October 26, 2017   Joe Cline

From the November 2009 issue of 48° North by Mike Huston


Winter is on its way and it is time to get our boats ready to withstand the hardships that come with it. These hardships come in several forms:


Freezing conditions can split water pipes or tanks.


Loves the moist conditions caused by condensation and rains.

Strong Winds

Can chafe dock lines, damage canvas or literally shred sails.


Can get heavy enough to tear canvas dodgers, etc.

This is not a complete list but hopefully you get the flavor. So, what can we do to help our boats get through the winter unscathed? Following are some ideas that might be helpful, they are broken into two groups; the first list covers things to do on all boats and the second list discusses additional ideas for boats likely to sit unused all winter.

For All Boats

Fuel System

Fill the fuel tanks all the way full. This will prevent condensation from adding water to the tanks. Also, add a biocide and stabilizer before topping them off to prevent algae growth and/or separation.

Water System

Empty tanks and lines that might be exposed to freezing temperatures. Lines running along the outside of the hull are the most susceptible.


Keep the inside of the boat warmer than outside and above freezing, usually by running an electrical heater or two inside the boat. Heaters that have fans are best because they keep air circulating. Also, open all the lockers, drawers, lift floor boards, etc.; the goal is to allow good airflow to all parts of the boat. These actions will help prevent mildew and freezing.

Mooring System

Double up dock lines and add chafe gear at the rub points.

Running Rigging

Be sure furling lines and sheets are really secure, many a jib has been shredded when the furling line came loose allowing them to deploy during a storm. Also, for the sanity of your neighbors, be sure halyards, etc. are pulled away from the mast to prevent slapping. One other small tip, if you have lines that are out in the open, such as jib sheets, coil them and hang them off the deck; this keeps them from growing green stuff.

Exterior Teak or Exposed Wood

If your wood is finished, apply a couple coats to bare spots. Even if your plan is to refinish in the spring this will help seal and protect the wood during the winter.

Close Through-hulls

Close all the through-hulls. This one is just a good safety practice. However, if you close the engine or generator cooling intakes be sure to post or tape a note on the controls so they cannot be started in that state.

Winter Watch

Check on the boat frequently, mostly to be sure the heaters are still working. This is especially important when the outside temperature drops below freezing for several days. Also, if it snows heavily be sure to remove the snow from areas covered by canvas (dodgers, biminis, etc.) before the rains come and add weight.

General Equipment

If you do not have a canvas cover, use some plastic to cover the binnacle and/or instruments. I use a large garbage bag and duck tape to cover ours.

Take equipment that can be removed, for example Life Slings, barbeques, outboards, etc., and store out of the weather.

Top off the water in wet-cell batteries.

Drain toilets or add bio-degradable anti-freeze to them.

Empty holding tanks.

Clean hatch and port seals, then lubricate with silicone grease.

Apply a coat of wax to the topside – this makes clean-up in the spring easier. This is something I try to do during our last couple trips out on the boat in late summer or fall. Okay, I admit I like to putter on the boat and this is the perfect putter job.

ADDITIONAL ITEMS For Boats Not Likely to Be Used During the Winter

Remove the Sails

Take the sails off and store them at home or below decks. It is also a good idea to take them to a sailmaker for a check-up.

Remove the Dodger and Bimini

The canvas will last a lot longer if it does not sit out all winter. Be sure to store with no folds in the glass.

Remove Running Rigging

Take off and store below all running rigging not being used. This keeps the lines clean and extends their life.

I am sure there are other things I have forgotten but this should cover the basics. And your boat may have some other gear needing special attention, for example water makers may need to be pickled.

This may look like a long list but my wife and I can do most of this in one weekend. We find these basics go a long way toward keeping our boat safe and reduce the work and expense needed to get ready for sailing come spring.

The following is an edited excerpt from an Oct. 14, 2009 Coast Guard  News Release. To view entire Release visit:

Coast Guard warns to prepare for winter storms

With the arrival of storm season to the Pacific Northwest the Coast Guard is strongly encouraging mariners to take the necessary steps to ensure that their boats are properly secured.

During the fall and winter storms in this region, the Coast Guard can get thirty to forty reports a day of vessels adrift in Puget Sound. These adrift vessels not only represent a possible loss of property for the owners, they are significant hazards to navigation and also pose a serious environmental threat as chemicals and fuels onboard can spill should the vessels break apart. “Response crews are also put at risk when responding to these boats in rough waters,” said Petty Officer Denys Rivas, a Search and Rescue Specialist at Coast Guard Sector Seattle.

Boaters, beach-goers and those living in areas with a potential for flooding should follow these guidelines to ensure their safety:

Ensure you have a storm anchor. The anchor that comes with a boat is often inadequate for the storms in the Pacific Northwest. An improper or inadequate anchor can cause your boat to drift and may lead to unnecessary search and rescue calls.

Check all of your anchor and mooring lines. Double the lines up for added strength. Ensure all lines and tackle are in good condition.

Small boats should be removed from the water and moved to a secure location well above tidal and flood areas to ensure they are not washed out to sea.

Cover your boat: Heavy rains can flood boats and even cause sinking in extreme cases. Protect your boat and be sure your vessel is adequately covered when it is moored up to prevent flooding. If you can’t bring your boat onto shore, make sure it is securely fastened to its dock. Vessels that break free from their moorings can become a hazard to navigation and endanger the lives of those who must retrieve them.

Ensure boat registration numbers are updated with correct owner information. Consider keeping owner contact information on the vessel itself. With this information, agencies responding to adrift vessels can promptly return the vessel to its owner.

Wear Personal Floatation Devices: Life jackets – bring one for each person. History has shown that the chance of survival greatly increases if an individual is wearing a personal floatation device. For more information on life jacket requirements visit:

Have a Marine Radio: Investing in a good VHF radio is a smart purchase. Cell phones should not be used as a primary means of emergency communication on the water where reception may be poor or unavailable. A VHF radio has a strong signal and distress calls are received by everyone monitoring a VHF radio in range, whereas cell phone communications are point-to-point. Use VHF Channel 16 for emergencies. For more in-depth information about radios and terminology visit the link below.

Float Plan: A float plan is a written statement of the details of an intended voyage usually filed with a friend, neighbor and/or marina operator or; a document that specifically describes the vessel, equipment, crew, and itinerary of a planned voyage. Leave a copy with a friend, relative or local marina before heading out on the water. If a vessel has an emergency or is overdue, pertinent information will be available to provide to local marine police or the Coast Guard. If delayed, boaters should inform those with the float plan, and be sure to notify them upon returning so the float plan can be “closed out” and an unnecessary and costly search avoided. An example of a float plan can be found at

Check Local Weather Forecasts: Be aware that storms can come up quickly. Always check local weather conditions and forecasts before heading out. If you must go out, monitor current forecasts, warnings and conditions via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio. There are 14 NOAA Weather Radio stations broadcasting along the Oregon and Washington coasts.

For a detailed coastal weather forecast, click the National Weather Service link for your area:

Western Washington –

South Washington/Central/Northern Oregon Coasts

South Oregon Coast