Winter Boat Maintenance

  • 134 & 135 Top Tips Tuesday - Laying Up For Winter 2016

    It's that time of year again when we pull together our joint experience and expertise to offer you 'Top Tips' and 'Essentials' for laying your boat up for the winter. Below are the links to this years series of articles and offers.

  • 97. Top Tips Tuesday - Caught On The Hop - Winter Boat Maintenance & Checks

    Ice On The Water - Royal Quays - Newcastle

    Were you caught on the hop with that cold snap this past weekend? Did you realise that despite draining down your boat's fresh water system you could still be in trouble if the small amount of fresh water left in your taps, shower head, water pressure pump or fresh water filter freezes? Freezeban is the correct product to use that enables you to rest assured if the temperature drops below freezing. Thermostatically controlled tube heaters which are very economical to run are ideal for keeping the engine bay or cabin at a warmer temperature, available in a range of sizes to suit your particular needs and if 'onboard' moisture is an issue the Meaco DD8L Junior dehumidifier is worth considering, with a pedigree which includes 'Best Buy' Sailing Today & 'Best On Test' Practical Boat Owner. It is in our opinion the only one to go for as it has the ability to perform right down to 0 degrees. If this week's forecast is correct and later in the week we are going to get more rain, if you haven't already done so, consider spraying the deck, cabin sides, any canvas work and rope that are left on during the winter months with some Wet & Forget. This brilliant product (read the product reviews on our site) will keep the green mould at bay with absolutely no hard work! If your boat is already tinted green no worries, spray on leave and let nature do the work!

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    Winter Boat Maintenance & Checks

  • 84. Top Tips Tuesday - Laying Up Your Boat For Winter


    Winter view of a marina in Trondheim


    When laying up your sailboat we suggest that you, weather permitting, remove ALL sails once you have stopped sailing. You would be surprised at the number of furling head sails we get in for washing just after the start of the sailing season all with a ‘lovely’ green stripe down the inside of the sacrificial strip! Please also be aware that a lot of insurance companies will NOT cover you for the loss or damage to a furling genoa if it comes adrift and flogs itself to death whilst either on the water or on dry land!

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    Once you take the headsail off the foil we strongly recommend you run a foil saver up the furling system track and tension the extrusion using a 6mm pre-stretched line tied back to the mast. By using a saver it will save the foil joints from shaking themselves stupid on a windy day.

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     For both powerboats and yachts with canvas work, be it canopies, spray hood, bimini, dodgers etc, winter gales and chafe are enemy no 1. They can shorten the lifespan of a canopy etc by at least 50%. Enemy no 2 is bird droppings (seagulls and of course starlings eating berries at this time of the year leave purple poop stains) so remove these fabric items asap after you have stopped using your craft. The exception to the rule? Only if the canvas work’s sole purpose is protecting bright work, instrumentation or seats and you cannot protect by the use of a tough tarpaulin. However if using one do make sure you create a ‘ridge pole’ effect so that rain runs off and secure it well! If you have a tailor made winter cover, brilliant, if not maybe consider one especially if you have teak decks, they are not cheap but worth their weight in gold. If your budget allows, send your sails and canvas work to us and we can wash (this removes airbourne contaminents and the salt crystals that damage the stitching and fabric) dry them and if applicable reproof, check over and store till the start of the new season.

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     If you would rather D.I.Y, our Yachticon Sail and Canvas Cleaner is excellent as is Iosso its a brilliant all round cleaner that can be used to remove mould, mildew, tough to shift dirt in fact most stains. It is of course safe to use on fabrics, vinyl, plastic, fibreglass and wood. For canopies manufactured from Weathermax, Holmenkol Textile Wash is the one, can also be used for washing Goretex, Coolmax and Thinsulate garments. Granger’s Fabsil Gold is the industry standard when it comes to re-proofing if you have just cleaned your acrylic spray hood or canopy. The  proofer to use for Weathermax fabric is Holmenkol Hightec Proof. A word of warning, DO NOT, under any circumstance use a high pressure washer to remove bird droppings or green mould/alge. This method of 'cleaning' can knock the stuffing out of the fabric and blow stitching apart in five seconds flat. The ‘softly softly’ approach of soaking and the careful use of a sponge/soft brush is the only way.


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    If you have lifted out we strongly reccomend that the mast is removed, we have all seen or read about the domino effect in boatyards however before its unstepped, we suggest that you mark the threads of the rigging screws with PVC tape so that come the spring it is easy to replicate the same rig tension. Once the mast is off and before its stored on a mast rack or trestles, remove all the rigging both standing (after labeling) to avoid an electrolitic reaction between the stainless wire and the alloy spar and the running rigging. Wash the mast down with fresh water and apply a coat of alloy polish. If the mast is fitted with an Aquasignal Quickfit Tricolour remove and cover the terminals with the purpose made cap. If the mast does not have a mast foot make sure you cover the end as birds and other creature are liable to build their nests inside! If you are NOT removing the mast and boom for whatever reason, purchase some thin strong line, attach to the tail of the rope halyard and carefully pull them through.

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    After you have stripped the mast, remove jackstays and at the same time don’t forget your danbuoy, man overboard horseshoe, etc. To keep the ropes in good condition when not in use, hand wash them (warm water only) to remove salt and dirt deposits. If your boat winters afloat check the condition of your mooring lines, especially where they go through a fairlead or are made off on a cleat. If you haven’t already done so consider purchasing some mooring compensators, when fitted they take the snatch away preserving lines, fairleads and cleats and should you be spending the night aboard they help to ensure that you get a good nights sleep. Last but not least, any lines taken off the boat should be coiled when dry, avoiding kinks and finally do not store in direct sunlight.




    Make sure you disconnect the gas cylinder at the end of the season. After that I would suggest you check the date printed on the flexible rubber hose, it may well be past it's sell by date! For cleaning galley surfaces my favourite cleaning products is Vistal (almost the same as Universal Stone which we used to sell however Vistal is 'home grown' ....made in the UK) its great for hobs and work surfaces including Corian. Check for perishable foodstuffs and remove, likewise any out of date tinned ‘emergency’ supplies often stored in the bilges! Take all the alcoholic drinks home and drink whilst planning next year’s on the water activities. Make sure fridge and freezer lids are left propped open after thoroughly cleaning , likewise, lockers and cupboards.




    Heads I win, tails you lose. Cleaning and winterising the heads is a job that I just love (to avoid). If you have holding tanks fitted, discharge them and add to the tank some Clean & Green (which helps to break down the waste) and fresh water, then flush through and empty again. To ensure that you keep the uric scale build up to a minimum I always tell my guests to pump at least 20 times to clear the lines, however at the end of the season I am a great believer in using LeeScale fast marine de-scaler, which I suggest you leave in the system overnite for maximum effect then flush system thoroughly. For cleaning the toilet bowl I use and recommend Starbrite’s toilet bowl cleaner, it’s specially formulated not to damage seals or valves.





    Don’t forget to drain down your fresh water systems and run non-toxic Freezeban through the system to protect water pressure pumps, pipe work, taps and calorifier. With the cold snaps a few years ago we have had quite a few boat owners coming in late Feb/early March reporting damaged water pressure pumps, water filters, impellers, taps and shower heads. Even though most systems had been drained down, sufficient water had been trapped to expand the appliance and cause, in some cases, an expensive repair.







    Down below, remove as many of your soft furnishings as you can, however be careful where you store them. Mice do so like to make their nests out of fabric and foam as well as low and high tech sails! So if they are going in the attic or garage or wherever, worth loading up a couple of traps with some rind from that rather nice Stilton that you have just polished off.






    For cleaning vinyl we would suggest either Starbrite’s Vinyl cleaner and Shampoo or their Vinyl Cleaner and Polish. For woven fabric, Sunbrella fabric/vinyl cleaner or Iosso are both excellent products that we have used with success. Peek Spray Away is a superb spot cleaner (saved our skin on a couple of occasions when our fitter has walked muck through the chandlery).


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    Make sure you wash down all hard surfaces in the saloon and cabins with something like a mild solution of Iosso, remember a little goes a long way. Starbrite Citrus Bilge Cleanerwhen added to bilge water will remove grease, scum, floating oil and keep the bilges smelling sweetly. Don’t forget to wash and dry the underneath of the floorboards if possible leave up so air can circulate. Stubborn stains on most surfaces including those that are painted or varnished can be cleaned with Vistal. As it’s 100% natural, it’s safe for use when there are children present, allergy sufferers or pets.




    Remove all foulieslifejackets & clothing and take them home. For foul weather gear we recommend that you wash them with Granger’s 2 in 1 which is a combined cleaner and proofer. It can be used with confidence on Goretex and other breathable fabrics (to maximise water repellency tumble dry afterwards on a med heat setting) Lifejackets; If auto, remove the activation unit and gas bottle then wash the jacket by hand in warm water and dry naturally. Check your jackets for chafe and before reassembling/repacking check the expiry date on the activation unit and if bottle is rusty or has rust spots, discard. For further advice on the care of your lifejackets, if you go onto either the Crewsaver or Baltic sites you can get some first class tips. We do carry rearm kits in stock for the majority of popular life jackets and for the few that we don’t, they can be obtained within a few days.



    If you have the luxury of a 240 volt supply its worth investing in a tube heater. They are available in a variety of sizes, with thermostats, and prices start as low as ?29-95. These low power consumption heaters create air circulation in enclosed spaces and help to prevent condensation, dampness, mould and mildew. If you can leave hatches a tiny bit open it will also help.
    240 volt dehumidifier is worth considering. If you do decide to take the plunge go for one which has the facility to drain directly into the sink outlet. The Meaco DD8L Junior (best on test according to operates using the ‘desiccant principle’ and will work at a lower temperature than those using a refrigerated coil. No power supply? Then the Starbrite No Damp Dehumidifier is great for removing moisture and of course refill packs are also available.
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    Wet & Forget is superb at keeping away the green algae which tends to form on boats in the winter (especially the side that does not see so much sun). You dilute it 5:1 with water then simply spray it on decks be they teak, grp or painted. If you decide to leave halyards, covers or canopies on (sailing throughout the winter?) Wet & Forget will keep the algae at bay with NO HARD LABOUR NEEDED!
    If you are ever worried about your electricity consumption whilst using either a dehumidifieror tube heater you can check your consumption with a Metermaid, just add the ‘maid’ to you shore supply cable and you can keep a close eye on your outgoings!
  • 83. Top Tips Tuesday - As The Nights Draw In - Flood It LED Floodlight

    Beast working image

    How time flies! Last week, and it seems such a long time ago, I was sailing in shorts and t-shirt and thinking life cannot get much better. Now, I’m back in the UK and by the time I had finished last nights evening meal it was almost dark. With the light fading so quickly and with so much to be done before the onset of winter, why not treat yourself to a FLOOD-IT PRO LED floodlight. It’s the original cordless rechargeable work light, its ultra tough design is IP65 water resistant with a 120° beam angle for lighting, it will illuminate up to 30mtrs and has a battery life of 4 hours. It’s great for use on the boat or in the boatyard. If however, you want double the output (20watt as against 10) the Flood-It-Prime is the one to go for.

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    We have been using a Flood-it Pro all this summer to provide illumination in a variety of situations on boats, engine compartments, lazarettes, illuminating the inside of a mast and it certainly is a great bit of kit. It could also be used as a spotlight in say a man overboard situation or spotting mooring buoys in an estuary.

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    Flood It LED Floodlight

  • 82. Top Tips Tuesday - Spaghetti Junction - Shore Power Splitters & Shurhold Dual Action Polisher


    Sheltering from the afternoon sun at Spartakhori (Port Spiglia) in the Ionian, it's hard to imagine that in a couple of days it will be back to the grind in the UK. No doubt some skippers will be making plans to lift out, some may have already done so, others will no doubt leave till later in the hope that the autumn weather will give some quality time on the water. Seeing the way that power is distributed to the boats on the Greek quayside reminded me that it's worth investing in a 'splitter' should you wish to have 240 power for onboard and ground level consumption too.

    Splitter     3pin mains

    Before you finally lay up your boat for the close season you should of course give her a thorough wash down then rinse with fresh water and at the very least polish the top sides to help protect and maintain the shine, it also makes it easier to clean down next spring. To ease your task Shurhold's dual action polisher isn’t the cheapest but it has a unique random action orbit for a professional shine and leaves no swirls or burn marks. For safety's sake it has a built in RCD trip should you happen to be a little careless!

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  • 41. Top Tips Tuesday - Protect Fresh Water Systems With Freezeban

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    According to the guys in the know we are in for a very cold winter whether that materializes or its ‘just a load of cold air’ who knows what will happen, however with the arctic weather the North East has experienced these last few days sales of Freezeban through our retail outlet have certainly started to climb!

    So you have drained the fresh water system down you think, the water tank is empty and no water is running out the taps however you can bet your bottom dollar that there remains in the water pressure pump, water filter, sink or shower head a small quantity of water. If the temperature inside the boat drops sufficiently (always more likely if she is out on the hard as against laid up in the water) you can end up with a large repair bill if, for instance, there is a small amount of water remaining in the water pressure pump, it expands and breaks the pump! Freezeban is a non-toxic antifreeze suitable for your boat’s water system. If you mix five litres of Freezeban concentrate with 5 litres of water it will fill an average fresh water system installation consisting of water pump, water heater, two hand basins, sink and shower. Incidentally, Freezeban will protect the system down to minus 15 degrees centigrade.

    When recommissioning at the end of the winter ready for the start of the season simply flush out with fresh water. Keep flushing until clear. Ensure no freeze ban is visible at any of the outlets before use.

    If you have not already got one, it may be worth also considering a tube heater to pop (if space allows) under the sump or in the engine bay. If unsure how to protect the engine block from frost damage you can check out our blog on winterisation.


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