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Winterising Yacht Checklist

Spencer 42 Yacht with 16” 4B FeatherStream

As we come to the end of another sailing season, many yacht owners turn their attention to carrying out some essential winter maintenance. For some this will mean moving their beloved boat to a sheltered part of the harbour, and for others it will mean craning their yacht out of the water and into dry storage. Whether your yacht is sat idle in the water for long periods or standing out on dry land, it is essential to maintain your boat for whatever weather it may face over the winter period. Here is our winterising yacht checklist to help you:-

Taking your boat out of the water

Storing your yacht out of the water properly during the winter has several benefits:-

Don’t forget that if you take your boat out of the water then during the harshest weather the chill factor is increased by the wind being able to get all the wat around the hull. It is therefore important to remove all of the liquids that can freeze in the low temperatures.

By doing a complete “drain down” you will prevent any freezing or cracking to the pipework that can cause expensive damage.

Leaving your boat in the water during the Winter

If you can’t take your boat out of the water over the winter, then make sure you do some basic mooring checks. Is the mooring chain in good condition and the mooring pins are rope are secure? Do you have enough slack to deal with the normal rise and fall of the water levels (and any major high tides)?

It is also worth while adding a second line to higher ground as a lifeline just in case the boat breaks free.

Checking your covers regularly over the winter months will save you a lot of hassle when you start the new season. Unfortunately, boat covers have a finite lifespan, so they should be replaced when the no longer repel water effectively.

Taking care of your engine over the Winter

Servicing your boat engine is arguably one of the most important maintenance jobs for a yacht owner, especially when it is not being used over the Winter. Make sure you carry out some basic preparation for the winter months to prevent corrosion and permanent cold weather damage.

Changing the oil and oil filter are probably two of the first tasks to complete. Just like a car, contaminants can quickly build up and stop your engine from running smoothly and reliably. Next make sure the engine water cooling systems are flushed through with an anti-freeze mix to prevent any damage in sub-zero temperatures.

There are a few other general winterisation jobs to carry out on your engine like changing the gear oil if it is looking milky, lubricate the cylinders, drain the gear case and change the transmission fluid.

Use a mild detergent and wash down the outboard engines, lubricate any of the exposed moving parts and double check for fluid levels.

Fuel tanks – a winterising yacht checklist

Fuel tanks are best left topped up full to reduce any condensation in the tank and stop the build-up of bacteria that could block your fuel filters.

If your boat is out of the water, now is a great time to replace your filters as they are a little easier to get to.

Rigging and deck gear

Even if your boat doesn’t get a lot of use, a full rigging check should be on your checklist every year. Wire rigging is susceptible to fraying and strands can break off – particularly around the swages and other attachment points.

Keep an eye out for hairline cracks as well as broken strands that might become bigger problems in the future. Whilst you are at it, check that the halyard sheaves at the masthead are running smoothly and apply some lubricant if they are not.

With your boat out of the water now is a great time to wash everything done thoroughly with fresh water to get rid of all the salt and grit that can cause corrosion and wear. Pay special attention to your winches for signs of wear and tear. If you use a mooring winch, these often take the most abuse given they are sat at the wettest end of the boat and are frequently dunked in salt water.

Maintaining your sails over Winter

When you take your sails down give them a good inspection before you store them away for the Winter. Keep an eye out for any wear-and-tear and any suspect areas that may need repairing.

Whilst you are off the water for a couple of months now is the time to book your repair in as waiting until March to book in essential work in simply putting the work off and will inevitably result in delays getting you back on the water.

Mildew and sea salt are the two worst enemies for yacht sails so preparing them for Winter will make sure they are in good condition for next season. Salt is particularly abrasive so can easily damage your sails when they are rolled.

Even though you may have taken your sails down and packed them away, a damp sail holds lots of moisture and will eventually form spores of damp and mildew. Choose a sunny day to rise your sails off and if you have any dirty area, use a mild detergent, and rinse them again.

Make sure you let your sails dry completely before you store them away. A dry location, that is away from pests and doesn’t have any changes in moisture or extreme temperature is best.

Hull, Keels and rudders

Pulling your boat out of the water for the Winter is an opportune time to check the hull, keel, and rudders. Check to see if there are any visible cracks, especially around the supporting structures and if there are any signs of water ingress – such as water streaks.

If there is a build-up of rust and crusting debris on the keel bolts, use a wire brush to remove it. Steel bolts can often look bad on first inspection, but once rubbed down, they reveal no significant loss of material.

Any play in the steering should be looked at as this can adversely affect the control of your boat when it is back in the water. Linkages, cables, and other parts of the steering system should also be checked for wear and tear – and if any slack has been introduced over the last season – that might need adjusting.

Check the rudder bearing for any play in then by moving the tip of the foil from side to side with the boat well stocked up. If you feel anything more than the tiniest amount of movement then this needs investigating further.

Propeller Maintenance

If you have your boat out of the water and up on blocks for the Winter, it is an ideal time to check your boat’s propeller, hub and saildrive. A quick inspection will soon tell you if you have any bent blades or significant damage that needs looking at. Inspect the hub as that may also have sustained excessive wear over the season.

Watch our video of Watch George – The Solent Boat Butler as he carries out a bottom clean of a Contessa 32 and servicing a Darglow feathering propeller. See in detail how he cleans the prop, before greasing it, then replacing the anode.

Hull Clean and Servicing a Darglow Feathering Propeller


Lastly a fully stocked toolkit on a boat is a must. Having all of your tools available and to hand will make your sailing so much more enjoyable. Wintertime is the ideal opportunity to check on your tools and see if any have gone missing. Electric screwdrivers and drill bits are the most common ones to go walkabout.

Now is a good time to replace them and to have a spare for the most important components – maybe even add them to Christmas list!

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