Technically, winter in the northern hemisphere begins in December, but when the clocks roll back and daylight diminishes, it definitely feels as though we've shut the door on the autumn season...
So what does this mean for sailors?
Getting out the boat during the last quarter of the year can feel like a bit of an endurance test, particularly when the poor conditions, plummeting temperatures and low light works against us.
However, there are some clever tips and tricks you can use to make the frostier days of sailing really worth it. At Mylor we've put together a few ways to make this year's winter sail run as smoothly and drama-free as possible.
De-Ice Your Deck With Sea Water
Decks covered in ice are the ultimate trip-over-trap during winter... But the solution, however, is closer to you than you think. Get hold of a bucket, fill it with seawater and use a stiff scrubbing brush to remove the ice from the deck surface.
This hack works similarly to rock salt road grit, as the seawater lowers the freezing point of the water by a few degrees, preventing new ice or frost from forming and melting already frozen areas. So unless your harbour resembles a block of Siberian ice, you'll be able to remove the frost from your decks pretty easily.
Make These Key Checks...
Are my tanks full?
Filling up your fuel tank at the start of the winter season is a good protective measure against condensation, which can form inside the empty spaces of your tank. If water gets into your tank it can, in turn, cause a diesel bug, where the fuel becomes contaminated with bacteria which can result in all sorts of problems that you really don't want to be dealing with.
Is my engine prepped and protected for winter?
If you're anticipating a real drop in temperature, either add the correct amount of anti-freeze to the coolant or put some antifreeze through your raw-water system if you anticipate conditions getting really bad.
Are my batteries fully charged?
Kicking your diesel engine into life will require more juice from your battery in cold weather, so make sure you take home your battery for a proper recharge before the new season commences.
Prevent Heat Loss Around Your Boat - The Easy Way
There are many complex and simple, costly and inexpensive ways of insulating your boat... But what's the most effective way of keeping your cabin warm?
There are many areas you can look at when it comes to heat loss, but the biggest offender will likely be through your cabin windows. To prevent against cold air infiltration, get hold of some camping mat material and cut it to fit the shape of your window and tape it securely to the window frame surrounds. Not only will you insulate your boat, you'll also protect against the formation of condensation.
Store Bedding, Sails and Lines - The Right Way
Over winter, a good rule of thumb is to take home any damp, wet or frost-covered items to properly dry out.
Over the winter months keep all pillows, duvets, blanket and bedding stored in a bag, or ideally, in vacuum-sealed storage to prevent mold and mildew from forming.
Keeping soaked headsails and sodden spinnakers in the cabin to dry will make damp, mould and mildew problems worse. Also, during spells of cold weather, any wet patches below deck will take ages to dry, so take your sails home to be properly aired in-between uses.
Any lines should also be kept as dry as possible to protect against freezing and to prevent numb fingers and discomfort when handling.