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Fitting out

So you are almost on the home straight but before we delve below decks, always replace shaft, saildrive and hull anodes as a matter of course. Shaft anodes can become loose through erosion, the excellent MG Duff range have an integral core bar design that controls wastage, ensuring the shaft anode remains secure. Make sure you use a drop of Loctite on the thread before tightening them up.

Now get yourself down below out of that biting wind, ensure all metal sea cocks, the engine and the propshaft are electrically bonded as one, same goes for the rudder shaft. If in doubt, consult MG Duff’s very informative Cathodic Protection Handbook. Check the condition of the earthing wire and the cross sectional area. The correct wire to use is a minimum 4mm² PVC insulated multi-stranded copper cable, if in the slightest bit of doubt replace. If you regularly use shore power, and most of us do, consider fitting a galvanic isolator into the boat’s earth supply cable if there isn’t one already fitted. It may appear just to sit there doing nothing but it does prevent stray electrical currents attacking underwater fittings such as seacocks, anodes, propellers and shafts.


Check all seacocks operate freely and then service them. For the superb Blakes seacocks, use their seacock grease as a lubricant. For Forespar seacocks (glass reinforced nylon) it’s a smear of Lanocote and the same for Bronze and DZR. If handles are rusty, consider changing them to stainless ones. Check hose connections are sound, of course ensuring they are fitted with no less than 2 stainless hose clips for security. Check the condition of the hose material, flex it where it leaves the hose tail for signs of deterioration, change if the slightest bit suspect. In case of a problem with a seacock or hose, make sure you have the correct size wooden bung attached with some 3mm polyester cord. Consider the purchase of a set of Seabungs (as featured on Dragon’s Den) or the excellent Stay Afloat, and carry at least one roll (if not two) of E-Z Tape on board should a weep develop from a pipe later in the season.

Watch Stay Afloat In Action...
Watch Stay Afloat In Action...
Watch E-Z Tape In Action...
Watch E-Z Tape In Action...

If you have a mechanical seal (Deep Sea Seal, PSS or Volvo), read through the manufacturer’s service instructions. Does it need lubricating (the popular rubber Volvo seal should be greased every 200 hours or once a year, whichever comes 1st), do you need to ‘pinch’ the seal to expel trapped air after launch? Remember seals, both shaft and sail drive, have a finite life span and components should always be replaced according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Your insurance company would no doubt take a very dim view if you had an intake of water and no documented proof of having the seal replaced within the recommended timescale.

Service sea toilets as per the manufacturer’s instructions. As a rule of thumb however, remove the pump and grease the inside of the barrel with petroleum jelly, check all seals for deterioration and consider replacing the joker valve on the toilet outlet. If cruising, carry a set of toilet spares as it may be difficult to obtain parts in some ports. For the popular Jabsco manual toilets there are three different service kits available depending on the age of the original assembly however a lot of skippers with older models are upgrading to the complete Twist n’ Lock pump unit (saves you buying a spares kit and you get a complete new barrel etc). Check all outlet hoses for calcification, if only a small build up use a good quality toilet system descaler, or if more serious remove hose and try breaking the deposit away with a block of wood and a hammer. If this doesn't work,  replace only with odour proof toilet hose. Consider fitting a heads water treatment unit which not only reduces odours but also helps prevent the build up of deposits in hoses. If you have a permanent 'toilet smell' down below, check if the odour is permeating through the toilet hose wall. To check, place a damp cloth over the hose, leave it then sniff the cloth. If the cloth smells, change the hose.

If you haven’t got a gas alarm fit one or at the very least purchase hand held detector and fit bubble leak detector next to the bottle. If you don’t already, make sure you can cut off the gas supply at the tap next to the cooker. Check the flexible orange gas hose that goes from the stop cock to the cooker is in date and also in good condition. If you are short of gas locker space and unable to carry 2 gas bottles, consider purchasing a Dometic Gaschecker - great for telling you how much gas you have left. With the publicity recently of deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning, if you haven’t already done so fit a carbon monoxide detector. It will only take you two minutes to screw to the bulkhead but may save your life!

“Fire down below” are spoken, or more likely shouted, words we never want to hear. In partnership with the Boat Safety Scheme ’Go Boating Stay Safe’ campaign, there is a booklet available entitled Fire Safety On Boats which is worth a read. For more information on boat safety and routine safety checks visit We recommend that you make sure all fire blankets and extinguishers are within easy reach and close to companionways, hatches, galley and the engine. Check that your extinguishers are still in date and not suffering from lack of pressure, if dented or rusty consider replacing,and if you haven’t got an automatic clean agent extinguisher located in the engine ‘room’ and no space to fit make sure you have an engine room door fire gate that you can aim and fire a clean agent one through. Yes, powder will work on an engine room fire however it can do a tremendous amount of damage if sucked into a running engine. Incidentally, in the last year we have seen an increasing number of customers purchasing the new generation PFE portable aerosol fire extinguishers, 70/80% smaller than standard units, they are ‘human safe’ and leave no harmful residue. It is of course suitable for use on both liquid fuel and electrical fires.

Cracked Gas Hose
Having taken the precaution of winterising your water system  by adding Freezeban in the Autumn, you should first drain any treatment. Water tanks and pipes should be sterilized by adding the appropriate quantity of Puriclean into the tank then fill to the brim with fresh water. Open up all taps on board until the solution is coming through then close taps and leave for up to 12 hours. Empty the tank completely then rinse system through with another full tank of fresh water and then refill. After treatment, don’t forget to replace your water filter.
Fresh water hose

Don’t forget to check that the automatic bilge pump is working after the close season and whilst you’re at it, when was the last time you changed the diaphragm in the emergency manual bilge pump? Whilst you have the floor boards up it’s worth having a check that everything is in order and wipe down all surfaces with a good quality bilge cleaner.

Your first aid box is another vital component of your safety equipment often overlooked, its certainly worth checking that the contents are in date, not damp or water damaged, and there are no gaps, bandages used last year, tweezers borrowed by your daughter to pluck her eyebrows and not replaced. Ginger tablets and seasickness tablets are they still in date. If you haven’t got a ‘sailors’ first aid book its worth a purchase and if planning an adventure like the ARC or similar why not consider enrolling on a first aid course.

Check all flares for being within date, (it’s an offence in some foreign countries to even carry out of date flares onboard). Perhaps consider slowly changing over to a couple of LED flares – no disposal worries and they use standard AA batteries. Lifejackets should be inspected (both bladder and, where fitted, safety harnesses for wear or chafe, loose stitching etc), and should be manually inflated for at least 24 hours preferably with dry air from a pump. Any that lose pressure should be referred to a service centre for specialist repair or should be replaced. Check all lifejacket cylinders for rust, un-screw from firing head and check they have not been pierced. When refitting cylinder ensure it is tightly screwed into place. When replacing lifejacket cylinders, always ensure they are the correct weight and size specific to your lifejacket – the manufacturer’s label on the jacket should give this information. Change the water dissolving mechanisms (they fire the pin that allows the CO2 to automatically inflate the bladder) annually as they may have absorbed moisture and be on the point of firing. Check ‘Hammar’ hydrostatic systems ensuring they are ‘in the green’ and in date, if not replace. If your lifejacket is not fitted with a crutch strap fit one immediately, a lifejacket without one is virtually useless. If cruising, even inshore, consider adding a spray hood, and a light preferably the Spinlock Pylon which gives 360′ sighting, they can both be life savers! Those clever guys at Spinlock also now offer a Lume-On lifejacket illumination system which consists of 2 water activated LEDs which are attached to the back of the bladder. Safety lines, one for every member of crew, examine carefully and if not of the ‘Gibb style’ hook’s consider changing. EPIRB is the battery still in date, if you have just purchased the boat has the registration been brought up to date. Personal EPIRB’S are now under £200-00, if sailing singlehanded an essential bit of kit.

Out Of Date Auto Lifejacket Cartridge
Abrasion Causes Hole In Lifejacket

Your grab bag should contain an emergency torch so change the batteries. Make sure the handheld VHF is holding it’s charge (replacement batteries are available for certain models) Having said that many skippers are going with a handheld VHF with DSC facility, the price have dropped again to just under £160! Check the expiry date of any flares carried in the bag. Seasickness tablets food and water rations, are these in date? Perhaps consider at least one pair of Boarding Ring Anti-motion sickness glasses. If you have an emergency credit card/cash, has the card expired and any currency appropriate for your landfall?

Happy and safe Sailing!

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