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With the road gritters already maintaining the British roads ways it’s a sign that winter is on its way and it is time to prepare your narrow boat for the winter. The last few years we have experienced some long and freezing cold conditions, so preparing your narrow boat is vital to protect it from the cold snap that’s on its way.
In this article we are going to give you some useful tips on how to protect your boat if you intend to leave it empty for any amount of time over the winter. If you intend to livaboard then it’s pretty much business as usual, but take a look at your radiators, keel and water system you may need to add some additional anti-freeze.
Has your narrow boat got a canopy to protect the deck area? These covers are a God send when leaving your narrow boat over the winter as they protect the deck from leaves and debris but more importantly keeps the deck water tight. If you haven’t got a cover then this is something to consider investing in.
This may seem like a strange piece of advice but it really works. Clean and polish the topsides of your boat this will help protect the surface of your boat from falling leaves that can leave horrible brown marks as they rot. Also mould and organic growth will have less chance of growing if your boat is clean. When plant roots attach themselves to your boat they expand and cause the wood work to crack leading to leaks, this is all preventable.
To protect the hull from sheets of ice created when people break the ice when passing by, hang wooden boards from ropes alongside your hull. This will help protect GRP boats from serious damage and for steel hulls will help the paint from being scratched.
Consider fitting an automatic bilge pump float, if any water does get into the bilge you will at least have peace of mind that this water will be removed.
A main problem for the interior of a boat that isn’t lived in over the winter period is the soft furnishing becoming damp which then leads to mould. If possible consider storing all removal items like bedding, cushions, towels, clothes food etc to a dry and warm place till you are ready to start using the boat again in the Spring. Check the window drains are also clear.
Drain down and disconnect the water system also empty your water tanks and calorifiers. Pay attention to your shower remove as much water as possible. Open up your taps allowing all the water to drain away. The aim is to remove as much water from the boat to protect the pipes from bursting if it freezes. Lag as many of the hot and cold pipes as you can. Top up anti-freeze in keel cooling and other sealed heating systems like radiators connected to the boiler. Lastly remove the water filter cartridges.
Remember to turn off the isolators on the battery as well as greasing the terminals to prevent corrosion. Try and leave the batteries fully charged and if possible left on a float charge. Turn off all electrical appliances and it’s advisable to leave the fridge door slightly a jar for circulation.
Change the oil and give your engine the manufacturer’s service before putting the boat into storage. If you have a sealed water system check the antifreeze and top up if necessary. If you have a raw water system seal off the cock valve and drain the water out of the cooling jacket.
Grease the stern tube once the engine is turned off, this is to prevent water getting into the engine room and if this builds up could cause your narrow boat to sink!If possible leave your diesel tank full so that condensation doesn’t build up in the tank also add fuel conditioner which you can purchase at most good chandleries
It’s advisable to visit your boat once a month so you can run the engine for around an hour this pushes the oil around and prevents rust, it will also help top up the battery. Remember to re grease the stern tube if you do run the engine each month as every time the propellers turn it breaks the seal.
Owning a narrow boat has its responsibilities and they should never be left unchecked for long periods of time.