The promise of warm weather already has most of us dreaming of sunny days out on the water. Craig Humphries, has some tips for preventative maintenance to improve your odds of enjoying some stress free hours out on the boat this summer.
I can’t think of many people who REALLY enjoy regular boat maintenance, but it is a sad fact of life that whether your approach is proactive or reactive, maintenance is essential! Some say that owning a boat is 90% work and 10% pleasure, so here are some suggestions for a pre summer spruce up to turn the tables on the 90/10 rule!
While some of these recommendations may be obvious, it is often the simple tasks that get overlooked. By scheduling some maintenance time now, you can avoid ending your day on the water getting towed back home, facing probable divorce and/or some costly maintenance bills!
Don’t be surprised though – because if you go looking for trouble, you quite often find some. Better to deal with issues in the comfort of the marina, than drifting around hoping you don’t hit anything while you try to get the engine started.
Most boat owners arrange a professional engine service at least once a year, which is highly recommendable. However, apart from running out of fuel, the main reason for engine failure is overheating.
More often than not the fault is due to a blocked strainer and the rubber impellor has degraded from sitting over the winter time with no use. One or two paddles have disappeared up into the heat exchanger and the whole event turns unpleasant for all involved.
Close the seacock, clean the strainer basket and change the impellor annually, usually before the start of the season! Have the heat exchanger checked regularly also.
Careful inspection of the quality of the fuel from the tank is a good start to maintaining a healthy propulsion system. Exchanging the fuel filters and checking hoses for leaks is basic stuff that can be undertaken by any boat owner. If you are not comfortable doing the work yourself then get someone in, but perform regular engine checks yourself – a quick glance over and under checking for anything that seems amiss. Watch and listen to the engine so you can quickly identify the start of a problem, which will also pay off in the long term.
There are of course many other areas on a marine engine that should be checked, but I have to draw the line somewhere with this article if I have any hope of you reading it before you nod off!
This is a widely overlooked onboard system. It is often difficult just to access these areas, and it’s rarely a pleasant place to be. Essential parts of the boat are often found in the least accessible places!
For chain/cable systems, perform a visual inspection; looking for frayed cables and areas of wear. Lubricate with light grease; Edson systems recommend Superlube clear grease as a general guide. The rudder post, bearings, seals, quadrant and cable ends should be cleaned and lubricated thoroughly. I recommend this for two reasons; firstly to stop corrosion, and secondly, because if you spend a little time in there looking at everything, you will tend to notice things that ‘don’t look right’. This is a system that should have ZERO tolerance for defects.
Hydraulic steering systems are not without their problems. More often than not a small leak will gradually drain out the reservoir, and you’ll find yourself turning the wheel, but nothing happening! Visual inspections are essential on these systems, keeping the area clean will ensure any leak is noticed quickly.
Digging out the emergency steering is a job no one looks forward to, but I recommend you do this as part of your pre season shake down (if for nothing else but to chip the rust off it from lack of use). This means you will know in the back of your mind that you have it, you know where it is, and you know how to work it.
Mast & Rigging
The mast is a next obvious place to check, and I have found most boat owners have their rigs checked annually by a practising rigger, or by someone who at least knows what they are looking at. Insurance companies sometimes require the mast and rigging to be checked, and the running rigging should not be overlooked, considering just how much damage it is likely to cause if it were to break. I won’t bleat on about sails, reefing lines, sheaves etc, because, as sailors we spend our too much time obsessing about these things already.
Some of you may be surprised to know that most deck hardware companies recommend regular maintenance on winches, cars and other deck gear. I can’t think of many boats that service their winches annually, or even bi-annually for that matter. However, there are some excellent lubrication products on the market that will get things running smoothly with very little effort, as well as protect the gear for many years to come. So get out there and service your deck hardware.
Windows, Deck Hatches & Sika Wipes
This is a favourite topic of mine! It may come as a shock, but all marine sealants get broken down by the UV and harsh marine environment and lose their sealing/bonding capacity over the years. Hatch rubbers get hard and brittle, and no longer seal. Quite often the change of seasons is the final straw, the expansion and contraction from temperature variation causes the sealants to become rigid and break the seal.
There are ways to contain the mess when doing a job like resealing hatches, and deck seams. A lot of people have mixed opinions on the matter, but once again it boils down to practice. I recommend that before you start, purchase a paddlepop, and hang onto the stick when you are finished. A squirty bottle with soapy water will be needed, and don’t scrimp on clean up rags!
Topsides & Stainless
Ok – so buffing and polishing isn’t going to prevent the boat from sinking, but it is important because it will extend the lifespan of the gelcoat before you have to consider a respray.
Keeping the gelcoat polished and stainless steel shining boils down to one thing, – time. Whether you do it, or pay a professional, it is just elbow grease. There are so many products on the market it is daunting to choose one, but all I can promise you is that the more you do it, the quicker you find out which products work best for you and you’ll get a lot quicker at it!
A clean dry bilge, particularly under the engine sump area, usually provides a healthier atmosphere for pumps, electrics and electronics to survive in. Once again, it’s the areas which are awkward to reach which probably deserve the most attention. Perhaps we can talk about this later, as the interior systems deserve an article to themselves.
- Service engine annually (at minimum)
- Close the seacock, clean the engine strainer basket and change the impellor annually
- Have the heat exchanger checked
- Inspect the fuel from your tank
- Change the fuel filters
- Check engine hoses for leaks
- Perform regular engine checks – watch and listen to the engine
- Chain/cable systems – perform a visual inspection. The rudder post, bearings, seals, quadrant and cable ends should be cleaned and lubricated thoroughly.
- Hydraulic systems – keep the area clean and perform regular visual inspections
- Emergency steering – inspect annually
Mast & Rigging
- Annual inspection of mast and running rigging
- Service your deck hardware
Windows, Deck Hatches & Sika Wipes
- Replacing any leaking rubber hatch seals
- Remove leaking windows/hatches and reseal
Topsides & Stainless
- Polish gelcoat and stainless steel
- Maintain a clean dry bilge, particularly under the engine sump area
This article was contributed by Craig Humphries, Multihull Central’s service representative in the SE Qldregion. He specialises in annual and routine maintenance on predominately sailing catamarans. Feel free to contact him on 0409 720 329 to discuss any issues you may have.