This is always an exciting time of year – the days are longer, the sun is shining, sometimes! But, most importantly, boats are out in the water!
It can be easy to forget some of the essentials of trouble-free sailing. Here are five of the most important:
You probably removed the transducers from their housings before the boat was lifted out in the autumn – but make sure that the blanks are put back in before you are relaunched – you’d be surprised to find just how much water can come in from a forgotten transducer!
Engine hoses, seacocks and sink and cockpit drains are common things to service or replace in the winter – but make sure that you re-connect any removed hoses before your boat goes back in the water. It’s also a good idea to go round and close any seacocks before you get put back in the water, and to lift any hatch covers and floorboards that prevent viewing the bilges and seacocks. This means you can check for any ingress of water immediately after launch.
There are few things more embarrassing than an engine that doesn’t want to start while your boat is in the slings – and few workers under more time pressure than crane operators. With this in mind, it’s worth spending a few minutes making some simple checks to ensure your engine will start first time. Use a multimeter to ensure your batteries are charged before the boat is relaunched. If you’ve serviced the engine, make sure that all engine parts have been re-attached. If you really want to make sure, test-start the engine ashore – but make sure to give it a raw-water feed and check with the boatyard that they are happy to have engines run while ashore. Also, check beforehand that you’re in a secure cradle, and ensure that the engine stays out of gear.
Rudder and steering gear
With the boat out of the water, double-check the rudder’s attachments. If it’s a transom hung rudder – that’s the gudgeons and pintles, or for those with rudder posts – check the gland and bearings for any excessive noise or movement. It’s also worth checking the steering gear, like the linkages, gears etc., to check that it has a full range of movement and that everything has been re-attached properly.
While you may have done a rigging check during the winter, before launching is the ideal time for a final check of your boat’s rigging. Check all split pins are present in the rigging screws, and lubricate bottle screws so that they don’t seize and can be adjusted if necessary. Check your furler works, and use a kettle full of hot water to free any stuck sheaves and blocks. Finally, check running rigging for chafing, UV-damage and other issues that can cause it to fail throughout the year.