The clocks going back in October hails the end of the boating season and the start of a vulnerable time of the year for boats. The winter lay-up is key in helping to protect boats throughout the colder months.

Even though the majority of boats are not being used in January it remains one of the worst months of the year for boat insurance claims, at 19% higher than the average month over the last five years*, according to leading UK pleasure boat insurer Navigators & General (N&G). It's common for boat owners to check on their vessel come the New Year but the damage may well have been caused in the preceding few months while left unattended.

N&G has found that storms and winter weather are the major cause of damage in January, with more than double (113%) the number of weather-related claims than the average month.

Key factors include:

– Sub-zero temperatures can cause frost damage to engines.

– Prolonged heavy rain can not only damage electrics but combined with leaves blocking drain holes can also put boats at risk of flooding and sinking.

– High-winds can rip sails and cause boats and trees to blow over, potentially crushing other vessels stored nearby.

With boats traditionally laid-up for the winter damage can go unnoticed for longer than usual which can contribute to further problems – for example, a small leak can cause significant damage to a boats interior and mechanics, and in extreme circumstances, lead to a sinking.

The longer nights and cold weather means fewer people are around at boat yards this time of year, potentially making them an easy target for theft and vandalism. N&G has seen an average 40% rise in the theft of outboard motors over the last five years.*

Simon Tonks, marine insurance expert for Navigators & General, said:

"The combination of freezing temperatures, driving rain and high winds makes the winter months a particularly vulnerable time of year for boats.

"The importance of a properly laid-up boat should not be underestimated. Spring may seem a long way off but by taking a few key measures to protect your boat now could help avoid a tragedy come the New Year.

"Over just a few months ropes can wear, fenders burst, bilge pump batteries run down, sails become unfurled, cockpit drains block with leaves and lines work lose.

"While boat insurance is there for if the worst happens, most policies will not cover damage caused by leaks or vessels which have not been properly maintained."

Boats in Finochty Harbour by Richard Slessor

Boats in Finochty Harbour by Richard Slessor

Navigators & General advice for protecting your boat this winter:

– Remove all expensive equipment such as radios, GPS, navigation and electronic equipment, TV's, CD players etc and store them in a safe place.

– Remove the outboard, tender and life-raft.

– Leave empty lockers and drawers ajar to ventilate and deter thieves.

– Drain down water and heating systems.

– Have engines professionally winterised or ensure that you carefully follow all of the manufacturer's recommendations to avoid frost damage.

– Remove berth cushions to a dry environment.

– Remove furled headsails, mainsails, covers, dodgers and spray hoods.

– Take out halyards leaving a mouse line and thoroughly wash and check for wear.

– Check all backstays for wear at top batten point.

– Check all standing rigging for broken strands and rigging screws for wear.

– Ensure the yard use cross bracing if using wooden shores, for extra safety.

– Ensure that whilst ashore the trim of the craft is correct, to allow cockpit drains to be effective and avoid rainwater building up on decks or within the craft.

– Do not tie covers or tarpaulins to wooden shores or cross bracing.

– Preferably use only close fitting covers to avoid additional windage.

– Place tie-on labels on the wheel and engine controls to remind you to check all skin fittings, impellers, seacocks and transducers prior to launching/starting the engine.

– Disconnect batteries and leave them fully charged.

– Do check the craft periodically during the winter months unless you have made a specific arrangement for this to be done on your behalf. Do not assume that the rental of space will include this service.

– Avoid running fuel tanks too low due to risk of sucking dirt into filters or condensation in the tank space.

For more information or to get a quote visit www.navandgen.co.uk.

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