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How to prepare your boat for safe winter storage

It’s that time of year once again when many of the UK’s pleasure craft are laid up for winter.

Whether you’re planning on keeping your boat afloat over the winter months or in storage within a dry stack or boat yard, there are still risks to bear in mind.

Keep it clean

Improper cleaning could put your vessel at risk of mould, mildew or even corrosion caused by electrical charges within the dust. To prevent build up, wash fixtures thoroughly and ensure that everything is completely dry before you lay up, giving metal a thin coating of protecting Vaseline.

Don’t miss your deadline

Autumn is a busy period for yards and marinas and it can be difficult to get a lift out as planned. If you are heading over your deadline, speak to your insurers and tell them before your cover is compromised.

They will almost certainly extend cover for a short period of time, but they might have to impose additional terms, e.g. increased excess for the extra period afloat.

Batten down the hatches

Make sure your vessel is properly locked up, tied down and secured, and that covers are in good condition and fit for purpose. Sails and canopies damaged by wind are not covered on most policies, so it’s important to store them in a safe and dry environment.

Discourage thieves

It’s best not to leave sails and other removable items on the boat. Removing any valuable equipment and leaving lockers open reduces the likelihood of theft and damage caused by break-ins.

Remove and winterise motors

If your dinghy is to be left in a dinghy park throughout the winter, it must be thoroughly flushed to prevent corrosion. Remove and winterise motors, storing in a dry and dust-free place with the battery stored separately.

Turn off electrical devices

Particular care should also be taken if leaving battery chargers or dehumidifiers running over the winter period. There have been a number of devastating fires on boats resulting from electrical faults on shore powered devices.

Keeping your boat dry during the winter is good advice, but you should ensure that any dehumidifier you use is secured and has clean filters and adequate draining facilities.

Don’t overload circuits

Ventilation is important to protect your vessel from damp, but if you plan to have a heater running for long periods you should ensure that you are not overloading circuits and that you have the right type of heater, as this could significantly increase the risk of fire.

Keep your eye on the prize

Periodic inspections during the winter months are part of boat ownership, and will help you extend the life of your boat and its equipment as well as reducing instances of insurance claims.

While your insurer can help with the financial settlement of a claim, the better you look after your boat, the less chance there will be of a claim in the first place. Come the spring relaunch, you don’t want to be stuck with repairs to do while everyone else is off sailing!