The freezing temperatures in December and January may be gone, but are not forgotten by Insurers Navigators & General as steady numbers of claims are coming in for damage caused by split or fractured pipes. Together with River Canal Rescue (RCR) the following advice is offered to owners. The number of notifications is already alarmingly high this early in the season, and it could be an indication of worse to come as owners start to return to inspect their boats since the thaw.
Whist seeming basic, the effects of a split or fractured pipe can be catastrophic on a boat leading to complete or partial flooding over a gradual period. If the pipe in question relates to a cold or hot water system on the boat the consequences will not be as severe as a raw freshwater cooling system, especially with metal pipes.
A split and leak here will almost certainly lead to flooding and possible sinking if not spotted. It also may not be covered by insurers as claims for frost damage is not covered by all companies, and gradual incursion of water is a common exclusion.
If frost damage is covered insurance polices normally insist that "machinery is winterised according to manufacturers recommendations" If not available than the advice of a qualified engineer should be sought, but taking no precautions is just asking for trouble.
For heating systems and fresh water tanks these should be drained and where possible taps left in an open position to allow for expansion. Just like cars any "closed loop" cooling system needs to have antifreeze added and replaced (per manufacturers guidelines) Not only will this minimise the risk of splits or fractures associated with freezing water, but it will also improve the cooling efficiency and minimise corrosion risk to the engine. Where raw water (drawn from the river) cooling systems are in place these should be properly drained down by briefly running the engine when out of the water to ensure the system is empty.
If afloat, Trevor Forman from RCR recommends “The quickest and simplest solution is to 'shut off' the inlet valve (seacock) and then drain as much water from the system as possible leaving a drain plug open or hose drain disconnected. Although this will not empty the system completely it will allow for expansion should the water freeze and therefore reduce the risk of ruptured pipes.
If there are any tight bends which are accessible it is also worth insulating as this is where fluid will collect even after draining. It is very important that you or anyone else