s you prepare to go about your rites of spring, think about two of the most basic tenets of safe and enjoyable sailing: keeping the water out and making sure the vessel functions properly. In the crush of fitting out at the start of the season or before an extended voyage, there are numerous details that go along with adhering to these two principles. But carefully looking over your pre-launch checklist and preparing things like through-hulls and steering, and giving the engine a thorough going-over, can go a long way toward hassle-free enjoyment afloat. While it’s easier to check the following items with the boat still on the hard, you should be able to inspect and service critical systems even if you’re a full-time liveaboard and the boat’s in the water. Here then, is the fitting out to-do list I use on a periodic basis. Through-hulls should actuate smoothly. The older cone-shaped valves can be easily disassembled and greased, while ball valves respond well to some grease applied from the outside while they are closed (be sure to work them until they turn smoothly). If the boat’s out of the water, be sure to close any nonessential through-hulls before launching. We usually launch with just the engine’s intake open. Every hose connection below the waterline should have two hose clamps in good condition, and any hoses should be free of cracking and inspected for weak spots or chafe. Also, be sure that an emergency plug is either tethered to the hose or in a very obvious and quickly accessible location.