Staying Ahead of the Maintenance Curve

Modern cruising equipment is amazingly reliable if it is installed properly, and given a bit of preventative maintenance. That’s been a theme of ours for years.

The experience we’ve had on BEOWULF and that of most of our clients is the same. Whereas in the olden days we always joked that cruising was going from one exotic anchorage to another so we could work on our boats, this does not have to be the case.

There are a couple of keys to this success. The first is proper installation. This means keeping the gear dry, feeding it with the proper-sized hoses or wires as required, and minimizing the damage that can be caused by chafe and vibration.

The second key is preventative maintenance. This means checking every piece of gear aboard on a periodic, scheduled basis. From the rudder quadrant to the anchor roller, and from the mast step to the mast head, 95% of major problems can be caught while they are still minor, if you take the time to check.

At some point in the future we’ll post some generic check lists for what to look at. For now, here are some general suggestions.

1-Check all bolted connections for tightness. This means the rudder quadrant, shaft coupling, engine mounts and brackets, even spreader brackets and chain plates. Occasionally you will find a but or bolt which needs 1/16 of a turn – not much, but left undone that 1/16 turn will become a full turn, and then the bolt will fall out, transferring the load to the other bolts, which now have too much work to do.

You may find that you need special sockets or wrenches to do the work. Get them, mark them, and use them!

2-Get in the habit of working all valves – especially through hull valves – to keep them working freely. Check hose clamps for tightness and condition, and replace if there is any sign of rust.

3-On the wiring side, make sure that connections are tight at the batteries, terminal boards, and on various motors. Check for wiring chafe and add extra protection to anything that looks suspicious.

4-Wherever plumbing comes in contact with equipment that moves, watch for chafe, and add extra chafe protection.

5-Keep up to date on lubrication and cleaning of mechanical gear. This includes periodic service of the windlass, and all winches.

6-Check the rig from top to bottom, and end to end. Pay special attention to terminals, toggles, turnbuckles, boom hardware, and spreader bases.

While this sounds like a lot of work, in reality it is guaranteed to save you time, money, and frustration. Your cruising will be more fun, and safer too.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 21, 2002)

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