Winterising Your Narrowboat, Should You Do It?
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Mon Dec 1, 2014 at 10:39am

The answer is YES!

Winterising your boat will help you avoid costly repair bills should your boat be damaged by the freezing temperatures during the winter.


If you intend to stay on your boat over the winter you will not need to do a full winterisation service as it will be pretty much business as usual.

If you stay on your narrowboat just make sure that you top up the antifreeze in the keel cooling & water systems and also in the radiators. The amount of antifreeze your systems require should be checked in the owner’s manuals. It is also a good idea to lag your hot and cold water pipes too.

But if you intend to leave your boat for any period of time, then you need to do a lot more to make sure you are protecting your vessel.

Here is a list of  jobs you need to do to protect your narrowboat during winter:

Lets Start Outside

Have you got a protective cover for your decks? If not, then consider investing in some this winter. The covers offer total protection to your cratch and stern, protecting the deck from the weather and debris, as well as providing additional dry storage space. Not a cheap investment but well worth the money.

Not only should you give the exterior of your boat a clean in the spring clean, now is another good time to give her a good clean and polish. By cleaning the topsides it will help protect your paint work from falling leaves that leave nasty brown stains as they rot.  There is then less chance for mould and organic growth growing on your boat if she’s in tip top condition.

Another tip that experienced boaters carry out; is to grease the external brass work this helps prevent discolouration.

Floating ice pieces that can hit the side of your boat when other boats cruise by can seriously damage the blacking on the hull. To prevent this happening, simply hang wooden boards from ropes along the side your hull.

Another good idea is buying an automatic bilge pump switch, this will give you piece of mind that any water that does get into the boat will be automatically be removed.

Lets go Inside

Engine, Generators and Gear Casing all need your attention. The best advice we can give you is to service the engine and change the oil as per the recommendations of the manufactures manual.

If you have a sealed water system, the strength of the engine antifreeze should be tested and topped up or discarded if less than fifty per cent. This will prevent freezing and also prevent corrosion by preventing air reaching internal components on the engine.

If you have a raw water system seal off the cock valve and drain the water out of the cooling jacket. If not in use, then store generators in a gas-tight locker. To keep water out of the engine and gear casing fill the diesel tank to prevent condensation and add the correct ratio of fuel conditioner.

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.

Now to the battery; grease the terminals to prevent corrosion and then turn off the isolators. If possible make sure the batteries are fully charged and then left on a floating charge. All electrical appliances should be turned off including fridge and freezer (defrost first obviously) then doors should be left open for circulation.

The next and really important task is looking at the water and heating system. Frozen water in your pipes, will result in burst pipes which will end in tears and expensive repair bills.

So first things first, lag your hot and cold pipes and top up with anti-freeze in keel cooling and other sealed heating systems such as the radiators. Next drain down the water system, disconnect the water system and empty the water tanks and calorifiers.

You want to remove as much water from the pipes as possible to prevent the pipes bursting if the temperatures drop to freezing point. Taps should be left open and the shower head removed and the values left open.

As the boat is going to be empty and have no heating you should consider removing the soft furnishings and other items like bedding, towels and clothes.


If you have a secure mooring then security shouldn’t be a big issue, but everyone should take some precautions to protect possessions.

Mushroom vents are becoming increasing popular amongst thieves, so check that your covers for water/gas heater exhausts or air ventilators have a bar across the bottom of their thread - this ensures they're difficult to screw out.

Make sure all windows are locked and you have a decent lock on your door. There are boat alarms on the market that can be connected to your mobile if they are activated, you may want to consider investing in one of these devices.

If you are not in secure moorings you may want to remove expensive items like computers, TVs and other electrical items.


Boats should not be left for long periods of time without someone visiting to make sure everything is ok.

Try and visit your boat regularly to 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 as every time the propellers turn it breaks the seal.

While you're there you should also pump out rainwater and clear the cockpit drains.  

Marina Service

If you would prefer to employee someone to winterise your boat instead of doing it yourself.  Ask at your marina to see if they offer this service. They may also offer a follow up service by checking regularly throughout the winter, if you unable to get back to do this yourself.

If you are moored at Whilton marina we can winterise your narrowboat for you, please ask one of the sales team for more details, or email us at