Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Boat Maintenance: 10 Things You Can Do Now to Prevent Headaches in the Spring.

We have all heard the quote from Ben Franklin ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ and nothing can be further from the truth as applied to sailboats and their care. Regardless of whether a boat is new or if she has a few seasons on her- preventative maintenance in the fall staves off bigger issues in the care and upkeep of the boat come springtime. This list of 10 Things You Can Do Now to Prevent Headaches in the Spring should help keep your mind at ease over the next few months, and make your spring launch go as smoothly as possible with the key goal being enjoyment- not maintenance:

(1) Make a List While the Thoughts are fresh: Make sure that you make a list in the fall while your recollection is fresh of things to do over the winter months or in the spring. Categorize your list into two major areas:
a. Warranty Item List: These are items that are still covered under warranty. Call your dealer with any items that need attention on the boat prior to next season. Communicate your list in the fall, as we have plenty of time now to plan, order parts, and do the work. Too often- everyone puts their boat away for the winter and then remembers everything a week before being splashed. Add to this- springtime weather challenges, a full springtime commissioning schedule and you will minimize the chances of your issues being handled.
b. Things to Upgrade or Replace: Make a checklist of the things you might want to replace as part of your routine maintenance or upgrade (lines, halyards, light bulbs, head pump, electronics, etc.). Most marine supply stores usually have deals or sales over the winter, and you won’t have to wait in line in the spring to get them at retail.


(2) Proper Winterization of Systems: Make sure you have properly winterized your boat. Whether or not you have hired someone to do it for you, or you are doing it yourself, check and double check all the systems that need winterizing. Don’t forget seldom used pumps like the manual bilge pump, refrigerator drain pump, and transom shower head. You can visit the Karma Yacht Sales website for a list of winterization recommendations.

(3) Protect Your Fuel: Make sure your fuel tank is topped off, and that you have added fuel additive to prevent growth of bacteria in the tank over the winter. Believe it or not, bacterial grows in diesel fuel, and the absence of water or air in the tank helps prevent it.

(4) Don’t Forget the Batteries: Make sure your batteries are fully charged before winter, or remove them completely. Check the fluid levels in them, and top them off if they need it. Fully charged batteries have much less chance to freeze, and will last longer over the boats life. If you have an older boat, remember that the life span on marine type batteries is typically 5 years. If you are thinking of buying new batteries, you can usually get them less expensive in the fall.

(5) Spider control: One mariner’s trick is to place a couple of plastic containers of moth balls in different cabins. Leave them open. The camphor in the moth balls serves as a natural and humane spider repellant. It will make for less ‘intruders’ in the spring.

(6) Running Rigging: Make sure all your halyards are properly secure, or that you remove them completely for the winter. If removing for the winter, use a heavy “tag line” for replacing them in the spring. No one likes to go aloft in the spring to replace an unsecured halyard, or re-feed a halyard because the “tag line” was too week or broke over the winter.

(7) Sails: Just as important as your engine: Take your sails to a local sail maker for a “check and repair” service. This simple inexpensive task could and will add many years of life to your sails, and it also solves the problem of storing them over the winter in a controlled climate (prevents mildew). Ask us for some recommendations.

(8) Don’t Forget me: Clean the boat inside and out when she first comes out of the water. Clean up any water in the bilge or water that may be inside any of the compartments in the boat. This will not only prevent mildew from appearing, it will let you know if you might get any leaks over the winter that can be stoppable. Starting with a dry boat is half the battle. You have one last job left for the spring and more time to enjoy the boat once she is back in the water. Visit the boat a few times over the winter months, just to check every thing over. I’ve seen too many folks who drop off the boat in the fall, only to come back in the spring for their first visit and walk into a nightmare! Remember those sodas from the end of season trip to the boat yard? Take them and any other perishables, food or otherwise off the boat. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve walked aboard boats and found rotting fruit or exploded cans of soft drinks (or beer) in the fridge.

(9) Dry is Good: Mold and Mildew is your enemy. Either remove your interior cushions, or stand them on end inside the boat to help air movement around them during the winter. If removing them, make sure you have a dry storage spot at home to prevent mildew. Leave some sort of air venting available to help circulate the air inside the boat. This will help keep the boat “fresh” smelling. Use desiccant or other drying agents throughout your boat to keep humidity down. Don’t pull your shades or curtains shut. Mold and mildew hate bright light.

(10) Canvas: If you have a dodger, bimini or sail cover- carefully remove them. Fold flat, being careful not to bend or kink the ‘see through panels’. Make sure to remove any loose dirt carefully with a soft brush and soap/water as needed. If there are worn spots. Have them serviced. You can store the panels in one of the cabins of the boat laying flat.

A small amount of time spent now- ensures that your spring commissioning list will be shorter and assist you in getting the boat on the water sooner to take full advantage of a whole season.


Did you find this information useful? Leave me a comment below.