by Pete Green
As a professional yacht delivery company we come across boats in all states of repair and well maintained yachts bring comfort and reliability to the skipper and crew. A comprehensive off-season maintenance schedule may seem time consuming but it will generally cost you less in the long run. Using your winters wisely will help to ensure your summers are pleasurable and hassle free.
The best top tip for your yacht during the winter is to use it!! We can have some fabulous sailing weather in the UK during the winter, albeit a little chilly. Choose your day carefully and you can have the waters to yourself. Winter sunshine can be a great tonic to beat the winter blues, just wrap up in those thermals, pop on your woolly hat and gloves and have a cracking and adrenaline fuelled day out on the water. Remember, boats hate inactivity, particularly the engine.
If winter sailing sessions don’t float your boat, then here are some handy tips on how to keep your yacht in tip top shape and ready for next season:
1. If you are not hauling her out, then make sure that you double up all the mooring lines so she is safe in a blow. Unbend any sails and store either inside the yacht or ashore. If you are still using the yacht it may be an idea to deploy some extra sail ties to wrap around the boom and forestay which will give extra protection and should prevent the sails becoming untied and damaged. If storing your sails ashore, perhaps take the opportunity to get them washed, or rinse them with fresh water yourself and dry before storing. This will extend the life of your sails.
2. If hauling your yacht out, then make sure you ask the people at the yard to angle the bow slightly upwards to enable rain water to run off immediately from any covers, decks and the cockpit. This will reduce the chance of any standing water becoming stagnant and turning your yacht green.
3. Plug in a heater (oil filled ones are best but not a fan heater) and dehumidifier, open up all the lockers, take up floorboards to expose bilges, take off any linen, soft furnishings and clothing etc to be washed and dried at home. Make sure air can circulate throughout as much of the boat as possible. Also, prop open the fridge to prevent mould forming inside. A warm and dry boat is a happy one! Clean your boat thoroughly.
4. Look after your engine and it will look after you. Start by cleaning the engine bilge and take a good look around the engine to see if there are any leaks, splits or cracks. Check engine mounts for deterioration. Oil and fuel filters should be replaced, coolant renewed and oil changed. If you are hauling out then either fill your tank to the brim with fuel or empty it completely. This will prevent condensation, which in turn prevents diesel bug. Treat any fuel you have left before topping up with a diesel bug killer. If the yacht lives in an extremely cold part of the country and is likely to freeze regularly over the winter period you may wish to drain the cooling system before hauling out and replace with a strong solution of anti-freeze. Remove the air intake filter and stuff an old rag in the intake to prevent rusting. Squirting a little oil into the intake will help too. Relax or remove all belts and protect drive wheels from rusting by spraying a lubricant such as GT 85 over the engine (not WD40) to prevent moisture build up.
5. The batteries need to be kept warm and dry over the winter, fully charged or topped up every month if possible. Batteries left uncharged over a long period of time may well need replacing once you come to use them again, so prevention is a thrifty option. Fully charged batteries are less likely to freeze in lower temperatures. Disconnect the batteries from the rest of the electrical system, clean and grease the terminals. If you have a battery management system, best check all is working before hauling out. Also check your alternator is working too; if your yacht is continuously on shore power then you may not realise that it has a charging problem.
6. Check gearbox oil – if milky or very dark, replace with new oil. If you have a sail drive, once you’ve dropped the oil, check for any metal filings as this could indicate friction in your sail drive gearing. Also make sure you replace using the correct grade of gearbox oil as every drive is different. Top tip – on a sail drive unit, don’t forget to release the retaining nut on the oil reservoir (inside the yacht) otherwise the vacuum will stop the oil coming out quickly and completely.
7. Check your electrics and spray behind electronics with silicone spray (a water repellent). Check all covers on the cockpit instruments fit tightly and won’t blow away in high winds. Take the opportunity to check your navigation lights for signs of deterioration. Replace any bulbs as required.
8. Take off anything inside that can be stored and cleaned such as galley equipment, bedding, books, chart table equipment and emergency equipment. Check when your life-raft, fire extinguishers and gas system need servicing. Check if your flares are still in date and replace if required. Check all lifejackets for corrosion around the gas bottle and their general condition. Inflate the jackets using the manual filler tube and make sure they stay inflated for at least 24 hours. If not, the bladder may have a leak and will therefore not be of much use if required in an emergency. If in doubt, get them serviced by a professional. Check your jackstays for deterioration then remove them and wash them. Check all emergency equipment for wear and tear, remember it is there to save a life so make sure it is fit for purpose. An old Danbuoy or life ring with a non-working light and deteriorated buoyancy isn’t going to be much good when you need it.
9. Remove all the running rigging (ropes) then wash them in fresh water and dry; store them ashore or inside the yacht to avoid further U/V degradation. This will help prolong the life of the ropes and make them nicer to use in the coming season! Check over fenders and re-inflate if necessary. Consider replacing retaining ropes if looking tired or have become unraveled. Give them a little scrub with a cream cleaner and an abrasive sponge/cloth to bring them back to as new condition.
10. Once ashore, check over the rudder and steering system. Is everything moving smoothly? Lubricate the steering cables/quadrant with grease if required. Squirt some diluted washing up liquid into the rudder stock housing to lubricate the bearings – don’t use grease. Check that your prop anode and/or hull anode is still there and is active. If they have been dissolved past 50%, then replace them. They are not expensive and they are much easier to change ashore than when afloat.
If you have a folding prop, check the blades are moving freely and are free of any marine organisms or dirt. Consider getting the prop removed and serviced if in doubt. Again, much easier to do this ashore. Check the water inlets on the sail drive for marine growth too. Mussels and limpets just love a good sail drive!
11. Take the opportunity to have a rig check before you haul out. If you then have any issues that need action, you have the whole winter to sort them. Don’t wait until just before you want to go for your first sail of the season as the riggers will then be fully booked and you will miss the boat… literally! This can also save you money as if the rig needs to come out for attention, this can be done at the same time as you haul out your yacht.
12. Winches and deck gear – if you have a spare weekend during the winter and fancy some yacht maintenance, servicing your winches and deck gear would be a great job to tick off the list. Follow your manufacturers guidelines for servicing, but make sure you rinse all the mechanisms clear of salt before cleaning and re-lubricating. Also, making sure to put everything back together in the right order is a must! Top tip when servicing, get a big box and put all the pieces you remove in order in the box. This helps you when reassembling but also stops any small parts being dropped or accidentally kicked off the yacht… it does happen and winch spares are not cheap! Once reassembled, check the winch is working again. Wash down your deck gear (blocks, jammers, cars etc) with fresh water and lubricate with a silicone spray. Check your block retaining pins and shackle pins are cable tied or wired to prevent loss.
13. Check your guard wires are not too slack. If so, tighten up the end fittings or retaining string accordingly. Check for any stranding or kinks; if you find any then replace the wire. Don’t hang anything heavy from them.
This is not an exhaustive list but I hope it gives a good idea of jobs that can be done to keep your yacht in good shape, warm and cosy over the winter.
Halcyon Yachts Ltd is a dedicated international yacht delivery specialist with highly experienced and qualified crew. For more information or to see details of their recent deliveries please visit https://halcyonyachts.com/