Preparing Your Yacht for the Sailing Season

Check the anti-fouling

It can often seem a chore to prepare your yacht for the start of the new sailing season. However, if attention isn’t given to maintenance before you take to the water, it could result in costly repair bills and inconvenience. Read our tips on how to keep your yacht in top condition.

Every year, check the anti-fouling. If new coats are required, source the paint from a chandlery.

Up Arrow

Inspect the sacrificial anodes

The sacrificial anodes on the hull or shaft do erode away, so may need replacing. Check they are bonded in to the boat’s circuits appropriately: an anode that never gets any smaller is not working. Also check that you have the correct anodes for fresh or salt water. Freshwater anodes disappear very quickly in salt water, while salt water anodes are ineffective in fresh water. If coming to the end of their lifespan, don’t leave them – the corrosive consequences could be severe. Also check the fastenings.

Up Arrow

Service your engine

Inspect the filters, impeller, air filter, oil change in engine and gearbox, control cables and linkages, plus the stern gland. Diesel yachts will need their glow-plugs testing as they tend to lose power over a period of time.

Up Arrow

Examine the standing rigging

The stays, shrouds, terminals and rigging screws can bear large loads from the rig, both when under sail and when not.

Sometimes, there are warning signs before failure occurs, such as broken wire strands; missing or distorted split and clevis pins; obvious cracks in end swages; bent or corroded talurit splices; or heavy stains or corrosion or small cracks in the fittings. Ensure the rigging screws and chain plates are angled so they’re in a direct line with the shrouds and stays, and that they are fitted with appropriate toggles and rigging links. Do not use normal shackles in any standing rigging.

Also check the rigging screws are attached with split pins rather than split rings, and are locked with either wire or more split pins.

Up Arrow

Look at the running rigging

As the running rigging is often under tremendous pressure, it’s vital to inspect it regularly. Wash and replace the components if they look worn or are beginning to fray.

Up Arrow

Ensure your electrics are working and calibrated

The radio, Global Positioning System (GPS), logs and depth sounders should all be working and calibrated properly. Be especially careful if you have removed the log impellor the previous autumn: remember to put it back, or the boat may sink when refloated. If it wasn’t removed, take care that the boat lift slings do not damage it when re-launching. 

Up Arrow

Inspect your skin fittings

Check that the seacocks work, and are proper marine grade bronze, DZR or Marelon nylon, rather than just plastic or brass. Operate them frequently to avoid them seizing up. Tapered softwood bungs should also be tied to each seacock as an emergency plug.

Up Arrow

Check your hoses and clips

Check all hoses are not perished, holed, corroded or chafed through. This includes those that only run within the boat, such as heating ducts, black or grey water pipe connections, fuel and gas lines, and freshwater feeds. Clips on all seacocks need to be marine-grade stainless, as domestic steel clips will rust through very quickly.

Up Arrow

Refill the water tanks

If at the end of last season you drained down the tanks, switched off the water pump and left taps in the open position, you will need to reverse the process.

Turn the taps off, switch the water pump on, go to each tap in turn and run water through it. Start with the taps closest to the pump and work your way through to the one furthest away – this’ll push out any air locks. Drain any water in the tank out and refill before drinking. You can purify the system with dilute Milton. Water that tastes or smells strange needs investigation. Old GRP water tanks can suffer from osmosis, or can be contaminated by fuel or sewage.

Up Arrow

Ensure the gas and ventilation system is safe

The increasing use of rechargeable electronic devices has introduced a dangerous new threat. Many boats now run their engines to act as battery chargers. Poor or inadequate ventilation in the boat could result in several tragic accidents from carbon monoxide poisoning, so use a simple domestic carbon monoxide alarm.

Gas piping has a service life of five years, and has its date stamped on it. If yours is out of date, or worse still, has no date on it, replace it now. It’s important to get a specialist in for this.

See more in our article about gas safety on your boat and the video below.

Up Arrow

Check life-saving equipment

Modern lifejackets are specialised devices that require proper maintenance. If in any doubt, refer to the manufacturers or an appointed agent. Be aware of the dangers and limitations of harness clips and length of safety lines.

Lifejackets should be safely stored away, yet within easy reach. They need to be adjusted for each crew member before you need them, and crew members need to be informed of where they are stowed, and informed of the boat’s policy on use of them, ie in what conditions and situations their use is required.

Flares and fire extinguishers need to be in date, and sufficient for the proposed cruising range. The life-raft needs to be serviced and secured where it can be released as required, and all crew need to be briefed in its use.

Up Arrow

Update your charts

Whether you are using an electronic chart plotter or paper charts, make sure they are updated. If switching from electronic to paper in everyday use, make sure your position is based on the same geodetic system, e.g. WGS84 is standard for the GPS.

Up Arrow

Check your yacht trailer and storage cradle

Don’t forget the trailer – check that the tyre pressures are adequate. Heavily loaded tyres on trailers may require far higher pressures than your car. Wheel bearings need to be greased regularly, especially if the trailer is immersed in salt water, however infrequently. Check for hidden corrosion inside trailer framework. Many trailers are far older than you think.

Up Arrow

Examine your lifelines and guardrails

Check that the lifelines running through the deck stanchions are in good condition. These wear heavily where they run through the stanchions, are used as a handhold by all and sundry, and are often coated in plastic, making any faults invisible. Swing hard on them to test. Ask yourself if they can stop a 100kg crewman falling the width of the boat onto them.

Up Arrow

Getting your yacht back on the water after lockdown

Due to the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it may be months since you took a boat trip out of the marina and went a bit further afield. Here are some specific checks and reminders for when you are able to get back on the water.

Please continue to follow Government guidelines and restrictions for the location of your craft as well as where you live.

  1. Check safety equipment, including lifejackets and flares, and have life rafts and grab bags within easy reach.
  2. Check all instruments are working correctly.
  3. Check water levels, oil levels, raw water filters, seacocks are open, any signs of leaks, drive belt, stern glands are greased and battery switches are in the correct position.
  4. Research and prepare for any crossing of shipping lanes and familiarise yourself with any navigational restrictions. If you have one, utilise a radar system alongside visual and heading compass checks.
  5. Research the destination harbour so you know what to expect upon arrival as this could be different from usual at the moment. Google Maps and pilot books are good tools for getting a “mind’s eye” picture to help you navigate when you get there.
  6. Investigate alternative destinations should you need to change course for any reason.
  7. Check the cruising range in your insurance policy – identify how far you are planning to sail, and ensure you are covered for this route and if there are any restrictions.
  8. Don’t forget to carry the right documentation – your proof of liability cover is essential for any voyage.
  9. Don’t be afraid to cancel your sailing plans if the weather changes unexpectedly, even if you’ve made exciting plans to return to the water.

Read further guidance and updates from the Royal Yachting Association.

Up Arrow

Yacht insurance from Towergate

For information on our yacht insurance check out our dedicated yacht insurance page or call 0344 892 1987 to speak to a specialist adviser.

Up Arrow

About the author

Adam Summersby is a respected leader with 11 years’ varied experience in niche personal and commercial lines insurance, including caravan, site operators and excess reimbursement, with proficiency in leadership, sales and account management.