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All systems go: time to get yacht ready for summer sailing.

Winter might addictive for the hardy sailor, but summer in Australia still calls most of us onto the water. The marinas start buzzing with new life and activity, and the ever warmer sunshine gets the adrenaline flowing to be "gone sailing". So you are ready--but is your boat?

Spring is the time to be making sure the beat is in tip-top condition for the season. Whether you are out to win the summer raising series, setting off to sail the world or just looking forward to many a weekend of family cruising, you won't want the boat to let you down.

Hibernation is actually tougher on sailing boats than constant use. The environment of salt air and damp are an anathema to electronics, an unused engine and even folded sails. Anyway, you'd hate to lose the race because a block exploded or fail to get your cruising crew home on time because of engine problems.

So before you enter your next racing series or invite friends to go cruising, here is a checklist of procedures that will leave you confident that the boat won't let you down when you least expect it. It's not rocket science, but a good checklist can save you much angst.


Before anything, check the expiration date on gear and batteries that require regular servicing or replacement, for example: life-raft, EPIRB's, fire extinguishers, flares and life jackets. Any items that require servicing should be sent away immediately, so that they're back when you're ready to sail. At the same time, check current compliance. Check that the mandatory first aid items are present, then that all are in good condition and in-date.


An important precursor to specific checks is the "deck walk"--before it's Cleaned, and before workmen arrive--to search for small articles. It's amazing what you may find on your deck: small screws, pieces of Windex or wind vane (caused by birds sometimes), etc. For instance, in one preseason check we found puzzling tiny shards of plastic, which turned out to be from the spinnaker pole mast attachment. It probably would have exploded the first time we tried to raise the pole.

[] Check standing rigging, turnbuckles and clevis pins for signs of wear, corrosion or fraying strands If uncertain, have a rigger do an inspection and report.

[] Run an eye over all the stainless steel gear--stanchions, pulpits, transoms, life rails, chainplates and cleats--for signs of wear and rust.

[] Tape (or retape) the turnbuckles, cotter pins and spreaders

[] Inspect antennae for integrity, particularly connection points for corrosion.

[] If you have a dinghy, it's time to put it in the water, outboard attached, and test both.


Like messy jobs? It's time to service your winches. Sitting in the cockpit doing small chores is not a bad way to spend a sunny day, as long as you don't end up with bits left over. Alternatively, have someone else get their hands oil-covered. Wile you'll be wanting to check your lines often during the season, now's the time for the first thorough check.

[] Halyards and furling lines, vital to quick responses at sea, should be replaced regularly, and never left with a fray.

[] Climb the mast and check the masthead antennae, standing rigging attachments, swages, spreaders, radar reflector, Windex and the mast itself.

[] If you have a permanently installed anchor winch, give it a test run, and check the chain for rust.

[] If you have furlers, check operation of mechanisms and lubricate if required (some require no lubrication).


[] Test and lubricate seacocks and the presence of correctly sized wooden plugs, tied Close.

[] If you have them, check keel-bolts for tightness and integrity. Check condition of hoses and damps, and ensure below-waterline hoses are double clamped.

[] Check limber holes and ensure they are clear of debris.

[] Check hand pump operates correctly.

[] Check heads work satisfactorily and lubricate the hand pump by flushing with vegetable oil. If you have not pickled them with white vinegar over winter to prevent calcification, do it now.

[] Close the seacocks, fill heads with vinegar, leaving them for at least a week.

[] Have chemical or electrical systems serviced.

[] Check holding tank Y-valve operation, ensure valve labelled and secured.


Exactly what you'll be using your boat for during the summer season will determine the standard you will expect from your sails. We'd all like to have new sails at the beginning of the season, but at the very least:

[] Check sails, harnesses and jack stays for wear and chafing.

[] Check battens and batten pockets, all sail attachments, reefing points and reefing gear, bolt rope.

[] Clean all sail tracks.


[] Check the water level if your batteries are battery acid type, and generally examine all batteries for integrity.

[] Check all lights are working--navigation, bow, spreader etc.

[] Turn on electronics and test for correct operation--radar, GPS and electronic charting.

[] Check all possible electrical connections for corrosion and integrity.

[] Check that the various pumps are working--both automatic and manual, bilge and galley.

[] If you have any green charging apparatus, such as solar panels or a wind generator, on board, disconnect shore-power and check that they are all working.


To avoid regular engine runs during winter, you may have used a freshwater flushing system. If so, open the saltwater inlet valve, run the engine and ensure that cooling seawater flows adequately. Check your service status on your records and if a service is due, make sure that the following items are covered by the service:

[] Check and change fuel filters, coolant and engine zincs if applicable.

[] Check transmission fluid, belts for tension.

[] Replace oil filters and raw water pump impeller.

[] Visually check engine, hoses, engine mounts and all attachments for corrosion, leaks or breakages, bilge for oil/fuel slick.

[] Run the bilge blower.

[] Check and clean the water strainer.

[] Make sure you have a plentiful supply of rotables, for example: fuses, fuel and oil filters, engine belts, chemicals for the head system, bulbs for all lights, coolant, engine and gear box oil, penetrating oil and torch batteries.



Dependent on your type of boat, this may be anything from simple to quite complicated.

[] Check water system and pump for leaks and proper operation, and that tank-cap keys are present.

[] If you have hot water, check hot water tank is working.

[] Check and clean any shower-sump pump screens.

[] If you have a watermaker, you may have pickled it for winter. If so, this must be reversed.


[] Fill gas bottles.

[] Check electric and manual valves.

[] Check storage box ventilation.

[] Check operation of any refrigerator, deep freeze, stove, and microwave.


When all is the basic maintenance is completed, it is important to test the autopilot if you have one, the depth gauge, the speedometer, the wind instruments, the log (run the measured mile), and the anchor alarm. Swing the compass, and if you find discrepancies, have it professionally checked. Do a compass test on the autopilot. When in clean seawater, test the watermaker to ensure it is producing sweet water to capacity.


Once you've had any work required carried out, it's time for this final step. Choosing the correct antifouling is crucial and your supplier should be able to help you with this. Consider paying more for purpose-designed propeller antifouling--it is remarkably effective. Aspects your should consider are:

1. How often you use your boat?

2. How fast do you normally go?

3. Hull material

4. Current paint

5. Water temperature where the boat will usually sail

After you've run through the above series of checks and carried out any necessary servicing and preparation, you'll be ready to put to sea. This won't guarantee you trouble-free sailing, but you'll be confident that you've prepared thoroughly, and fate will determine the rest.

Sweet Sailing!
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Title Annotation:TECHNICAL
Author:Knudsen, Nancy
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Oct 1, 2009
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