Sailing in winter sounds like a cold and tricky business but if you take some simple precautions there should be nothing stopping you.
Who hasn’t looked enviously from the deck of their laid-up boat in a yard on a crisp, sunny winter’s day at a boat sailing gently by, a steaming mug of tea in the owner’s hand. In the right conditions, winter sailing can be a joy.
But winter weather windows can be small, and you need to act fast if you want to make the most of a day on the water. Your reward will be a low sun, flat water and deserted cruising grounds.
Here are some tips and tricks to make you and your boat winter-sailing ready.
1. Keep your tanks topped off
It’s worth filling up with fuel and water as often as you can in the winter: fuel berth opening hours are likely to be reduced, and hoses may freeze or the water supplies may be turned off to protect the pipes which makes it tricky to refill your tanks!
2. Fuel tank
Another reason to keep your fuel tank topped up for winter is to reduce condensation. A full tank has much less empty surface area for it to form, and thus less chance of diesel bug forming, especially if you also use an anti-diesel- bug additive.
For boats left afloat in salt water, it’s unlikely that the temperatures will dip low enough to cause any water left in the engine to freeze, but it’s worth attending to if a particularly cold snap is forecast. Make sure the coolant is topped up with the correct mix of antifreeze, and if you’re really worried, run some antifreeze through the raw-water system.
Starting a diesel engine from cold in winter temperatures will require more power than it does in the summer, so it’s worth making sure your batteries are topped up either by a small solar panel, or by taking them home for a recharge now and then.
If you’re keeping your bedding on board so you can make a quick getaway, consider storing it in a vacuum bag. These keep linen and duvets dry and mildew-free: the air can be sucked out with a 12V vacuum cleaner if you’re not on shore power.