What is winter preparation for yachts?
Winter preparation (or winterisation as it often called) is an important strategy to prevent a degraded ownership experience. A secondary benefit is that good records of winter preparation can help soften the yacht’s depreciation curve.
Unless you keep your yacht in the tropics, the chances are that you’ll need to make a few preparations to “winterise” your yacht. If you live in an area that regularly sees a frigid winter then this might appear obvious, however, even in temperate climates, long periods of inactivity can cause issues that your insurance policy may not cover. Either way, it’s an ideal time to perform some maintenance that will extend the life of your engine and reduce the rate of depreciation of the yacht.
For long winter periods with no activity, the ideal situation for yachts under 24m in length would be to have your yacht lifted ashore and kept in covered, climate controlled storage. If this is not an option, whether because of lack of local availability or sufficient operational budget, being aware of the main issues can help you make winter preparations.
Winter Preparation For Freezing Temperatures
Fresh water expands in volume by around 9% as it freezes. The obvious implication is that closed systems that contain water can (and will) be put under significant stress if the water in them freezes. Moreover, most yachts are clusters of complex systems, and failure of one can become, well, systemic.
The main function of winterisation is to limit the effects of condensation and mitigate the risks posed by freezing temperatures.
If you have a full time crew, one should reasonably expect that the draining of such systems will be taken care of. In a fully-crewed scenario, the risk of temperature-related systemic failure should be minimised.
A Basic Overview of the Important Winter Preparation Tasks
Where there is no crew to attend to these tasks and to regularly run systems and engines, then the following winterisation tasks are very important.
The Engine(s). Winterising the engines should be a priority as engine failure or damage is one of the most expensive cost centres on the yacht. From adequate antifreeze to changing the oil and filters, pre-winter is a good time to give your engine an annual service. Once you’ve finished changing oil, filters and coolant, dry the bilges completely beneath the engine to prevent corrosion and if necessary, paint them white to highlight any leaks and drips in the future. Running the engines regularly during the winter can be beneficial. If you are not able to visit the yacht to do so, local services that can visit the yacht to do so are often reasonably priced.
The Fuel Tank(s). If the yacht is going to be unused topping off the fuel tank leaves no room for condensation, and this in turn prevents diesel bacteria from contaminating your system. Adding a fuel stabiliser (making sure to run it through), and leaving an inch or two for expansion on warmer days, will ensure that you are ready to go when the weather warms up.
Weather Exposure. Most marinas, almost by definition, provide a degree of weather protection. The degree of protection can (and should) be a key factor in your selection of a marina. To the extent that the yacht is exposed, using chafe guards, extra fenders, and doubling up on mooring lines to ensure redundancy can prevent winter storms and adverse sea conditions damaging the yacht.
Batteries. Keeping batteries warm (or at least well insulated from extreme cold) and dry is very important. If possible they should be regularly topped up. Regularly running the engines, as recommended above, will keep the batteries charged. Batteries that are left uncharged for a long period may need to be replaced completely.
The Interior. Out of sight is not out of mind. An interior requires adequate ventilation to minimise the chance of mould causing damage to the upholstery and woodwork. Remove anything that can be stored ashore (such as galley equipment, books, linens, cushions and curtains) and prop open cupboards, doors, lockers and fridges.
Safety and Emergency Gear. Check the inventory of safety and emergency gear (including any expiry dates) and send away anything that requires servicing. Being good to go in springtime can save valuable lead time if you discover issues.
If you don’t have a full time crew, your marina may have winterisation facilities available (related article: How To Choose The Best Marina For You). Don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly because, if we can, we’ll be happy to help.