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Winterisation List Author Andy Banner

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My opinion having read a lot of things from various people about how they prepare their boats for winter is it varies massively and one thing that works for one person won’t necessarily for another. 

A Canadian man who I subscribe to on You Tube has just winterised his boat – but he has gone further than just to worry about the engine, but run anti-freeze through the fresh water system and heads basically anywhere there is a pipe or a drain it will have anti-freeze in it.

However, what we have to remember is it is not just a cold spell one has to be prepared for, but a period of extended very cold weather, perhaps below freezing for several days. During such a period is when the damage can happen to a boat.  

It also makes a difference if you plan to use the boat in the winter – not always to cruise on, but perhaps just as a base to then spend a weekend walking and seeing the area in its ‘sleeping wintertime’ or if you pack up the boat for winter only to return the following Spring. 

If I had a boat that was moored in a marina outside but with electricity I’d actually put my trust in electronics.  I’d do the usual engine preps, drain the water tanks etc but I;d want the boat in an as ‘ready to go’ position as possible.  Tube heaters are very good for localised heat but I would want to know what the temperatures were actually getting down to when I was not there – and I’d like to be able to check on this from home so a couple of temperature and humidly sensors that connect to the Web would be ideal.  Though the onboard alarm that would text me should the power to the boat be lost, but also if it returned – and if I had not had a text after a couple of hours to show power was back on that gives me the warning to head to the boat at the earliest opportunity as it may not be that the Marina’s power is out – it could be something as simple as the meter running out of credit of a power connector issue. 

It is often talked about the requirement of ventilation, ventilation and more ventilation on a boat but I’m not so convinced.  If you have a free flow of air, on a very damp day the boat will get very damp inside – only to then help to dry out on a less humid day – but if you can seal the inside of the boat then all you are dealing with is the air within the boat and that can be dried with a dehumidifier – in this instance not through the use of compressor driven systems you use at home but through Peltier technology where with 12v a heat sink and a computer fan you can have one side cold (water condenses on this surface) and the other warm with the fan blowing the air over the warm side to keep it cool.  

Of course, to most all of the above is likely too much to worry about and would not often use the boat in the coldest times of the year.

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2 hours ago, JawsOrca said:

Random question here..

Hopefully Orca will be afloat for the winter months (Yeah I can dream)... we have always winterised our boats over the winter but Orca has heating so she should be usable in the winter (and one reason we went for her and the hardtop).

What's the advise for keeping a boat in a running state over the winter. Should it really be winterised every time it's left? (P.s I don't like the idea of leaving heaters on when left unattended as we aren't local).

It is possible to compromise with Winterisation so that it can be used during the off season when the Broads can often be even more enjoyable than high Summer.

I've used my boats on the occasional sunny dry days, like one memorable trip to Ranworth on a glorious December day where I passed only one other boat and I was the only one moored at the Staithe.

The level of anti-frost protection needed depends on the level of potential frost damage in any particular engine design.

My current boat has a raw water cooled engine, so between November and March I always drain the engine coolant after each use even though I do have thermostatically controlled tube heaters. I do this because during one of the coldest Winters, a whole branch of shorepower posts tripped out because of a cable fault. The consequences of a freeze up with a raw cooled engine are a cracked block and/or exhaust manifolds, effectively righting it off.

As for the domestics, I drain everything down for the whole Winter and just use 10 litre jerricans. My heads is just a simple Porta Potti, so it needs no precautions at all.

It's a shame for anyone to deny themselves the use of their boat if partial Winterisation might be practical for them.

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I've used the boat in the winter for as long as I've owned it (15 years). I love being out on the river in winter, peaceful, and no mooring problems! My winterisation procedure is to drain the fresh water and calorifier, relying on Strow's jerrycan for water, err, and that's about it. Tube heaters and dehumidifier installed, and run the exhaust dry on each return, then close the seacock. Remembering to open it before starting up next time. I do try to keep the diesel tank topped up, but don't unduly worry about it.

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You need to be careful of water pumps. Once a water system is "drained" there will still be water in inverted loops and low points which, in all but copper plumbed systems may be OK so long as you leave taps open to deal with expansion. However, there may also be tiny amounts of water within the water pump and as many of these are multi-diaphragm units, even small amounts of freezing can do damage.  

The whole idea of winterising is to protect your property from damage and so the amount of trouble you go to depends entirely on your attitude to risk. If you like close to the boat or have a reliable marine chappie (hello :wave) local to the boat, you can chose exactly when you do these jobs according to the weather forecast, perhaps doing little or nothing if the weather doesn't command it. 

If you are further away, and less likely to be able to get there quickly if needed, winterising and giving up on winter use may be the sensible answer for you. 

There's no "one size fits all" type solution. We are quite happy to do any/all winterising work on your boats and now even have some limited space to store your soft furnishings, wash curtains and so on. 


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Really good tips here. I'm really not comfortable leaving heaters (or any shorepower systems) running on the boats when I'm not there as I said before I know people who have lost boats due to these things malfunctioning and setting the boat alight.

My main worry for freezing is the fresh water system.. So fresh water pumps (I lost one before) and our electric flush toilet.. Although I found this for my toilet online: 

First, pump out and THOROUGHLY rinse out the holding tank...make sure to rinse out any macerator or manual discharge pump too. Run plenty of clean fresh water through the toilet to rinse out the pump and discharge hose. Now you're ready to winterize:

Disconnect the toilet intake line from the thru-hull (if the boat is in the water, it would be a good idea to close the seacock first :huh: ).  Stick it into a jug of non-toxic potable antifreeze--"the pink stuff" (do NOT use automotive antifreeze, it will damage the rubber parts in the toilet) and pump the whole gallon through the system and into the holding tank by pumping the toilet...or if you have an electric toilet that uses sea water, push the flush button. Pump enough times after the jug is empty to move any antifreeze still in the pump and discharge line to the tank. Leave the head intake line disconnected till spring. If the boat is out of the water, leave the seacock(s) open.

I think if it's a reasonably mild one we will try and use the boat.. assuming she's fixed.  I think we need to take the risk of leaving the fresh water pump aboard then :( 


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