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Essential Tips for Boat Maintenance

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Boat maintenance is crucial for keeping your vessel in good working order and ensuring safety on the water. Essential to clean the hull regularly to prevent the buildup of algae and barnacles, which can impair performance and increase fuel consumption. Additionally, periodically inspecting the hull and deck for cracks and other damage is important to address any issues before they become more serious.

Engine maintenance is another critical area. Regularly check and change the oil, inspect the fuel system for leaks or corrosion, and ensure the cooling system is functioning correctly. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for routine maintenance tasks and schedule professional servicing as needed.

Pay attention to the electrical system by checking the battery, wiring, and connections. Corrosion and loose connections can cause electrical failures, so keeping these components clean and secure is vital.

Maintaining the boat’s bilge and bilge pump is also important. Ensure the bilge is clean and free of debris, and test the bilge pump regularly to make sure it operates correctly.

Lastly, don’t forget to inspect and maintain safety equipment, such as life jackets, fire extinguishers, and flares. Regularly check their condition and replace any expired or damaged items to ensure they are ready for use in an emergency.

By staying on top of these maintenance tasks, you can extend the life of your boat and enjoy safer, more reliable outings on the water.

Maintaining Your Boat

In the eight years I worked as a yacht broker, I was continually astounded at the generally low state of maintenance of boats coming on the used market. I was astonished because, had these boats been better maintained, I, as a broker, would have been able to get thousands of dollars more for the sellers of these boats. Since the majority of used sailboats are fiberglass these days, the low state of maintenance is also surprising, because maintenance of fiberglass boats is simply a cleaning job. It is so easy to keep the boat appealing. Just keep it clean!

To go into this more specifically, the following is an idea of the maintenance program for a fiberglass auxiliary sailboat of recent vintage in an area where the boat is customarily stored or laid up on shore for the winter.

Read also: How to Choose Your First Boat?

In the fall, after the yard has hauled the boat and set her in her cradle and after the engine, head, and water system have been winterized:

  • Strip the boat of everything movable and take it home (boat owners should have station wagons or vans).
  • Send the mattress covers out to be dry cleaned.
  • Send the sails to a sailmaker for washing and have him check for and make any repairs needed.
  • Soak in fresh water the halyards, sheets, blocks, and anything else that will benefit.
  • Dry, coil, lubricate (blocks and metal gear), and store the above items in a clean, dry place.
  • Clean up all the other gear as appropriate.
  • Have the fire extinguishers recharged if the gauge shows low pressure.
  • Fill the fuel tank and add a pint of dry gas or fungus inhibitor if diesel.
  • Some weekend when the weather is decent, go down to the boat and thoroughly clean the inside from bow to stern. This includes the engine, under the floorboards, and the bilges. Go after the stove; get the rings out of the bottom of the icebox. Before you leave the boat, open all the lockers (the drawers should have been taken home, as well as the lid of the icebox).
  • Build a frame and cover the boat. Some nice weekend go down and, if local vandalism is low enough, take the swashboards out of the companionway and open the ports so that the boat can have a good airing under her winter cover. If the cover is not close fitting, leave the screens in or you may find a litter of kittens in the spring.
  • If the mast has been taken out of the boat and is accessible, check (or have someone knowledgeable check) the shrouds, tangs, and terminal fittings for wear and possible replacement. Then go home, sit by the fire, read boat-goodie catalogs, and dream about the season to come.

Now, the above doesn’t have to be drudgery. As a matter of fact, most people enjoy it. Many find going down to the boatyard a great way of getting out of many homeside chores that are not nearly as much fun as messing around with the boat.

In the spring, get the cover off, dismantle the frame, and, starting from the top of the cabin, sand or chemically clean the exterior teak, hose the boat down, and scrub the decks and cockpit. Then:

  • Compound and wax the hull.
  • Paint the boottop, then the bottom.
  • Get the sails from the sailmaker and the covers from the cleaners if you didn’t do it in the winter.
  • Truck all the stuff down to the boat and reassemble the interior.
  • Tell the yard to launch and rig the boat and commission the engine.

During the season, as you get the chance, hose the boat off with fresh water, including the lower mast areas and the shrouds and turnbuckles. Keep an eye on the condition of the bottom and, if it starts to get foul, either haul and clean or swim and clean. It is absolutely amazing how much effect on the speed and handling even the least amount of growth has. This last is especially true of the propeller. Just a few barnacles will virtually destroy its effectiveness.

Key Points for Buying and Selling a BoatBefore selling, begin as in the fall. It’s not worth hundreds of dollars, it’s worth thousands.

Meanwhile, enjoy it!

Preparing a Stock Boat for Offshore

Recently a stock production sailboat came into our dock. She was built by one of the major builders of production boats, and what attracted my attention was the baggy-wrinkle chafing gear on her aft lower shrouds, at the places where a mainsail might rub when the mainsail was well out, as on a broad reach or run.

Normally, inshore cruisers don’t use this chafe-preventing gear because the boat does not sail for lengthy periods on any one point of sail. Offshore boats, however, often do, and I wondered if this boat had, perhaps, spent any significant time offshore.

I was really intrigued because this particular model was one in which I had contemplated a trip to Bermuda with my family; I had put my plans aside when we decided to purchase a house. I still felt, though, that this model and most of the other boats from this manufacturer were very strongly made and capable of offshore cruising with minor modifications.

Since it appeared from the registration number painted on the bow that this boat had been sailed from Seattle to New York, I was most curious to see what modifications this person, who had done what I had only contemplated, might have made to the boat.

To my amazement, he had made very few changes. Where I would have provided shutters for the large ports in the main cabin, he had not. The companionway opening in this particular model comes to within 4 inches of the cockpit sole. A sea filling the cockpit could easily flood the cabin and seriously endanger the boat.

My plans had called for the construction of a drop-in swashboard of double the thickness of the board supplied with the boat. The board would have been 1 inch thick by 18 inches high, equal to the height of the seats above the cockpit sole.

But this gent, who had actually sailed the long trip, had used the standard 1/2 × 18-inch board and had not made provision for fastening it positively in place.

Now, it did not seem that anyone could have made a trip of this length without running into bad times. And, so, I examined the boat carefully in the areas around the chain plates and mast step. No signs of strain. I checked the bond of the bulkheads to the hull. They appeared perfect.

The boat launch
The boat is ready to go to sea
Source: Freeimages.com

What I saw was a boat pretty nearly as it had come from the factory. The serial number revealed that it was one of the first twenty of these boats built; one of the first of a boat whose numbers eventually reached over 1 000. The boat had been in use since 1971, and at the date I looked at it, in the spring of 1976, she was obviously wearing her age and experience with equal aplomb.

As I looked over this boat, I found that the only modifications the owner had made were additional handrails on the inside and the leading of several halyards to the cockpit so it would not be necessary to go on deck to lower the headsails in bad weather. He had also fitted a vented charcoal heater, which I am sure was a great pleasure in the typical damp and chill of Puget Sound.

As I sat and thought about this boat, I realized that, while she seemed to prove my judgment about the merits of her manufacturer, she was still some way from being prepared in a way I would feel proper for offshore sailing.

To begin with, it seems to me that, if you are going offshore, the boat has to be prepared to survive one of the ultimate tests of a boat – being rolled completely over in high seas. I have talked with people who have been through this experience and find that the things that give way in a rollover are, primarily, the hatches. You should, therefore, carefully consider all the hatches on the boat, both from the point of view of their watertightness and for the possibility of a sea’s catching one and tearing it right off.

What hatches were used on many production boats?

The new aluminum and Plexiglas hatches now used on many production boats seem a step in the right direction. I particularly like the ones that have an additional supporting bar down the middle and are not just a frame with a span of Plexiglas a la the average window.

For the older type of fiberglass hatch, I suggest either replacement with the aluminum-Plexiglas type or construction of a sturdy cover that could be bolted over the hatch in the event of really severe weather.

The sliding companionway hatch on the boat from Seattle was held in place by substantial metal runners fastened to the cabin top by substantial screws fairly closely spaced. For offshore work, I would replace these screws and bolt the rail through the cabin top.

I would also replace the teak strips that held the swashboards with thick metal strips bolted through the entryway. I would cut a top swashboard from 1-inch-thick Plexiglas and provide an inside brace to hold the companionway shut. In this way, during really severe weather the boat could be sealed and it would still be possible to see out. Come to think of it, though, under these conditions you might not want to see what was happening!

The boat from Seattle did not have shut-off valves on the cockpit drains, and I think I would install them. That way, if a hose popped loose at a bad time, an immediate fix could be applied by shutting the valve. Otherwise, a wooden plug would have to be driven into the opening; this would take more time and allow in more water than if the valve were there and ready for use.

To pass on to more fundamental considerations, it seems to me that if a boat has a hull-deck joint like that shown in Figure 24 «Manufacturing of Fiberglass Boats and Design FeaturesSketches of typical methods of attaching hull and deck», the minimum thing to do would be to withdraw the screws one by one and replace them with bolts or install bolts between the screws. Before I would go to this labor, however, I would carefully consider the thickness of the hull at this point and the breadth in the turned-over edge (flange) and compare it with other boats to decide whether the best course might not be to sell the boat and start from a stronger fundamental base.

I’m pretty sure I would not go offshore in a boat with a hulldeck attachment made in the manner of Figure 24 «Sketches of typical methods of attaching hull and deck» below. This joint has no turned-over flange to give it rigidity and, it seems to me, must work from side to side more or less violently, depending upon the state of the sea. Not only will this make the joint open and leak, it also seems to me that the rivets must eventually break or tear through the fiberglass.

Naturally, there are many other considerations that go into offshore sailing. But I think you must make a start with the fundamental boat, and that she must be as strong as you can realistically make her. Just to give you something to think about, imagine your boat rolled over and hanging upside down the next time you look at the engine mounts, fuel tank harness, battery tie-downs, and that Herreshoff seventy-five-pound storm anchor you have lying in the bilge. Might be a good time to tie it down.


To me, the most boring job on a sailboat is steering. I have found that, after about twenty minutes or so, I get tired of having to sit and basically do nothing. After all, if the sails are properly trimmed for the course, steering consists of making very minor movements of the wheel or tiller – very nearly doing nothing.

My idea of the way to go sailing is to get the boat on course, adjust the sails and centerboard (if the boat has one), walk away from the helm, and, while keeping a good lookout, putter about the boat doing the multitude of little jobs that always need doing on How to Choose the Perfect Sailboat: Tips on Selection, Ownership, and Alternativesany sailboat. My very favorite thing is to sit in the cockpit with a cup of tea or a beer and just watch the world go by as the boat slides along, steering herself.

Now, to achieve the above idyll requires either:

  1. that the boat be fitted with an auto pilot, which uses electricity and steers the boat to a compass heading by means of a built-in compass, or;
  2. that the boat be fitted with what is called a wind vane self-steerer.

This device steers the boat at a constant, predetermined angle to the wind. It is not usable when the boat is under power and, so, is more limited in usefulness than an auto pilot, which can steer under either wind or power.

On the other hand, a well-engineered and constructed wind vane steerer is simpler and more rugged and it does not draw power from the ship’s batteries. So, it is the preferred method of auto-helming used by long-distance sailors and serious, coast-wise cruisers.

The only objection I can see to the wind vane self-steerers is that they are usually not very pretty and, since they have to be mounted at the stern of the boat, do not always enhance her looks. Thought is being given to this aspect of the vane gear and there are several models now on the market that are noticeable improvements over the early items, which were usually amateurishly built and very spindly looking.

As with most other things about boats, vane gear is not cheap. The unit on the 40-footer on which I regularly sail cost $700 in 1972 and the owner of the boat did the installation himself. Some of the newer and nicer-looking models now coming on the market run about $2 000. Still, if you have gotten to the point where you find steering a chore, look into these.


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Июнь, 28, 2024 46 0
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