Winterizing Your Boat’s Interior

As with the motors, I recommend that you hire the marina to winterize your water system, head, air conditioning etc., because it will be guaranteed against freeze up damage. If you do it, and it freezes, you not only pay, but risk the ridicule of the marina’s service staff and your neighbors. I personally know people who have “done that, been there”.

Empty and Remove

There are lots of detail jobs that each boater should do after the marina has finished. If you start with large plastic bins, empty all the drawers and cupboards of towels, clothing, bedding, life jackets/PFDs, charts and anything that will hold moisture and/or feed and house critters. Set mouse traps as insurance.

Similarly, empty the galley and head of all paper towels, tissue, toilet paper etc. because mice love this nest-building material. Big plastic bins with secure snap on lids can be left aboard or taken home for the winter.

We remove all the little containers of seasoning and cooking basics, so they don’t freeze and thaw repeatedly. Take them home, empty, wash and save them (still labeled) for refilling next spring.

Remember to take any liquor, candles, and fire extinguishers because, if the boat does get broken into, these items could prolong the culprits’ stay and therefore, the damage they do.


Once the galley is cleaned out, it’s a good time to wash down the counter top, the walls, the drawers, the stove, frig interior etc. Makes spring cleaning more fun.

From the helm, many people believe in removing the VHF, GPS, Radar and other electronics to prevent freezing. Depending on the security of your location, I would recommend removing them primarily, so they don’t walk.

Clean and Ventilate

If you are in a location with hydro for winter storage, run the vacuum through not only on the carpeting but all interior upholstery, drapes, empty cupboard interiors, drawers, etc. Double check that the marina has removed the bilge drain plug. Wash out the bilge and let it drain over the winter.

Measure for Electronics

Are you planning to shop for new or additional electronics later during the winter? Photograph your helm and note the measurements of spaces available for potential electronics. This information will be invaluable, when trying to decide on the right size to buy during the winter.

Tarped and Shrink Wrapped Boats

During January, the interior of your covered boat could go through a temperature swing of over 50 degrees–low, high then low again. Drops in temperature cause humidity dampness and eventually mold and mildew. The solution is ventilation. If cutting and/or sewing ventilators in your cover is undoable, try this: Force lengths of plastic pipe up between the cover and the sheerline. Tie or tape in position , so high winds don’t shake them out. I put a fan on a timer to run between noon and six pm to dispurse the sun’s heat, thus reducing the temperature swings.

Second Last Pass

Before you back your way out of the boat with all these boxes of treasures, take two more passes through the interior. The first one should be to stand up any cushions that are being left behind so they breathe, open all hatches, doors, cupboard doors, drawers, and anything that is openable. Leave it open part way, so that the air can circulate throughout the winter. Sweating causes mildew.

Last Pass

The last pass through the boat, you should do a visual for what you may have left behind, as well as turn off all the switches and panel breakers both 110V and 12V. Lights and heaters left on cause fires.

You now have everything off the boat that is either edible, nest building, moisture holding or worthy of being stolen.

Secure the boat and kiss her goodnight ‘til spring.

Doug Dawson


See also:

Don’t Forget Your Boat This Winter – coming soon

1 thought on “Winterizing Your Boat’s Interior”

  1. My parents are considering buying a boat next year. Thanks for sharing these tips on winterizing your boat’s interior. If they do purchase a boat, they’ll want to find a professional who can service it. This way they can keep everything working for a long time.

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