It is the season to be jolly and for those of us boat orientated it throws up a dilemma of a few days off work enjoying our hobby or the call to arms that Christmas is all about families not boats.
Now I have got away with this often in the past by sailing the icicles race on Boxing day - a race that had it origins based on the great classic Christmas film the great escape - and our need to. We are a bit stymied to link Christmas to any thing boat like, it would have been better if the three wise men breezed in on an Arab dhow or at least fishermen not shepherds turned up. So we are on a bit of a loser.
The internet forums are buzzing with people like me having great ideas of what we will do to the boat this winter and it's great that the internet can bring together people who would otherwise never meet, and let them swap photos and ideas instantly. However, perhaps it is because we are all bored and stuck down below on a cold wet raining winter's evening that we start looking around at how we can improve our 18foot by six-foot living area - as opposed to the summer when we just go below to sleep, use the loo or make a brew.
For those of us like me with heating – I use a Propex hot air system - we can extend our season, but the reality is from 4.30pm it's pitch dark and miserable. Even if I did want to build in some sort of hanging locker, extend the shower room, put the sliding door back to the fore cabin, unfortunately the glues and paints required have other ideas and most don’t like it below 10 degrees. What I have learned is I can achieve twice as much in April than I can ever do in December.
PHOTO: Dawn Treader cruising along the Kennet & Avon in November
For those of us who don’t live on board permanently its time to 'winterise'.
- Disconnect and drain the water pump – mine froze one year and cost £125 to replace and the reason I delayed draining down was because it was too difficult to get to, having to unscrew the floor. We won’t be making that mistake again so a large hatch was fitted.
- Just slide back clips and let the tanks drain – I turn the pump on its side to make sure there's no water in it
- Make everything easily accessible – note three pins not four !
- Open all taps and leave the shower off the hook in the bottom of the tray- not only to drain it from frost but it would be a good source of legionnaires if you don’t intend to use it until spring.
- Put some petroleum jelly on battery terminals to stop corrosion.
- Turn up all cushions on edge.
- Spray cockpit canopy with silicone polish - it gets into the stitching and helps seal it up. It also stops the mould forming, I have even used window cleaning spray and that really works to remove the grime.
- My big fuel tank is off, empty and at home. Don’t leave it half full you will be shocked how much condensation builds up inside and also the fuel goes off causing the engine real problems. Long voyages are out of the question it's canal maintenance time, so I don’t need 15 litres of petrol.
All this sounds like Dawntreader is being laid up for the winter and that’s it for another season -don’t be stoopid ! Winterising the boat just means changing a few things over.
- In comes a portable water tank with a hand pump (I am going to connect this to the work top by the sink one day) holding just enough water for a couple of days.
- An old solar shower bag replaces the pumped unit hanging off the holder and filled with warm water from a kettle -Its really good get two - mix one with Radox and keep the other one for rinsing.
- A small portable 40-amp battery is charged at home and taken with me when required and the fuel tank is replaced by a 10 litre one – my short-range version.
- Bedding is aired and dried by the Propex and shoved in a vacuum bag and sealed up dry ready for the next adventure. Add in the hot water bottle and we are good to go at a moment’s notice.
Anyhow its time to reflect on last season and what a great time...
I smashed the windows in with a tree (photo shows last or the original glass windows) and replaced them with perspex.
Climbed Caen Hill up and down in 26 hours. Photo - notice the swan in the lock!
Broke down at Semington (never did find out what caused that) Stopped dead in Devizes with a huge water lily attached.
Got attacked by a Swan.
Replaced the outboard impeller
Had the outboard stolen and replaced all of that.
Got stuck at Rusty swing bridge in a howling gale.
Got stuck at Seend due to lack of water.
Managed to get a rope round the prop and had to go in and free it.
Bent the TV Arial – though it's better for it.
Broke the canopy zips yet again.
Lost a windlass and a mooring spike.
Pulled the plastic handle off the loo pump.
Cracked the shower tray – again.
Actually, maybe I don’t really want to re fit my inferior interior over winter – I just need a rest. Seasons greetings to you all and Happy Boating- if you get the chance.