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Winter Boating

A Top Ten


A Top Ten

Given the late start to the boating season for many in 2020, can you do anything to claw back extra weeks on the water? The answer is most certainly yes, as the arrival of colder weather still offers its own opportunities even as the days get shorter. Here are our top ten Winter boating tips.

NOTE: This article applies to Channel / North Sea / UK waters / Atlantic seaboard coasts of Europe plus inland waters for countries on those coasts - and MED so Europe south of Scandinavia/Russia/Baltic States.

1 Plan in advance, boat on the day.


Long hours of daylight in the summer mean that if you are a little slow to get going, there is still much time to enjoy before nightfall. That’s not the case later in the year, so use the longer evenings to prepare your boat, make your navigation plan and generally ensure everything is okay.


A reminder that the Simrad® App is a great way of informing ideas and pre-prepping your navigation the week before.

2 Expect that some shoreside facilities will be closed.


Depending on where you do your boating and how late into the season you get afloat, some restaurants and shops are likely to be seasonal. Expect the need to self-cater more although, knowing the vagaries of 2020, perhaps some seasonal businesses will want to take advantage of any opportunity to re-open.

3 Check for navigation closures.


If the use of your boat depends on bridge and lock openings, do your homework to ensure that Autumn maintenance will not effect your plans.

4 Monitor the COVID status and rules of your destination.


This applies whether you keep your boat overseas, in another region of your home country, or plan to take that late season short break crossing to another nation.


Indicators suggest Coronavirus is more likely to spread in cooler weather, so stock your boat up with all of the usual precautionary kit, including face masks, hand sanitiser and anti-bac wipes. And of course continue to practice safe social distancing.

5 Health-check your boat each time you use it.


This should be the norm anyway, but it takes on an extra layer of importance out of peak season. Ensure all equipment relating to the safe operation of your boat is fully functional, including your marine electronics.


Pay particular attention to your starter and domestic batteries. Their efficiency will drop in line with ambient temperature. If the indications are the ship’s batteries were on their last legs in the summer, then get them tested and change if defective before Autumn cruising.


Check navigation lights - you may not intend to use them but it’s possible you could get delayed. Navigating at night without the correct lights is in breach of the ColRegs and almost certainly will invalidate your insurance.

6 Prepare for the cooler times of the day.


In many respects the Autumn is a nicer time to go boating than the Spring, because the sea temperature is still falling away from its summer highs. You can also get balmy days with azure blue skies that more than rival any day of the year. However, the temperature will still be lower in the mornings and evenings.


Ensure your crew have the layers needed to wrap-up warm, or cool down a little, as required and waterproof/windproof gear too. Be careful first thing in the morning and as night falls - overnight frost and ice can be invisible on decks and pontoons.

7 Preserve your view.


The greater temperature differential you’ll experience in the Autumn between inside and out means you’ll see more condensation on your windscreen and the clear plastic panels of your canopy. Don’t be tempted to press on with your own self-induced case of fog. There are rain-repellant solutions to assist the prevention of condensation on glass and some proven old tricks too. One of our low-tech favourites is to place a drop of eco washing-up liquid on a damp cloth and wipe that over the plastic or glass. Some prefer rubbing half a cut potato over the surface - both ideas help break down the water globules into a see-through sheen. A shower or car scraper with a rubber blade is a must-have – and a good thing to use for drying the glass after a wash-down too.

8 Think safety.


It’s another thing you should do all of the time of course, but safety factors become more acute as the weather cools. There will be fewer craft out in the Autumn, which is great for serenity, securing berths and enjoyment of an isolated mooring, but suggests the need to be prepared for self-sufficiency. In some areas local rescue resources may be scaled back out of season.


Regularly remind your crew about the importance of manoverboard prevention and increase your use of lifejackets and buoyancy aids. If getting aboard involves the use of a tender (dinghy) or passerelle (gangway), be particularly careful.

9 Prepare properly for intended immersion.


If anyone wants to take part in watersports where immersion is inevitable or likely, they are going to get colder, faster. As they do so, they’ll struggle to get back out of the water, so ensure the retrieval arrangements are sensible and checked, with physically able crew remaining aboard the mother ship. If anyone starts shivering, get them out immediately without question. Shivering is the first of just three stages on the path to hypothermia and your last realistic opportunity for the victim to help themselves before the situation becomes more serious.


To guard against hypothermia risk in all waters except warmer sheltered bays in the Med during October, keep the sessions short and ensure anyone entering the water does so in a well-maintained wetsuit or drysuit/undersuit combo that offers suitable thermal protection.

10 Become an avid weather watcher.


In the Autumn we expect to see the continent of America throw Northern Europe a steady procession of geriatric yet still powerful and influential storms. Plus there will be other localised factors. You’ll extract the very best of boating in the Autumn by getting in tune with the weather and keeping an eye on how it is forming daily, not just where you do your boating but across Europe and into the Atlantic.


If you’ve not really understood how to interpret a synoptic chart before, then take a little time to learn or refresh. Compare what you see to the forecast and the actuals - with such a plethora of weather data these days it’s an interesting sub hobby to pursue.


Weather watching will not only help you avoid the nasty moments but also direct you to those glorious interludes that will make up for all the frustration of a late season start.