. Few of us are as foresighted, and professionals are more available; but also, oil gradually absorbs moisture, and replacing it before winter will allow your engine to pass the bad season, well protected. For the same reasons and to avoid condensation, the fuel tank will be filled to the maximum. The electrolyte level of the batteries will also be checked, their contacts will be cleaned and greased, and they will be charged to the maximum. A solar panel or a wind turbine, even of low power, will compensate for natural discharge. Especially if you don’t regularly visit the boat, check the bilge pump very carefully and, above all, its float, which must ensure a clear start and stop! More than ever, close the valves of all through-hulls.

4. Coiled Lines: Rinse, Fold, Store

It is preferable to leave as little equipment on deck as possible. The sails will, of course, be rinsed, dried, inspected, and stored away from the weather, but also from UV rays, including the genoa, which will be furled from its furler. All running rigging will be rinsed and stowed, even taking some photos beforehand to facilitate reinstallation. Where possible, shelter the halyard by sending them to the top of the mast after lengthening them with a messenger. It will be easy to gather the lines at the foot of the mast, in a bag that will protect them from UV rays. For sailboats and motorboats, check the mooring lines carefully and be sure to insert a piece of pipe at friction points. Leave the boarding ladder accessible, which can contribute to saving a life in case someone falls into the water at the port.

5. Store Your Boat

Now that we have covered all the techniques for wintering your boat well, all that remains is… storage! If you take your boat out of the water, you protect it from the weather, algae, and shells that can damage its hull, and above all, you have peace of mind. Regardless of the size of your boat, it is preferable to winter it during the period when you will have less opportunity to go sailing. But where to store your boat? The first conceivable solution is, of course, dry dock. Contact directly your harbor master’s office or the shipyards closest to your home port. Parking space, garage, or even private garden rental are also options.