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With the boat ashore for the winter it is time to do a hull inspection – the annual checks. Are there any scratches and chips in the gelcoat? What about the rudder and keel? Are there any signs of osmosis? Do you have records and checklists to help ensure no jobs are forgotten?

All vessels and equipment need inspecting on a regular basis.  Hull inspections – the annual checks – need to be at the top of the list. The best time to do this is shortly after the boat comes ashore for the winter. This should leave plenty of time to do any necessary work while the boat is ashore. 

Hull inspection – the annual checks

It is advisable to carry out an annual inspection of the hull below the waterline on any boat to ascertain if deterioration is taking place or not. When the boat is out of the water, do visual inspections of the hull to check for distortion and hull damage.  Different hull materials have their own strengths and weaknesses, with particular things to look out for.  For example, composite hulls need to be checked for scratches and chips in the gelcoat, impact cracks and osmosis.  Aluminium and steel hulls need checking for signs of corrosion and electrolytic pitting in the plating.  Wooden hulls need checking for splits in the timbers, wet and dry rot and that the caulking is in good condition.  Defects in painted hulls can indicate problems underneath, so splits in the paintwork are often the first thing to look out for.

Keel joints

Keel joints and bolts need to be checked especially carefully.  If in any doubt ask a specialist to look at the keel. Keel bands on motor boats need a close check to ensure there is no wear in the fastenings.

Checking the rudder

Check the rudder for wear and damage, particularly the bearings which need to be checked for up and down as well as sideways play.  Transom hung rudders connect to the hull via pintles and these should be checked for wear and corrosion.

Propellers and shaft bearings

Propellers need to be checked for damage to the blades, including pitting and blade tip damage.  The shaft bearings need to be checked for up and down movement plus fore and aft movement and the bracket that supports the prop shaft also needs checking for wear.  Also check if the prop anode needs replacing to help ensure the prop stays in good condition.

Keeping records and making checklists

If in doubt when inspections and servicing should be done for your vessel a good place to start is to read instruction manuals. It is also worth contacting manufacturers and consulting your surveyor.  Then make up a plan to ensure you keep up to date with the work that needs carrying out.  Keep a record of your boat’s history.  If your boat has had several owners, get in contact with them to find out when work might have been done to the boat in the past.  You might also be able to access old surveys if you don’t already have them. While manuals may not be as entertaining as boating magazines or online forums, the information will be specific to your equipment and vessel.  As you get to know your boat you will hopefully end up with a set of rules and standards best suited to it that respect its limitations but won’t hinder your enjoyment.  There is plenty to think about. Many experienced skippers make a number of check lists to suit their vessel, to help ensure no jobs are forgotten when the boat is ashore over the winter.

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