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Your Pre-Sailing Check List

Yes folks, it's that time of year again. With lust in your eyes, you go out and meet your floating mistress. A chance to survey her stature, slip off her winter coat and caress her smooth, wineglass curves. And now, for a better look, you climb on top. Oh Baby!!!

The next day you return. She's not so magical looking. In fact, she's a bit of a dirty girl. No problem. You can spank that magic back into her with some elbow grease. First, you will make a list. As you go around and take notes you notice that this good old boat who wasn't big enough last fall, might have grown some this spring.

The pre-sailing season ...

. One of the reasons we choose sailing over motor-boating is the attention to detail required in helping make a sailboat respond. Just the thought of all those sheets sliding thru various turning blocks and winches, shaping our big white sails can give one goose bumps.

Plus, there are sailors out there who actually prefer the "hands on" portion of sailing. Doing the upgrading and maintaining of their boat with structure and purpose. They start off with an inspection list resting on a clipboard following them through every nook and cranny of their vessel. They scribble added notes as they go along and then later, study it, plotting out their strategies to correct.

Me, I'm kind of in the middle a "putt-putt" sailor who likes to drift with pride. I like the idea of having a list to help me remember what I need to inspect before my mind wanders off in other directions.

Making the Inspection List:

A good list captures all the items on your boat that require inspection, from bottom to top. The following are some key components to consider when making your list. Because each boat has its own unique characteristics, like inboard versus outboard (etc), the following will only highlight common items. Feel free to point out what I forgot to capture. After your list is created, it's a good idea to label each item with a priority rating (i.e. a/b/c). Also, it is wise to leave some space for adding comments as you go around. This will help you apply focus on the important tasks prior to your launch and what may be tackled in the water, or wait till next year. Good luck and have fun with her. She deserves it.

Below the waterline

  • Remove left over marine growth around transducers and impellers
  • Wet sand all bronze underwater parts
  • Check all underwater metals for signs of electrolysis
  • Examine shaft and rudder pintles and gudgeons for wear and/or play
  • Inspect the rudder for cracks and holes. Lightly lubricate sheaves and tubes
  • Do a wet sand test on the existing antifouling build-ups if not sure

Above the waterline

  • Remove waterline scum with algae remover and all purpose cleaners
  • Check fibreglass surfaces for any nicks or hairline cracks in the gelcoat
  • Test side decks, cockpit and cabin tops for soft spots and/or delaminated core
  • Clean and inspect stanchions, pulpits, and lifelines
  • Check sealant around fittings, cleats, stanchion bases, hatches, ports, etc.
  • Look for corroded hardware, screws, rivets and other fittings
  • Dry test your steering system (pedestal or tiller) and inspect it's components
  • Flush out any debris from cockpit drains
  • Spray moisture displacing lubricant on locks, hinges and sliding door tracks
  • Remove all fenders, dock & mooring lines and take home for inspection & cleaning
  • Good idea to dismantle and inspect those winches. Ask for assistance.


  • Untangle and wash mast with water and mild soap
  • Inspect all standing rigging for broken strands and kinks
  • Inspect fittings, tangs and all fasteners for signs of corrosion, wear, bends & cracks
  • Clean and inspect turnbuckles and lock (cotter), pins for defects
  • Inspect the base of the mast for corrosion
  • Check mast lights & bulbs with multi-meter before stepping mast
  • Inspect halyard conditions and how freely they move within
  • Inspect, clean and lubricate the mast and roller furling tracks
  • Check all sheets, halyards and toping lift for chafe wear and splice strengths
  • Examine spreaders to shrouds connection and state of rubber spreader boots
  • Locate and inspect the wind indicator and antenna(s) and the mounting of each


  • Check the seams, batten pockets, bolt rope, luff & foot tapes for broken stitching
  • Visualize where the sails meet the spreaders and look for chafe marks
  • Examine slugs, slides, grommets, thimbles, snap hooks and reef points


  • Look for chafe, holes, broken stitching and rips. If it tears like tissue say goodbye
  • Watch for dirt and stains. You may want to take them home to clean properly

Below Decks

  • Remove floor boards and vacuum out the bilge area
  • Inspect cabin ceiling and bulkheads for mildew
  • Examine electrical panel, wiring harnesses and battery(s) charge level
  • Remove and clean terminal ends (i.e. battery), where applicable
  • Test your 12 volt system with a multi-meter
  • Connect shore power and test system with AC circuit tester
  • Check stove system for leaks
  • Check the head for any ice damage
  • Inspect and lubricate all seacocks. How about emergency plugs?
  • Inspect bilge pump and clean strainers & electric pump impellers


  • As instructed by your owner's manual

Oars & Paddles

  • As instructed by your owner's manual

Safety Equipment

  • Replace batteries in personal safety equipment, like strobe lights, etc.
  • Inspect charge levels of all fire extinguishers. Maybe, replace older models
  • Examine life jackets for purpose, condition and usage criteria
  • Check the expiry dates of all flares
  • Verify compliance of all safety requirements to the size of your vessel
  • Fully inspect the condition of your First Aid kit and update
I know that there are tool kits, dinghies, provisions, cleaning supplies, etc, that need consideration as well. But I'll leave that up to you to determine.

In the next newsletter (April), I will submit some "how to" tips on correcting possible deficiencies that you may come across in your inspections. But, my knowledge is very limited. I would really, really appreciate your added input to make this article beneficial to all readers. If you have any repair and/or upgrade tips, please send them. Pictures are great to help explain as well.

Submit your "tips" to Peter Scholz at ... and I'll gladly use it.