The winter can be a testing time for your boat, but the beauty of Sutton Harbour Marina is knowing that it is safe from storms and secure in its berth. However, it will need some preparation and attention if it is to be ready again when you want it next year - for despite your boat being inactive, the little things that cause damage are most certainly not; rust and corrosion, little spaces that are gathering moisture, mould and congealing lubrication.
The last thing you want to face on that first warm spring day on the water is a broken boat a bad smell and a hefty repair bill!
So here is a little - but by no means exhaustive - list of ideas to getting your boat ready for winter and some news and discounts on places that can assist you around the Marina at Sutton Harbour and in Plymouth.
All above board…
Sails and covers can quickly turn green if they are left outside in the damp. You could do a number of things to help that situation. Take them off on a dry day to air in the breeze for a few hours (never store your sails or covers away wet!). If your budget allows then have them checked over by a sailmaker to have them in perfect condition for the next season. If possible store them indoors away from the boat.
Not everyone is confident enough to climb up the mast to make sure that everything is tickety-boo. Ideally prep for winter is to remove mast head instruments, check all terminal fittings for corrosion and damage and wire rigging for loose strands & signs of fatigue. If you have a furling headsail then clean out the swivel bearings with a bit of soapy water will remove salt and grime.
Leaving your ropes and rigging on the deck will turn them a lovely shade of green - and it’ll be hard to remove. The best way to deal with this is to mouse them out of your mast using a strong mousing line and mark the halyards so you know where to refit them in the spring. By doing this you will stop them going green, prevent chaffing during the winter and can even wash out the salt to give them a new lease of life. But if all of that sounds tricky - then lift all your halyards off the deck by pulling them out of the jammers and stow them at the mast in neat coils so that they are able to air and dry out on the sunny days.
Tidy the deck. Don’t take risks by leaving everything on deck - stow away your safety gear, jackstays, horseshoe life buoys. Don’t forget whilst you are doing that to send away life jackets, dan buoys, life rafts, etc that may need servicing. Things like Flares, Lifejacket lights, Sealed MOB Lights & First Aid Kits have expiry dates - so check them too. Remove batteries from devices to avoid corrosion.
Now that the deck is clear, wash the topsides, bottom and deck (with a coat of wax on the topsides too) and clean all hardware and trim. Check for any blistering in fibreglass boats, and if you find any then found, treat and repair them. Don’t forget to clean any windscreens as well as any tops, spray hoods and the like. Clean out any blocks and jammers and try to remove any salt and dirt deposits that have built up.
Now for Down Below…..
Think of this as a Spring clean in Autumn! Go through the boat and give everything a good deep clean. Lift up the bilge boards and remove cushions and bunk boards.
Use an anti mould cleaner on the headlining and any other surface to prevent a building up of mildew.
Clean out the fridge and use the mould spray liberally. Don’t forget to leave the fridge open to air and to remove any perishable food items and anything that may not last the winter.
Heads up. Give the whole head compartment a good clean with a bleach spray or similar. If you have holding tanks, make sure that they are emptied and flushed through with a suitable tank cleaner. Wash the toilets out with fresh water and put some toilet cleaner down and around the bowl.
Cushions and soft furnishings. Take down any curtains and give them a wash, do the same with your cushion covers. It’s better, if you are not using your boat over the winter, to store all linen, clothing, blankets, curtains, etc. ashore – washed and dry.
Leave cupboards and drawers open; prop up bunk cushions to allow them to aerate, leave under-berth locker lids open and if you have a hand vac, get rid of any lingering crumbs that could gather mould. Get circulation into every possible nook and cranny.
Empty your water tanks and drain down the entire fresh water system. Don’t forget your hot water tank if you have one, also disconnect the 240v supply to the heating element to prevent it burning out. Some suggest running a non toxic antifreeze solution through the fresh water system such as to stop any residual water lying in pumps, pipes or taps from freezing.
If you are not removing the batteries then check them using a load test meter, grease the terminals and leave on trickle charge.
Lubricate the Little Things. Don’t overlook the many small but critical systems that should be lubricated regularly. Go around the boat and lightly apply a moisture displacing lubricant to the myriad of moving metal parts onboard such as hinges, latches, push-pull switches, linkages, ratchet mounts, bow rollers and the like.
Don’t Give Moisture a Fighting Chance! Check the bilges, remove standing water and clean up any dirt or oil. Do the same with any lockers, fish holds or storage areas. Remove all loose objects and clean these spaces thoroughly.
If you are leaving your boat in Sutton Harbour and live close enough to be able to come and run it up periodically then there is a good case to leave your engine in commission. The natural insulating qualities of the water as well as any heaters you have running will help keep the ambient temperature above freezing.
Please don’t forget though, that at some point you will need to service your engine. This is best done before the winter kicks in. But also take time to treat your outboard or sterndrive engine to a little TLC.
Prepare the Fuel System. Top off your fuel tank to avoid build-up of condensation over months of storage.
Oil’s Well That Ends Well. Every end-of-season checklist should include a healthy dose of lubrication. Change the engine oil and oil filter on stern drive, inboard engines and four-stroke outboards. Leaving the old oil contaminated with the acidic by-products of combustion inside the engine block will shorten the engine’s life. And, while repairs to auxiliary components won’t necessarily break the budget, a neglected oil system will cause expensive damage.
Flush the Cooling System. For inboard and stern drive boats with raw water cooling systems, thoroughly flush the engine with fresh water to remove salt, dirt and corrosion. Outboard motors should be flushed with freshwater and all water should be drained from the engine