One of the main concerns about owning a boat is how to look after it when temperatures drop below freezing and the ice starts appearing on a regular basis.
It is advised that you do not sail a boat in freezing temperatures unless absolutely necessary, as these conditions can make it hard for you to be reached if there is an emergency.
This can be one of the most dangerous times to sail, so make sure you are safe, have made and necessary checks and feel completely comfortable before you set off.
It is also important to check over your vessel after the icy season is over to ensure that there are no underlying issues. If there is any damage, check your boat insurance policy.
In the winter, it is likely that temperatures will drop so low that at some point the water surrounding your boat can freeze. In this scenario, moving a boat can cause damage to the body depending on how thick the ice is. This means that any paintwork might get scratched or the boat may become dented.
It is recommended not to move your boat in these conditions unless absolutely necessary. Attempting to move your boat out into the water or bring it ashore can be dangerous, so it is safer to wait until any significant ice has melted.
Whilst turning on the heater and engine is not likely to produce enough heat to melt the surrounding ice, it can help if it is necessary that you move your boat. It can also help the engine to refrain from shutting down completely and provide warmth for anyone onboard the boat in the cold.
Turning on the heater can also prevent any water works inside the boat freezing and causing excessive damage. This can increase the cost of running a boat, but will be worth it to reduce the chances of damage.
In the ice, wooden hulls are the most likely to be susceptible to sever damage because they are the weakest. After the ice thaws, this can result in caulking in the seams of the hull, meaning the boat could also flood.
This is particularly dangerous because if the boat floods it means it could sink completely. In order to avoid this taking place, it is best to buy a boat with a sturdier hull, comprised of steel or GRP. This will decrease the risk of the boat’s hull being damaged in the ice, and therefore also the risk of it leaking.
It is unlikely in the United Kingdom, but some countries have such sever snow that the weight of it on top of the boat can cause it to concave. Clear any snow off of your boat at the first opportunity to reduce the chances of any severe damage.
The colder weather can cause severe damage to any machinery, water systems and seacocks on your boat. It is crucial to try and prevent any frost damage to machinery such as the engine, which may then have to be replaced.
If the boat is not kept heated at all times, all water systems onboard the boat should be completely drained at any time the boat is not in use. If this is not carried out properly, there is a possibility that water will freeze within the machinery or pipes and then expand, causing damage to the boat which will be expensive to repair.
One of the most important times to check your boat is after the ice had completely thawed. Do not presume that everything has remained intact just because nothing appears damaged at first. Ensure everything is working properly and that there are no leaks or damage to the boat before setting sail.