Those who are experienced and advanced sailors also enjoy the sea in winter. Sailing in winter seems like a cold and difficult activity – but if you take some simple precautions there should be nothing stopping you.
If you’re able to keep your boat in the water, you’ll extend your sailing season and make the most of it. But what should you do to make your boat ready for the off season? SeaClub has prepared 10 tips to make you and your boat ready for sailing in winter.
It is worth filling up with fuel and water as often as you can when sailing in the winter. During the off season fuel berth opening hours are likely to be reduced, and hoses may freeze or the water supplies may be turned off to protect the pipes. That will make it tricky to refill your tanks!
One more reason to keep your fuel tank full for the winter is to reduce condensation – a full tank has much less empty surface area for it to form.
Starting an engine from cold in winter temperatures will require more power than it does in the summer. That is why it’s worth it to make sure your batteries are topped up. You can top up them either by a small solar panel or by taking them home for a recharge.
For boats left afloat in salt water, it’s unlikely that the temperatures will dip low enough to cause any water left in the engine to freeze. Nevertheless it’s worth attending to if a particularly cold weather is forecast.
Make sure that the coolant is topped up with the correct mix of antifreeze. If you’re really worried, run some antifreeze through the raw-water system too.
With fewer daylight hours it’s best to reduce your expectations and to plan shorter sailing routes than you would during the summer. However, if you are planning to do longer routes then consider leaving before dawn so you arrive before dark, rather than leaving later and arriving when it’s pitch black – that will improve your safety.
It can be hard to move when you’re wrapped in layers of clothing. It is best to use lots of thin layers instead of a few thick sweaters. The thin layers will trap more air, keeping you warmer, and help you move around.
Don’t forget about your sunglasses – the sun does shine in the winter and it’s a lot lower in the sky. That means you’ll be squinting your eyes to find an up-sun navigation mark unless you pack the sunglasses.
Another very important clothing garment – gloves and hat. Invest in some good gloves and a hat. However, some people take multiple pairs of cheap fleece gloves, which they find warmer than waterproof ones – you can change them as soon as they get wet.
Some marinas situated in locked basins can have freshwater – and can freeze in cold weather! However, thin ice shouldn’t stop you from going out and sailing. Just proceed with caution and have a boathook handy to break the ice if necessary.
If your lifejacket gets wet while wearing it, open it up and dry out the inside when you have tied up your boat. Lifejackets shouldn’t stay damp as the automatic firing tablets can start to dissolve – that could stop your jacket from working when you most need it.
During the winter time, water temperature can change very fast. Cold shock can affect your ability to breathe and swim, so lifejackets are essential.
Boat windows are both a major source of heat loss and also a cause for condensation. To cover windows in your boat, you can cut an old foam camping mat to shape so that it fits inside each window. That would block out light, prevent condensation and also improve insulation.
Keep food and hot drinks in handy. A thermos is a good way to keep ready-made hot tea or your drink of choice to hand.
One more thing – a good supply of food will warm you up nicely. Something that can be heated in the oven is even better – you can warm up things like pre-bought bread, instant soups or similar food to make your crew happy!
We want to point out that winter sailing is only recommended for experienced sailors as sailing conditions are very different in winter than they are in summer.
In the right conditions, winter sailing can be a very enjoyable activity. As winter weather windows during the day can be small – you need to act as fast as possible to make the most of a day on the water. Your reward when sailing in winter will be a low sun, flat water and no one around – sounds relaxing, right?
For more information about berths and marinas check out our website: https://seaclub.live