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Tips to stay safe on your boat in Winter

Winter weather can be a challenge and a fast flowing river can test your mooring lines

Making sure your boat is safe and ready for the Winter is a must. But what do you need to think about to make sure that you stay safe on your boat in Winter? In this blog, we address all the Autumn chores that need to be completed to stay safe and make living aboard easier during the Winter months.

Martin and I complete many jobs in Summer when the weather is good but there are other tasks to do during Autumn. With the recent increase of frosty mornings, Autumn is most definitely here. Therefore,  we are starting to prepare our boats for the Winter months ahead. So what jobs should you be thinking about doing right now?

Tip 1 Pack away what you don’t need

First, we store away all of the Summer furniture and our other small boats. Things that we can’t get into our shed, we protect with tarpaulins. You could use large pieces of plastic sheeting instead. There is nothing worse on a windy Winter day to have to rescue belongings that have been scattered along the bank. Worse still, if you have to gather items that have been washed away if you are in an area that tends to flood.

Remember, if you use protective sheets they need to be taught to allow the water to run off. Check also that there are no creases or crevices where the water may pool. In the case of plastic and vinyl boats, turning them upside down and storing in a sheltered place may be all that is required. For us, this means storing our canoe upside down covered with a tarpaulin on the top of the barge. We also take the mast down and cover it up to protect the wood. Finally, we pack and store sets of fairy lights and flags inside away from the elements until Spring.

Tip 2 Keep your decks safe to use

Another important job is to keep the boat clear of leaves. This is a daily sweep for a while, especially if you are moored underneath large trees. Leaves rot and can stain the surface paint on the boat.  When leaves are wet they can also make the surfaces very slippery. Treacherous deck surfaces also become more common with the increase in frosty and icy days too.

With the dark nights and mornings ahead, it is a good idea to have plenty of light around your jetty for getting on and off the boat. There will be times when the wind is in a direction that pushes you away from the bank. This can produce a gap between the boat and the jetty. When I am off to work in the dark with bags in one hand and a torch in the other,  I find it a challenge to step across the large gap without a spare hand to steady myself! We have shore power, but a solar powered security light strategically placed to shine over the jetty can be very handy indeed.

Making sure you sweep the decks regularly will avoid slippery surfaces and rotting leaves staining your paintwork

Tip 3 Make sure you have plenty of fuel

Martin ensures that our fuel tanks are always topped up. This helps to prevent condensation from building up in the tank. We are staying put for the Winter, so we will turn over the engine now and again. A spare gas cylinder is always a must for us. This is a useful thing to do all year round, but especially important if you tend to use more gas in the Winter.

We also keep plenty of logs on board for our wood burner. If you would like to know more about logs for your burner read our other posts The best wood for your wood burning stove and How to split logs for firewood

Tip 4 Safe Mooring

There are a few things to consider with regard to mooring and mooring lines. It is important, especially if you are moored on the river, to make sure that the mooring lines will rise and fall at the same rate as the river. This can be achieved by simple sleeve sliding up a scaffolding pole. You should also have a mechanism of emergency release of the mooring line from the boat. You don’t want to have to get off the boat to release the mooring line, particularly if the water is in full flood when the flow will be fast. Remember that the safest place in this situation is on the boat.

That concludes this blog. You now have a valuable list of Autumn chores that will help you stay safe on your boat in Winter.

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