Tips & Tricks for Boating in Cold Weather
One of the things most yacht owners love is the freedom to pick up and go whenever the mood strikes – and sometimes the mood strikes during the coldest months of the year. When this happens, boating in the wintertime is fully possible, even out here on the Pacific Northwest!
In the right conditions, boating in the winter can be a true joy. So, keep your boat afloat this winter and continue to go boating or live onboard all year-round with our tips for yachting or boating in cooler temperatures.
Benefits of Winter Boating
- Peaceful cruising grounds give you room to move
- Reduced off-season rates for moorage
- Increased opportunities to brush up on your night cruising skills
- Keeps you tide over until the warmer weather comes again
- Keeps your boat in a usable condition so there is less to do come summer
In no particular order, here are our top tips and tricks for winter boating.
Keep Fuel and Water Tanks Topped Up
Fill up your fuel and water tanks at every chance you get in the winter. You’ll want to keep both tanks filled up because fuel berth operating hours are usually reduced in the off-season, and water supplies at marinas might even be turned off completely to protect the pipes during cold snaps.
Keeping your fuel tank topped up also helps reduce condensation from forming in the tank. The fuller the tank, the less room there is for condensation to form. This reduces your chances of a diesel bug forming (microbial contamination of the diesel tank), especially when paired with an additive designed to ward off diesel bugs.
Up the Antifreeze
If you’re leaving your boat in saltwater for the season, chances are the temperature won’t get so low that any leftover water in your engine will freeze, but just to be safe, make sure your engine’s coolant has enough antifreeze in it. This is especially important if a cold snap is forecast, which does happen every now and again around the Gulf Islands. If required, consider adding some antifreeze through your raw water system as well.
Charge Your Batteries
Keep your batteries charged at all costs! This might require taking them home every so often to recharge them, or using a small solar panel if you can source one. Keeping your engine’s batteries fully charged in winter is especially important because starting a cold diesel engine in frigid temperatures uses up more power than it does in the summer.
Stow Bedding, Linens, and Cushions Properly
If you’re planning to keep bedding, towels, and other assorted linens on board year-round, make sure to store them properly so they don’t get damp. Keeping them in a vacuum-sealed bag is your best bet. This will help keep everything dry and mildew-free.
As for your fabric cushions, there is no need to vacuum pack them, simply propping them up on their sides or placing them in slated storage is sufficient. Just make sure there is some airflow around them.
Keep Your Decks Ice-Free
Ice can form quickly on your boat’s decks. Fortunately, it’s easy to take care of – simply pour some buckets of saltwater and scrub a little bit and your decks will effortlessly be de-iced and much safer for all on board.
Don’t Stow Stuff Against the Hull
To prevent mildew from forming inside your accommodation level, do not store stuff against the hull. Clothing, boxes, fishing tackle – you name it – these items should not be pressed up against the hull. If moisture gets trapped between your items and your hull, mildew will develop and things will start to smell.
Only Plan Short Trips
Since you only get a small window of daylight hours in the winter, we recommend planning shorter trips if you’re new to boating in the off-season. If you’d like to go out for longer, aim to leave before dawn so that it is still light outside upon your return. This is not only safer, but likely to be more enjoyable for guests.
Enjoy Hot Drinks & Warm Meals
Bring more tea, coffee, hot apple cider, and hot chocolate than you ever think you’ll need for your winter boating excursions. Have enough travel mugs for all on board to keep drinks nice and warm. Hot meals will also help. There is no such thing as too much soup when it’s cold outside, but in today’s luxury motor yachts with gourmet kitchens, the sky’s the limit!
Switch Your Gas
If you’re running butane gas, consider switching to propane for the cooler months, since propane is not as likely to freeze as butane.
Dress for Success
Pack plenty of clothing so you always have something dry to switch into. Don’t go for anything too bulky – layers are best at trapping air and keeping you warm while allowing you to move around.
Bring gloves, hats, face masks, scarves, thick socks, and spares of each. Waterproof everything, where possible. Don’t forget your sunglasses as well – the sun does peek its head from time to time during the winter, albeit a lot lower in the sky.
Pack an Icebreaker
Just in case you come across a marina located close to brackish water, which can freeze in cold weather, you’ll be happy you have a boathook handy.
Keep Lifejackets Dry and Nearby
Lifejackets are just as important in the winter as they are in the summer, probably even more so, as extreme cold temperatures reduce the amount of time you’ll be able to stay conscious in the water. Keep lifejackets dry when not in use and make sure everyone on board has one that fits them and that you all know where they are stored.
Check Your Insurance
Double check your boat’s insurance policy to make sure you are insured year-round if you plan on venturing off in the winter.
Invest in Cozy Cabin Comforts
There are plenty of things you can do to make things comfortable inside your cabin all winter, which all involve keeping condensation at bay.
- For extra heating, consider diesel space heaters when cruising, or oil-filled radiators when using shore power. Running a small dehumidifier at night can also reduce condensation while you’re sleeping.
- Bettering your hull’s insulation is labour intensive but might be worth doing if you plan on winter boating year after year. To do so, apply a product called Celotex to the inside of your fibreglass hull, then add headlining over top. This will also help with climate control in the summer.
- If you can’t get to your whole hull, try adding better window coverings. They needn’t be fancy, even just some cut-to-size insulating board or old foam camping mat can make a difference.
- A cockpit tent or enclosure can add a bit more protection from the elements while helping to reduce condensation in your cabin. It’s also great for storing wet clothing, as it keeps it away from your living space.
- Try and use the marina’s showers whenever you can to reduce overall humidity and condensation on your boat, brought on by your onboard shower.
Do you have questions about life on a yacht during the wintertime? Wondering what boat would be best for year-round enjoyment? Contact a yacht broker at Van Isle Marina to learn more.