It’s Time To Winterise Your Narrow Boat!
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Mon Nov 21, 2016 at 3:21pm

Boo Hoo It’s That Time of Year Again!

Yes unfortunately it's that time of year when some boaters are thinking about closing their boats up for the winter season.

Many people only use their narrow boats as holiday homes. Once the summer months are over they decide it's time to go home, and therefore need to winterise their boats in order to leave them safely over the winter months.

However if you decide to live aboard over the winter then its pretty much business as usual. Take a look at your radiators, keel and water systems as you may need to add some additional anti-freeze to keep them in good working order over the colder months. You may also want to stock up on fuel for your log burner.

Follow our simple instructions to leave your boat as safely as possible over the winter months, whilst you return to the land until the better weather arrives in the spring.

Things You Should Do:

Winterising a narrowboat is basically preparing your boat for the bad weather that the winter months will bring. It is vital to protect the interior and exterior from the cold weather so the boat is not damaged in any way whilst being left empty and unlived in over the winter months.

Exterior Jobs

If you haven’t already invested in a narrow boat canopy to protect the decking, then we highly recommend doing so. It’s really worth the investment, as a canopy will protect the deck from leaves and debris which can cause damage, and most importantly will keep the deck watertight! We have recommended this top tip before, but by simply cleaning and polishing the topsides you will protect your boats surface, by stopping mould and organic growth occurring on the boats exterior deck and keep it clean and undamaged. If plant roots are allowed to get attached to your boat they expand and cause the woodwork to crack which may lead to leaks.

Going down the side of your boat you want to protect the hull from the sheets of ice that passing boats create when passing which then hit the sides of moored boats. Simply hang a wooden board from secure ropes alongside your hull. For GRP boats this technique will protect the exterior from serious damage and for steel hulls will preserve the paint work.

Consider fitting an automatic bilge pump float, so if any water does get into the bilge you will at least have peace of mind that this water will be removed, however if buy a canopy you won’t incur this problem.

Water can rise, even on the inland canals, so be aware of the weather in relation to your moorings and ensure ropes are of the correct length and are secure.

Inside Work

The most common problem for the interior of a boat that is not used over the winter, is that the soft furnishings will become damp, which then causes mould! So where possible removal all soft furnishings; items such as mattresses, bedding, towels, curtains, cushions should be taken ashore and stored in a warm dry place until the Spring. If it is not practical to remove mattresses, then stand them up so that air can circulate and prevent them from going mouldy.

Also check the window seals are all in good order and replace if necessary, at this time also clear the window drains. Empty the fridge and food cupboards and restock next year.


The aim is to remove as much water from the boats pipes to stop them bursting if it freezes. So drain down and disconnect the water system and empty your water tanks and calorifiers. Pay special attention to your shower and remove as much water as possible, then open up your taps allowing all the trapped water to drain away. Lag as many of the hot and cold pipes as you can to prevent damage. Top up with anti-freeze in the keel cooling and other sealed heating systems like radiators connected to the boiler. Lastly remove water filter cartridges.

Electrical and Batteries

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 to circulate the air, this will prevent it from going mouldy and smelly.  

The Engine

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, becasue 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

Protecting Possessions

Once all the maintenance type jobs are completed and it's time to go home, it's worth taking with you any valuables that could tempt an opportunist to break in. If you are unable to remove these desirable items then at least store them out of sight. Check your locks are in good order and consider adding some more security if needed. You may want to add an alarm system. Do your research, you will find a variety available from a very basic system to alarms that are more complex and are connected to your mobile device. Also make sure your insurance policy is up to date.

Finally Don't Forget to Visit your boat.

Try and visit your boat regularly to run the engine for around an hour during the winter. This pushes the oil around and helps 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.