Winterize your sailboat – Part 2

Winterize Your Sailboat – Part 2

How to prepare your boat for winter
without paying a fortune to your marina

Click for PART 1

Last week in PART 1, we looked at winterizing your engine, raw water system, head, fresh water system and the checks you need to make on the other systems in your boat before snugging her down for winter.

Today I want to talk about inspecting your sails, your mast and rigging and the options you have for covering your boat for the winter.

1. Mast and rigging inspection

In all cases it’s probably better to pull the mast out of the boat for winter lay up. Not only does this give you a good chance to inspect your mast and rigging properly, but it also reduces windage and allows you to use the mast as a support for your boat covers.

  • remove all the running rigging – remember to run a mouse for each so you can re-reave
  • take running rigging home and wash gently in water to remove salt and grime.
  • dry and store
  • check the mast carefully for any signs of cracks or corrosion around the fittings. Any damage should be repaired before lay up.
  • check the crane and masthead sheaves for wear and stress cracks
  • inspect all exit boxes and turning blocks for wear and corrosion
  • check the spreaders. Remove any spreader cap covering and check the shrouds where they pass over the spreaders.
  • inspect the wiring to the spreader, steaming and masthead lights.
  • run a rag over all wire shrouds and stays looking for “fish hooks” which tell you it’s time to replace the rigging
  • untape all turnbuckles, check for cracks or corrosion, lubricate and retape with new tape
  • check the mast at the gooseneck for stress cracks or corrosion
  • inspect the mast boot and replace it in the spring if worn and cracked
  • inspect the mast heel for corrosion
  • check spinnaker pole and jockey pole for cracks and corrosion. Lubricate beaks.
  • check the boom for corrosion and stress cracks.
  • check the outhaul and gooseneck operation and lubricate

2. Sails inspection

You should take your sails off the boat and inspect them under cover. Make a list of the work to be done to them and send them to your sail maker.

  • wash your sails gently. Vigorous scrubbing can damage the coatings on the sail and break down the resins in the cloth. Gently does it.
  • dry your sails carefully. Don’t dry them in strong sunlight as the UV can damage the fabric
  • inspect all sails for wear and chafe, especially at batten pockets, boltropes, grommets and seams.
  • check the stitching in the body of the sail. If you can break the stitching with your fingernail, it’s time to restitch
  • store your sails carefully. Mice and other rodents can cause serious damage. Put a handful of moth balls in each sail bag with the sails and hang the bags up high.

3. Covering her up

Unless you have the luxury of an indoor haul out facility, you have three options for protecting your boat from the elements during winter – shrink wrap her, cover her with plastic tarps or get a custom made canvas cover made.

You’ll need a good framework over the boat to hold the covers above the deck and off the lifelines. You can use your mast as the central beam of this framework as long as you’re very careful with chafe protection


Shrink-wrapping involves covering the boat with a one-piece plastic cover that is shrunk to the contours of the boat. You’ll get a good, tight, weatherproof seal and won’t have to worry about chafe and loose tarps.

You’ll need plenty of ventilation openings to ensure good air circulation and these are an extra cost. Any access panels you need for periodic inspection also cost extra.

Shrink-wrapping is a once-only operation. You can’t reuse the material next year. There is also some danger of damage to the gel coat by the heat guns that are used in the shrinking operation.

Total cost for a 30 footer could be up to $450 plus the costs for vents and access panel.

Plastic tarps

They’re cheap and nasty, but they can do the job if you’re prepared to do a bit more work and inspect them frequently during the winter.

Get a big, heavy duty tarp – one that will cover the whole boat. Don’t try to work with several small tarps.

The grommets are useless; they’ll pull out in the first storm. Get some tennis balls and at each grommet position tie the tarp around a tennis ball with cord. Then tie your tie-down around the ball.

Make sure you’ve got plenty of anti-chafe material everywhere the tarp could chafe on the hull and lifelines.

Run extra lines right around the boat, outside the tarps, for extra security. Install chafe protection where these ropes go over the gunnel.

Total cost for a 30 footer would be around $80. The tarps should last two or three years if well secured.

Custom made canvas covers

Get a quote for a custom canvas cover plus a custom framework. Sit down before you open it.

Total costs for a 30 footer could be $5000 plus. The upside is you’ll have the best protection for your boat, and the cover will probably last 20 years.


Unless you have good ventilation, you can be sure you’ll have a mould problem come spring.

Underneath the covers, your boat could experience tropical humidity, especially on sunny days. And mould loves humidity.

The best solution is a fan that pressurizes the hull and forces clean dry air through the boat. Another method is to install a bilge blower fan, ducted outside and rigged up to a time switch. This will suck air out of the bilge and vent it outside, causing fresh air to be drawn into the boat.

Either method will eliminate most of your mould problems. Proprietary mould inhibitors probably won’t.