Once the warm months are over, most boat owners are faced with the question of the right winter storage for their sailing yacht or motorboat. As soon as the temperatures drop below zero, the boat should be protected from weather-related damage and prepared for the new sailing season. In this guide, we have summarized for you how to proceed and what you need to bear in mind.
Preparing the boat for winter storage: this is how it works
Choosing the right place for winter storage
Various factors play an important role in the choice of the right winter storage: Some people only want to store their boat and clear it again in the spring. Others use the cool season to carry out various boat repairs or apply new antifouling.
Wintering on land or in water?
Leaving the boat in the water is usually the cheaper option. This can avoid costs for hangar space. In addition, in late autumn and in milder winters, there is still the possibility to explore the now empty sailing areas.
With the right sailing clothes and heating below deck, you are well-equipped for this.
What is missing when wintering in the water, of course, is the opportunity to check the underwater hull more closely and prepare it for the coming season. Also, the weather situation must always be kept in mind and acted upon quickly. Therefore, storage places on land are a safer alternative. Here, the boat can be extensively brought back into shape.
Store the boat in outdoor storage or indoor?
If you have decided on winter storage on land, there is still the question of the desired storage space. There is the more cost-intensive option of docking your ship in a heated and dry hall or in the outdoor area of a club or shipyard. The latter option is less expensive and also ties your repairs to the weather conditions. With an indoor place, on the other hand, you are more flexible, but usually have to pay a lot more.
Remove items from the boat before winterizing
To ensure that your boat is optimally prepared for all boat work and winter storage, some items should be removed. It does not matter whether you have chosen outdoor storage, the berth in the harbor or winter storage in the hall.
In addition to food, it is particularly advisable to remove documents, books and sea charts from the ship so that they are not damaged by the high humidity.
Textiles and upholstery should ideally be stored in a dry cellar or other storage facility at home until the next season. If this is not possible, they can be placed on edge to provide better ventilation.
Various life-saving equipment such as life jackets and life rafts or even fire extinguishers are not suitable for temperatures below 0 °C.
During the winter months, it is also a good idea to have the equipment cleaned and professionally maintained.
Gas cylinders must be removed from the boat for safety reasons.
Think about the upcoming season
In order to be able to hoist your sails and sail away directly in the next season, they should be thoroughly cleaned with fresh water and then properly dried. Only then can they be folded and stored away from the cold.
All ropes should also be cleaned with fresh water to remove salt residues. After drying, the material can be checked for damage and the rope can be shot.
The removal of valuables is an individual decision. Depending on how safe you consider the environment of your winter camp to be, it might make sense to take electrical appliances and other high-value equipment home with you.
Drain water tanks and lines on board
Draining the water tank and water lines is a mandatory step when preparing for winter storage. Especially in sub-zero temperatures and frozen water, damage can occur, which can be costly later on. After the drinking water tank is emptied, it should also be cleaned and filled with antifreeze. After that, if you run the faucets and shower, the discolored water will appear. If the valves are open, water can still run off afterwards. Similar steps have to be taken with the boat toilet and its holding tank. These have to be emptied and cleaned. The on-board toilet must also be filled with antifreeze.
With a final look into the bilge, all water and oil residue should be picked up with a sponge or cloth before winter storage. When it is dry, you can put the bottom boards of the bilge for good ventilation.
Prepare boat hull and underwater hull for winter storage
Once it is clear how and where the boat is to be wintered, the work on it can be planned. If you dry out your sailboat or motor yacht and jack up the boat, more extensive work can be done on the hull and underwater hull. In this case, a thorough boat cleaning as well as a complete drying is recommended first. Then you can check the underwater hull for damage and repair minor damage to the boat. The use of filler is suitable for this purpose. Be sure to contact professionals if you notice any major damage or osmosis bubbles.
The autumn months are already well suited for repainting the underwater hull due to the mild temperatures. However, always follow the recommendations of the antifouling manufacturer, as some antifoulings should only be applied shortly before the crane appointment.
What to do with the on-board electrical system in winter storage?
The on-board electrical system should also be winterized if possible. This does not mean removing networked devices, as their connections may otherwise be damaged or become ineffective against corrosion. Rather, you should make sure to provide screens and devices with suitable covers. These provide reliable protection against dust and damage. Switches and fuse boxes, on the other hand, can be sprayed with so-called preservative sprays. These protect against moisture penetration and corrosion and have a caring effect.
However, all batteries such as house or starter batteries should be removed and serviced at the end of the season. The same applies to battery-operated hand-held devices such as flashlights or radios if you want to leave them on board for the winter.
As a general rule, modern technology for boats is usually prepared for Central European temperatures, so no cold damage is to be expected. Only batteries should be checked more regularly and removed from the boat if necessary, as they can leak or burst in frosty conditions.
Sailboats have some construction elements that need additional attention. Take a look at the rig and keel in particular. Here, the various components should be inspected for any hairline cracks and replaced accordingly. If possible, the mast electrics should also be examined in more detail to ensure that they are protected from corrosion or short circuits.