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develop cracks and extra 5 litres or so of
locking rings tend to fall drinking water in a
out. If you have plastic separate container.
covers over the adjusters, Make sure there
take them off periodically are no abnormal
for inspection. With a levels of water in
pair of binoculars check the bilges, and test
out the fastenings aloft all the bilge pumps.
or better still get in the Are the batteries fully
bosun’s chair and get close and personal charged? We will
with them. While you are up there check need to perform the
the function of the navigation lights. daily engine checks
(listed above) and
Rudder Loss: 
check that they run.
This is more serious than it sounds, it
Is the life buoy array
could cause the loss of the boat. All of
ok? Are the MOB
the components of the steering system
light batteries good?
should be checked visually if possible. Bolts
Is there a throwing
and pintles wear. Nuts fall off bolts. Bolts
line in the cockpit?
corrode. Cables and ropes in the system
Are the life jackets
chafe and wear through. Electric drive
and life lines on board? We should check that all the instrumentation is working and use
motors pull away from their fastenings.
the VHF to test its function. Can we find the flare pack, torch, tools, engine spares etc…
Hydraulic fluid leaks from reservoirs and
Charts, Almanac, pilot books etc should all be on board. The list to check is extensive,
hose unions.
even for a short trip away, however it’s the attention to detail that enables a good seaman
to be self sufficient. (Please note that there may be other items not mentioned here that will
Make sure there is a secondary emergency
also need attention. All boats are different. No one list suits all boats).
steering system onboard if at all possible.
We should already have a good idea of the weather forecast because we have been
Centreboard lifting gear and folding float
monitoring the weather for a few days prior to boarding.
hinge mechanisms will
also need checking for
wear and chafe from
time to time.

Before we leave we need a
Before we leave we need a passage
plan, with key points written down.
passage plan, with key points
Included should be… Time of departure,
destination, expected time of arrival (ETA)
written down. Included should
and any notable points on route. Hazards
Life rafts and life jackets
be… Time of departure,
and tidal gates. Tidal stream directions
should be serviced
and High & low water times. It is now a
regularly. Flares should
destination, expected time of legal requirement for pleasure yachts on
have the expiry date
arrival (ETA) and any notable
passage to have a written down passage
plan and a filled in Log Book while at sea.
points on route. Hazards and
In the event of any incident they can be
If you own your own
tidal gates. Tidal stream
checked. If you have none you may be
boat you will be in
considered negligent.
a better position to directions and High & low
diagnose and fix
Electronic plotters, GPS and instrument
problems if you have
water times.
or develop an intimate
knowledge of all of the
systems onboard.

readouts should all be regarded as
dispensable. You should strive to learn
sufficient skills to be able to navigate your
vessel without them. One day you may have to. The same thing can be said about the
Remember proactive maintenance is better
engine on a sailing yacht as it will fail you at some point.
than reactive maintenance.
If you are at sea and something breaks or fails to operate, it is important to fix the problem
Let’s assume that the above checks have
as soon as conditions allow. The failure may have a knock on effect to another component
all been accomplished, perhaps during the
that may cause an even more serious problem. This in turn could affect the seaworthiness
winter lay up period. It’s Friday afternoon
of the boat. This is sometimes called the domino effect as more and more systems get
and we set sail tomorrow for a coastal
wiped out all because of a simple failure that was not attended to.
I once ended up with a completely flooded engine compartment to the top of the engine.
Pre-departure checks:
Even the start battery was flooded. If the domestic battery bank had been in that bay I
would have lost all power to all systems. The result would have been a complete wipe
We arrive with our kit at the boat. Do a
out of engine and electrics. The cause of the flood was a newly fitted Autopilot that was
visual check….Is she laying to her waterline
misbehaving, which took my attention thus allowing a propeller shaft leak to go unnoticed.
marks? Has a seagull damaged any of the
This was compounded by the automatic electric bilge pump failing to operate…..
mast head
array? Do
we have
Next month we look at Navigation, Passage
fuel, water,
gas, food?
planning, Plotters, Laptop navigation etc.
Take an
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