It’s that time of year when temperatures start to drop and a little bit of preparation with your narrowboat can go a long way towards preventing a disaster or at the very least some costly repairs.  Here are a few tips on preparing your narrowboat for winter.

General Checks

Check lockers, cockpit and other areas to ensure all drain holes and plugs are free 0f  leaves or dirt etc.  These areas are easy to block and in heavy or prolonged periods of rain or snow can cause a narrowboat to take on water. This can cause corrosion where the water is lying or even sinking.

Ensure all window chanells/drains are clean and free from debris to prevent water damage to interior wood or fabrics.  It might be a good idea to move any soft furnishings to a warm and dry environment.

Always make sure the bilge pump is working and batteries are fully charged when leaving the boat.

Grease the stern tube as heavy rainfall, leaking stern glands and ill fitting weed hatches can result in water ingress that quickly fills the boat and can cause it to sink.

Ensure ropes are secure,  with enough allowance to deal with the normal rise or fall of water levels.

It is also a good idea to run the engine for an hour when you visit as this this pushes oil around the engine and tops up the battery levels.

Spray terminals with silicone free lubricant and grease all available grease points on the engine and drive, plus electrical connectors.  Also lubricate linkages and gear throttle slides, this will prevent rusting/corrosion and extend the life of these components.

If you have a solid fuel fire cover the external chimney/flue pipe to prevent rain or snow getting in and rusting your stove.

Water and Heating

Burst water pipes can be a nightmare yet easily avoided with some simple precautions.

Lag your hot and cold water pipes and top up anti-freeze in keel cooling and other sealed heating systems (such as radiators connected to the boiler).  This is the most important thing to do and is advisable  regardless of whether you are using your narrowboat over the winter or not.

Drain down the domestic hot  water system paying attention to water heaters, shower and calorifiers, by switching on your taps and allowing all the water to drain away.  Leave the taps in the open position, however (ensure that the main water tank isolation valve is closed, the water circulation pump is drained and any fresh water filters). because if there is any water left in the system it could freeze.

Diesel Tank

Fill up the diesel tank with diesel to prevent condensation contaminating your fuel.

Fuel treatments remove water and deal with contamination such as diesel bug – where enzymes, bacteria etc live off the water in diesel and affect the diesel properties.  Inactive boats are more at risk of growth developing in the fuel tanks.

Regularly check your filler cap seal and replace if worn, cracked or damaged. The cap sits lower than the deck so its a good idea to soak up any excess water before opening the cap.


If you have a sealed water system, the strength of the engine antifreeze should be tested and topped up or discarded  (according to manufacturers recommendations).  This will prevent freezing and corrosion of the components of the engine.