With Autumn now upon us, and the winter months creeping closer by the day, you need to start thinking about the steps you need to take in order to ensure you get your narrowboat ready for the winter months. Whether you’re just a fair weather boater and only head to the canals in the summer, or if you’re an all-season explorer, there are a number of very important steps you need to take in order to ensure your narrowboat or widebeam boat remains in good, working order throughout the winter months.
Also known as ‘winterising’ your boat, the idea is to take steps early to ensure potential damage caused by the chilly British winter weather!
Much like you would with a car, it’s important to prepare your engine for cold weather, especially if your boat is going into retirement for the winter. Air-cooled engines won’t freeze, but if your engine is water cooled, you need to ensure there’s adequate anti-freeze in the system. Some boat owners that aren’t using their boat may opt to drain the water out of the system for the winter - just make sure you fill it back up again before firing that engine up!
Also, be sure to fill your fuel tank up to ensure there’s no space for condensation to form inside the fuel tank as this can encourage the growth of fungus and other organisms that will eventually degrade fuel and damage the engine.
If you have water tanks for drinking, flushing, washing etc then you need to ensure these are drained and the taps are left open where possible. If water remains in a static boat over a cold period, this could freeze and cause the pipes to expand. Over expansion, could lead to a pipe bursting, causing irreversible damage to the boat. You could also opt to have special insulation or heating installed to ensure the water systems remain above freezing temperature in the winter. The same goes for your onboard heating system if it contains water, this should be drained, or antifreeze may be added. Ideally if you can, set the heating to come on when the temperature hits certain lows, much like you should do with your home heating system in the winter.
Lastly, you need to prepare the cabin and main body of the boat. Remove anything valuable or sensitive to cold temperatures. Lock up doors and windows and use extra seals where needed. Ensure all plugs and drains are clear and working correctly.
You should also ensure your bilge pump is working, ideally an automatic bilge pump should be fitted as this will activate without your intervention, should the worst happen and water starts to enter the boat!
By taking these simple steps you can protect your beloved narrowboat or widebeam boat over the winter months, to find out more, check out this helpful winterisation guide by the Canal and River Trust!