A morning’s work is often all that’s needed to ensure trouble free and reliable sailing.
When the boat has just been relaunched for the season, with a clean bottom and freshly polished topsides, it’s very tempting to just set off to enjoy some well earned sailing and relaxation. However, there’s a final crucial stage in the maintenance process that’s all too often skipped in the excitement of getting afloat. If you don’t take time to methodically check that all the re-commissioning processes and checks are properly completed, the chances are you’re storing up unnecessary trouble, stress and hassle for the future.
While these are mostly simple procedures, it’s a process that can make everything run significantly more smoothly. Did the jobs list for the winter actually get completed? There are very few boats where the entire wish list is carried out, so it’s worth checking back to the original list from the end of the previous season to check there are no important tasks that were temporarily put aside and then forgotten.
Has the engine been properly re-commissioned and the fuel tank checked for contaminants?
Ideally, the engine will have been serviced, including an oil change, and then winterised at the end of the previous season. However, it may need recomissioning, including checking the ancillary drive belts and replacing the water pump impeller. On a more basic level, do all the lights – interior, exterior and navigation – work? What about the instruments, plotters and vital communication equipment such as VHF radios?
What condition are the batteries in? Ideally they will have had some form of charging over the winter, either via a solar panel or shorepower charger. If not, if they are already a few seasons old they may struggle to hold sufficient charge. Does the fridge work, without rapidly depleting the batteries? Is there sufficient gas on board and what’s the status of the fresh water in the tanks?
If the batteries have not been pampered over the winter they will not hold charge as well as last year, especially if they are already a few seasons old.
On deck, it’s worth a quick check to confirm that all winches appear to operate properly and without undue friction. And give the bow thruster a try before you’re in a tight situation in which you’re relying on it. Common problems after sails are bent on for the new season include twisted mainsail reefing pennants and headsail furling gear set up with the furling line the wrong way round the drum, such that the sun protection uv strip winds up inside the sail when it’s furled.
None of these items takes long to check – two people should be able to complete it all on a 40ft boat in a relaxed morning. However, leaving them to chance can create enormous and time-consuming headaches.