Preparing your boat for winter

Because your boat is a major asset as well as a form of fun and entertainment, putting her to sleep for the winter is something to be taken seriously.

While there's usually plenty of great days to be had on the water around New Zealand even in the colder months, there's plenty of us who would rather wait until the weather warms up again before getting back into it and autumn is the perfect time to gear up ready for the clean-down.

For those taking their boats out of the water and into storage, or those tying up to a mooring, these steps will ensure that when it comes to spring, you're back on the water with the minimum of expense, stress and repair work:

  1. Cleaning:

    You'll thank yourself when you put your boat back in the water that you've already got her nice and clean and ready to go. There really is nothing worse than coming back to a yacht, launch or tinnie which is filthy or still needs repairs when all you want to do get her under sail or put the fishing lines in the water. Check out Burnsco's full range of cleaners, sealers, waxes and polishes and make sure all your fibreglass or wooden finishes are treated. Now's also the time to make sure all your canvas covers are waterproofed and your windows and hatches are checks and caulked, and there's no blistering on fibreglass. Ideally store all canvas indoors and make sure it's completely dry before folding it away.

  2. Interior:

    Clean and drain your bilge completely, inspect and lubricate all seacocks and secure all hatches and ports. Clean out the refrigerator and freezer, and wedge the door open and placing an open tub of baking soda inside will help absorb odours. Check and clean all storage compartments and remove all fabrics (such as cushions and curtains) so they can be stored in a warm, dry place. Check ventilators are working and use dehumidifying devices to stop the build-up of condensation and mould. Make sure all gas valves are turned off at the cylinder and check filaments on stoves for corrosion.

  3. Engine:

    If your boat is going to stand idle on dry land until the weather improves it's important to add a fuel stabiliser and top diesel levels up to reduce the amount of air (and hence water vapour) sitting in the tank. Run petrol levels down to minimal levels because modern fuels can cause engine damage when they are stored. Now's not a bad time to check or replace your fuel filter too. Make sure your outboard motors are thoroughly flushed and you change the lubricant in the lower unit. Inboard and stern-drive boats with raw water cooling systems will also need their engines flushed to remove salt, corrosion and dirt. Fogging or rubbing rust-preventative oil over all exposed parts of the motor will also help prevent corrosion. Remove and inspect spark plugs.

  4. Electrics:

    Remove all electronic equipment and store in a warm, dry place. Clean all electrical connections and terminals and protect. Make sure you inspect and check all external outlets, such as the AC shore power socket.

  5. Batteries:

    If you're storing your boat on dry land top them up before storing them in a cool, dry place and make sure they're charged every month or so. If your boat is to remain in the water, it's worth keeping the battery on board to ensure the bilge pump is operational.

  6. Water and wastewater:

    Empty your waste holding tank at an approved station and rinse thoroughly. Lubricate gaskets and seacocks and check hoses and hose clamps for signs of wear. Remember before you start using your freshwater system again, you'll want to add water freshener or purifier tablets to the tank.

  7. Spars, rigging and deck hardware:

    Wash all blocks, and disassemble and clean all rigging where possible (hot water and vinegar removes stubborn salt) before lubricating and re-assembling. Wash synthetic lines with a mild detergent. Wash all spars and inspect for corrosion, crazing or hairline cracks. Strip down, clean and lubricate all winches and windlasses, remove the rope drum to lubricate the clutches and shafts, and check fasteners on all deck hardware.

  8. Roller reefing gear:

    Flush all open bearings with warm, fresh water and lubricate. Wash and wax extrusions. Don't leave any sails on the boat, store them indoors.

  9. Remove and store:

    Anything you store on your boat while you're not using it regularly is simply bad news. As well as contributing to the build-up of dirt and moisture in storage areas (which isn't going to help the boat), they're also just inviting damage or theft. Things like lifejackets, fenders, lines, fire extinguishers, flares and all that fun stuff like skis, biscuits and tow-ropes are going to be much better off in a dry garage or spare room over the off-season. Of course, anything of value like GPS/chart plotters, radar displays, radios and bracket-mounted electronics like fish-finders are best kept safe indoors. And if you're storing your boat on its trailer, block up the axles and remove the tyres to prevent flat-spots and sidewall cracking.

  10. The final check over:

    Whether you're taking your boat out of the water or leaving her on a mooring, now is the perfect time to check her over from bow to stern to make sure any small problems don't snowball by the time you want to get back on the water. It's all the little things that count: things like steering cables, hydraulics, fuses and wiring, hose clamps and engine belts. Check all your sacrificial zinc anodes and pay attention to the rubber boots on your outdrive and rigging tubes. Now its time to get her under a heavy duty cover and sheltered as best you can from the elements just make sure to keep an eye on her and keep the cover tightened down regularly.

For more information on Burnsco's range of products to keep your motorhome warm this winter, phone us on 0800 102041, email us, or Livechat with one of our staff via the website.