This is our second post in a series intended for new boat owners and any existing owners who want some help and advice on keeping records and doing checks.
Keeping boat records
A boat’s records should provide information about maintenance schedules, when major work was done and when equipment was replaced or added to the boat. Without this information you are left guessing when things are likely to need replacing in the future and also what the costs are likely to be.
Keeping detailed records will help you when it comes to ordering spare parts, buying new sails, knowing when equipment is likely to need replacing and being able to estimate what your future costs are going to be. For example, if the boat had two new batteries five years ago then they are likely going to need replacing within one or two years maximum. If you know the standing rigging was replaced 8 years ago and it appears to still be in good condition, then you can expect another couple of years life from it, but not 5 or 10 years.
If there are gaps in the records, then contacting previous owners can help you build a more complete picture of what has happened in the past.
Doing regular checks
It is a good idea to get into the habit of checking over a boat on a regular basis, throughout the boating season. It is also important to deal with any minor issues or obvious defects as soon as they appear rather than allowing a situation to worsen.
These regular checks need not take up lots of time and if you make them part of your routine each time you visit the boat then under normal circumstances a few minutes is all that’s required if everything is in good order.
For example, all owners of boats with inboard engines that have raw water cooling systems know to check whether water is flowing out through the exhaust before setting off. They should also know that doing a slightly more thorough engine check might reveal the alternator belt needs tightening, or the raw water filter needs cleaning. Both can be fixed quickly and prevent a more serious situation from arising.
Likewise, a check on deck might reveal a halyard is showing obvious signs of chafe, a hairline crack has appeared at the base of a deck fitting, or perhaps a sail’s stitching is damaged. In such cases, a quick repair will be much easier to do than leaving a potentially more serious situation to occur. This approach applies to all vessels, whatever their age and type and is really just a question of common sense.
More thorough checks
More thorough checks can be done less frequently, depending on how much the boat is being used and if, for example, it has been out in heavy seas, when things get shaken up and fittings can become loose. This can apply to the connectivity between electrical components and circuitry for example.
At the end of the boating season, when the boat comes ashore and before it goes back in the water are the times to do still more thorough checks. This is time when rig and hull inspections can be carried out by professionals where necessary. Engines need more thorough inspections at this time, when heat exchanger tube stacks can be cleaned and exhaust elbows checked for corrosion blocking the flow of the raw water cooling.
Research and advice
There is plenty of reference information out there on boat maintenance. In fact, you could spend your entire life reading boating magazine articles, manuals, books and watching how-to videos about refitting boats on YouTube. The challenge is to find the specific piece of information you may be searching for that is relevant to your particular boat plus all its equipment and fittings. If you come across articles that relate directly to your boat and its equipment, hold on to them. Examples of these might include how to service a winch, bleed a diesel engine fuel system, service a seacock or trouble shoot a faulty vhf radio.
Operator manuals prove invaluable and if your boat does not have them aboard, then it is normally possible to download pdf copies and print them out for your files. Having the correct manuals will also be a help when ordering spare parts.
Reading up all such information is one thing, but when it comes to fixing and mending a boat then don’t be afraid to ask others for advice about how best to deal with a challenging job. By talking with others who have dealt with the same problem it can help you to decide whether this will be something you can do yourself or not.
A final tip, being informed will help when getting quotes to do a job and also help you get a fairer deal.
You can read the first of our Boat Ownership posts here.