Check before you push the boat out

With the new season about to start, Yacht Insurers, Navigators & General are keen to remind owners of the need to check their craft and equipment thoroughly in order to avoid costly and time-consuming problems during the season. As well as the potential for loss or damage to your boat and possible loss of use, there is also the more serious possibility of injury to yourself or others as a result.

Every year, Navigators handle many claims, which reasonably thorough pre-season checks could have prevented, and in some cases, potential disaster could have been averted for the cost of a few pounds or even pence! To try and help you avoid some of the more common problems, Navigators have provided the following advice based on first hand experience of what can (and does) go wrong if; in the natural enthusiasm to get afloat, this important preparation is missed out.

Hull and Machinery

Perhaps the most graphic examples under this heading involve boats being launched where hull fittings have not been replaced following removal during the winter! In one case this occurred due simply to a misunderstanding between the owner and Boatyard, each of which had assumed a transducer had been replaced by the other. It was only apparent that something was wrong when they saw the craft start to settle immediately after launching. In a similar example, a drain plug in the keel of a yacht wasn't replaced, with much the same result after craning in.

Another common cause of flooding, and possibly sinking, is the failure of damaged or perished hoses, or clips securing hoses connected to sink fittings. Mild steel or electroplated clips are particularly susceptible to corrosion and should be replaced with stainless steel clips if at all suspect.

Sacrificial anodes and other cathodic protection should of course be checked and replaced if necessary prior to the new season. Propellers can be the first casualty of electrolysis and may be lost due to a corroded locking pin.

It is essential to ensure that engines are properly serviced and re-commissioned following winterisation. In another recent case, an engine compartment flooded due to the covers not having been replaced on water pumps after impellers had been removed during the winter.

Stem glands should also be checked to ensure packing is adequate to allow plenty of adjustment and that the gaiters and gaiter clips are in good condition. If appropriate, check outdrive gaiters and clips.


Catastrophic rig failures can often be traced to something as simple as a split pin or clevis pin missing or improperly fined to a rigging terminal. As pins can easily be knocked out accidentally, these should be checked regularly, and crew asked to report any missing or suspect components. Make sure bottle screws and threaded studs are properly locked with wires, split pins or similar

Another common cause of rig failure is fatigue of "T" terminals and although not as easy to check, they should be inspected for cracks whenever the mast is stepped. Standing rigging should also be checked for wear, kinks, and any broken strands of wire, particularly near the terminals. Forestay stemhead fittings are another vulnerable point, especially if no flexible toggle is fitted.

From an insurance viewpoint, boat owners are expected to maintain their vessel and rig to a seaworthy condition, and as a result, rig failure due simply to wear or corrosion would not normally be covered under a Marine Insurance Policy. It is perhaps even more important therefore to have rigging inspected regularly, and to replace any suspect components, particularly if your yacht is subject to the rigours of racing.

If your vessel has a furling head sail system, make sure the sail is well secured to ensure it doesn't unfurl whilst the boat is left unattended, particularly if strong winds are forecast. Fit additional ties for added security if in any doubt!

Safety Equipment

As one of the most basic and essential items of safety equipment for any yacht, distress flares should be checked to ensure that they are still in date, and are easily accessible. Navigators are aware of one instance of flares being kept in a nice dry watertight metal canister which unfortunately proved impossible to open when required due to corrosion?

Lifejackets and buoyancy aids should be included in pre-season checks, as should safety harnesses.

Fire fighting equipment and gas detection systems (if fined) need to be in fully effective condition. Make sure fire extinguishers are fully charged and adequate for the size of the vessel.

Check gas hoses and fittings for wear or perishing and ensure any gas cylinders are properly secured so that they will not break free in rough weather.

Obviously there are many other potential hazards which a good visual inspection may well identify and prevent from becoming something which could seriously upset your season! Hopefully, this information will help you to avoid some of the most common problems Navigators encounter and to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable summer afloat.

Top ten check list for a safe season

  1. Through-hull fittings in place and watertight
  2. Hoses and clips in good condition
  3. Cathodic protection in place
  4. Engines and controls serviced and ready for use
  5. Sterngland packing, seals or gaiters checked
  6. All clevis or split pins in rigging in place
  7. Standing rigging checked for wear, kinks or broken strands.
  8. Mast and rigging checked for any signs of corrosion
  9. Distress flares and other safety' equipment up to date and accessible.
  10. Gas tubing and fittings secure and in good order