Winter is here: Making Sure Your Boat is Prepared for Icy Temperatures, by BWML

We’ve officially got to that time of year where temperatures drop dramatically with ice and snow following close behind. Summer cruising is well and truly over until next year and for those of you who own boats and keep them in boat moorings, it’s time to act on winterising your boat for the long winter ahead. Especially if you plan on leaving your boat moored up for the winter season, as maintaining your boat externally and internally will keep your boat looking its best, extend the life of the engine and other parts to help minimise any damage that could occur over the winter. Even if you’re planning on using your boat throughout, it’s always worth giving your boat an annual check.

We spoke to two boat owners on how they begin preparing for the icy season.  Charlie and Lauren boat owners from, said: “The main thing is to keep the wood stocked up that fuels the fire! We have a gas heating system for emergencies but prefer to keep warm in front of the wood burner in the winter”.

Whilst Julie Cox canal boat owner said: “Liveaboards don’t have to do as much preparation to their boats for winter, because they are there! But you should top up your anti-freeze, the same as you would a car and you need to drain all the water out the system as a frozen pipe bursting when you are not there would be a disaster!”.

Before you start, you’ll need to create a checklist to ensure nothing is missed or forgotten and with so many different boat sizes and types, important factors can’t be overlooked. For those living on their boats it’s pretty much business as usual, however that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create a check list. The best place to start constructing your check list is to find your boats service manual and to read through it as it will help with tasks such as replacing fluids and parts properly. Any further information on winterising your boat should be provided and located under ‘lay-up’, ‘cold weather’ or ‘extended storage’. Here are some of our suggestions for both those living on board for the winter and those leaving their boats moored:

  • Clean the inside of your boat
  • Check the batteries are fully charged
  • Change the engine oil and replace oil filters
  • Drain raw water-cooled engines completely
  • Disconnect and clean the batteries
  • Flush the water and freshwater tank
  • Allow air to circulate inside the boat

If your boat is caught in a difficult situation throughout the colder months, don’t attempt to recover it without assistance. Severe weather conditions increase risk to boat owners, the River and Canal Rescue runs boat engine maintenance courses throughout the year.


If you are leaving your boat moored for the winter and you’re worried about theft. There are a few security checks you should take before leaving:

  • Remove Valuable Items – Anything electrical, the TV, even alcohol. If you have the luxury of a secure mooring, this may not be such an issue, but if in doubt – take it out!
  • Decent Lock – The chances are this will deter a thief! Or you can invest in alarms that generate a text to your phone if activated.
  • Mushroom Vents – These are becoming increasingly popular amongst thieves, so be sure to check if your covers for the water/gas heater exhausts or air ventilators have a bar across the bottom, as this ensures they’re tricky to steal.


Boat owners who moor their boat for the winter and winterise their boats properly will hopefully face few problems when taking it out on the water again. Before you get back on the water, please consider the following advice.

If you’ve drained down and switched off the water systems, removed the water heated screw plug and left the taps in open position, it’s now time to turn off the taps, replace the plug and switch the water pump on. Once the water pump is back on, be sure to try each tap and run water through it.

In many cases, problems arise as a result of something that has been overlooked, an example would be that some boats can sink after being cleaned due to weed hatches being incorrectly fitted.

Living on a boat is anything but boring, it’s a great experience that can offer fun filled activities for all walks of life and by following the simple steps above for winterising your boat for the cold months ahead, you’ll make the most out of the season ahead.