Sailing is one of the absolute best ways to travel and see the world. There’s no shortage of great ports and coasts to explore and sailboats offer an unmatched sense of freedom. However, whether you’re cruising the Meditteranean or sailing across the blue waters of the Caribbean, your boat will need regular maintenance. Learning your boat and staying on top of its maintenance will make your time aboard relaxing and fun.
Know Your Boat
Every boat has its quirks. Whether you’ve owned it for decades or are renting it for a week-long sailing vacation, understanding your boat is key to enjoying your trip. The easiest way to get to know your boat is by breaking it down into systems. The engine, the electronics, the mast and rigging, are all examples of systems aboard. Once you familiarize yourself with one system you can move on to the next.
Despite their laid back appeal, modern sailboats can be very complex pieces of engineering. The more systems aboard, the more that can go wrong. And usually, the more complex they are. If you’re planning on spending an extended period of time cruising, your best course of action is to spend time before you leave familiarizing yourself with your on-board systems whether by hiring an expert or just trial and error.
Develop a Checklist
A checklist can be a great way to keep track of your boat’s systems and their needs. Many items on it will require regular inspection or maintenance. From maintaining the rigging to changing engine oil, there are lots of items aboard that need regular attention. If planning a long voyage be sure to carry spare parts for things that may need replacing during it. Your checklist can even include a list of spare parts you’re likely to need to help make sure they’re aboard. A great way to build a checklist is to talk to other boaters with your boat or similar boats. Many have been sailing for years and are happy to share their knowledge. Even if you have a great understanding of your boat, there’s always tricks someone else thought of that might make life easier for you and your crew.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
There’s no substitute for experience when it comes to boating. This is true of navigation, docking, and yes, even maintenance. Setting sail on a long cruise is a journey you work up to. No one starts out running with a marathon, rather they build up to it with shorter interval runs. Likewise, day trips, weekends, and even week long cruises can be great practice for a longer voyage, and tons of fun! On these shorter trips you’ll likely be closer to your home port and towing services that can lend a hand if you should need it. Frequent use will also help you understand your boat’s systems and the maintenance issues that are likely to pop up underway.
Know Where You’re Going
Safe navigation is one of the most important aspects of sailing. However, when it comes to maintenance, where you’re going can mean a lot too. Throughout most of the US and Europe you can find local boat repair in most major cities. Elsewhere in the world, cruising requires a bit more planning. One good strategy is to plan ahead at home and research different ports along your route. Having a list of boatyards and marinas along your route that are capable of servicing your boat should a problem arise will add peace of mind to your journey.Scrambling to find a marina at the last minute is a situation no boater wants to find themselves in. And while you’re researching ports, be sure to research fun things to do in them too like restaurants and beaches to visit.
Learn To Prioritize
One of the hardest parts of being a boat owner is knowing that there is almost always something aboard that needs your attention. If you’re ever going to enjoy your time on the water, you have to learn to prioritize between things that need immediate attention and those that can wait. While to the new boat owner everything may seem like it needs immediate attention, a seasoned sailor knows there’s only a few major things that absolutely must work on a boat. Maintenance is an ongoing process and learning to manage it while still enjoying your sailboat is a skill that comes with experience.