FEATURE: Getting your boat ready for 2024

After a long and dismal winter, the sailing and boating season beckons Islanders once more with the promise of crystal-clear waters, brisk sea breezes, and enjoying life afloat.

However, before setting sail, it’s crucial to ensure your boat is sea-ready, and give it some much-needed TLC to make it ready for all the adventures ahead. Here are a few essential tips for preparing your vessel for the upcoming season.

General Boat Preparation: Many boats on the Island have spent the winter out of water, sitting quietly in boatyards and driveways; others have had a peaceful time in the water. Either way, now is the ideal time to perform a thorough inspection and undertake any maintenance tasks needed. Doing this before the season starts can significantly reduce time spent out of the water later, ensuring you make the most of those precious sunny days.

Hull inspection: Inspect the hull and deck for any signs of damage or wear. Look for cracks, blistering, dents or delamination that may have occurred during the off-season. Early detection and repair can save you from future headaches and bigger costs. Leak test hatches and replace seals as necessary - a damp boat is a miserable boat. This is also an opportune time to apply or renew anti-fouling paint, to prevent marine growth that can slow your boat down and cause long-term damage. Make sure hatches and slippery surfaces on deck have anti-slip tape on them in good condition. A good wash followed by a couple of coats of wax can protect your boat’s surface from the salty sea air. A clean hull not only looks appealing but glides better through water.

Engine and battery check: After months of inactivity, your engine needs a thorough check. Change the oil and replace filters. Ensure that the cooling system is flushed and filled with fresh coolant. Check belts for wear and tension, and inspect fuel lines for cracks or leaks. The propeller should be tight and blade bearings smooth when rotated. Ensure the battery is fully charged and connections are clean and tight. Fire up your engine, heating and generator if you have one, and make sure they are performing properly. Ensuring your engine starts reliably is crucial for both enjoyment and safety.

Electrical systems: Test all electrical systems including navigational and onboard lights, communication equipment, and other electronics. Replace batteries if necessary to ensure everything is in working order. Update any software or charts needed for your GPS devices and ensure your VHF radio is in good working order.

Annual life-jacket service: Your safety is paramount. Your life-jackets are not a fashion accessory – they are a vital piece of safety equipment. They might appear pristine on the outside, but it’s the internal components such as gas cannisters and firing mechanisms that will keep you afloat in dire situation. They need annual servicing to guarantee their reliability. Postponing this check-up could lead to tragic consequences when you least expect it.

Safety equipment: Go through your safety gear with a fine-tooth comb. Beyond life-jackets, ensure all safety equipment, such as flares, fire extinguishers, and first aid kits, are within expiry dates and accessible. It’s also an excellent time to familiarise yourself and your crew with safety procedures and the location of equipment.

Sails and rigging: For sailors, inspecting the sails and rigging for wear and tear is essential. Look for frayed ropes, damaged sails, and ensure all fittings are secure. Inspect and lubricate winches, hinges, and latches. It’s much easier to repair or replace these components now than to have them fail when you’re out at sea.

Cleaning and ventilation: A clean boat not only looks better and makes you a proud owner, it can also help identify any underlying issues that need addressing. Inspect every nook and cranny of your boat, paying particular attention to bilges, storage lockers, and any areas prone to mould or mildew. Remove any accumulated dirt or mould. Adequate ventilation is crucial to prevent dampness and maintain air quality inside the cabin. Also check your tools and emergency spares and clean or replace as necessary.

Get out on the water: Your boat can only really be considered season-ready once it has been out on the water. Take a test trip as this is when the boat will show any stresses and strains and you will find any undiscovered issues. You don’t want to discover them when you are out at sea or many miles from home.

Taking the time to properly prepare your boat for the season ahead can significantly enhance your sailing experience, and help you learn more about your boat. Why not prepare a boat-specific checklist as you do your pre-launch tasks this year to make the job easier in future years.

Doing these tasks every year not only ensures the safety of you and your passengers, they also preserve the longevity and performance of your vessel. The advertisers in this feature will be only to happy to give you advice and help you and your beloved boat get ready for the season ahead.

Happy sailing!