The weather forecasters are predicting a big El Niño year that could bring heavy and unusual weather to marinas across the country. After every storm, there’s a boat sitting in the marina with damage because the owner didn’t do a little preventative maintenance. Remember to follow these five steps and you’ll save yourself some money and avoid a heartbreaking call from the harbormaster.
Drop and flake your sails
Roller furling sails should not be left on the headstay during threatening storms, especially if the boat is on the hard. Drop your sails and check them for loose points, discoloration, or wear marks. Take care of any tears when they’re still small, to avoid larger damage in the future. And, if you’re going to go an extended period without sailing, there’s no better time to bring your sails into the loft for some annual maintenance.
Inspect all the shackles, lines, and swivels
No matter how beefy your furling system is, it takes a beating every time you roll and unroll your genoa. Inspect all elements of the system including shackles, lines, and fairleads on the deck to make sure every element is in good, working condition, and is properly fastened. You should also give a thorough once-over to every element of your standing rigging, and check all halyards, lines, sheets, and clutches for wear and tear. Harden up on the backstay to keep your rig from bouncing around in heavy weather. If your boat will stay in the water during a storm, be a good neighbor and tie off your halyards to keep them from banging—anyone who lives on their boat nearby will thank you!
Properly store your sails
If you’re not sailing your boat for an extended period of time, the jib should be dropped and stored down below. If your boat is in the water and you have a good cover for your main, it’s fine for the main to stay flaked on the boom. But if you don’t have a cover or if your boat is on the hard, your main should also be stored down below.
Get a dehumidifier
Storms can cause excess moisture inside your cabin and damp conditions aren’t good for your sails. Get a small dehumidifier for your boat. Your sails will last longer and your boat will smell a whole lot fresher the next time you come out to sail!
Check your ports for leaky seals
It’s hard enough to keep a boat dry without rainwater seeping under the hatch covers. Before you leave your boat for an extended period of time, it behooves you to check every single port, hatch, window, companion way—anywhere water might find its way into your boat—for possible leakage points. And if you find any, fix them now. Also, make sure that all through-hauls (except for cockpit drains) are closed.
Don’t waste quality sailing days on fixing problems that could have been prevented. Remembering to follow these five preventative measures will ensure your sails and boat are ready to go the next time the weather allows.
This cruising tip has been brought to you by Quantum Sails