Nature Immerse

Smooth Sailing – How to maintain your boat

There is a lot of maintenance that goes into being a boat owner. You might want to brush up on marine weather, navigation, sail repair, and boat engine making just to name a few. You will also want to test your ability to sail at cruise speed.

This is very important because this is the primary, standard mode of travel that you will be using just about 90% of the time you are on the water. This article covers all of these maintenance tasks.

Take a Survey of Your Boat

In maintaining your boat you will want to take a routine survey of the boat’s overall state. This means checking for cracked wires in the terminal, looking out for cleats that can pose a hazard, and take inventory of the hull strength as a whole. Conducting routine maintenance in these key areas can save you a major problem from occurring later on. Just by checking the cleats alone can work to prevent the boat from being jarred loose from its moorings.

Out of all of these, however, it is the maintenance of the hull that serves to be the most crucial. It is the hull after all, that keeps the water out of the rest of the boat and keeps your ship afloat. This is the starting point of any successful boat. If the hull is bad, then the hull boat is bad. Always prioritize the maintenance of the hull over everything else. Most modern sailboats have hulls made out of fiberglass rather than made out of wood.

This modern update on the sailboat is a good thing since the old wooden hulls of sailboats easily fell apart and were hard to maintain .This is precisely why today almost half of the boats consist of some sort of fiberglass material.

In fact, if you purchase a boat that was built within the last 35 years, it will almost definitely be made of fiberglass. The main problems that fiberglass hulls face are in the form of structural damage from impact.

But fiberglass unlike wood; is a material that would never suffer fro rot. The first step of maintaining a fiber glass hull is simply to learn to be a good observer. So keep a look out, because your eyes are the best maintenance tool. With just your eyes for aid, you can deduce whether the hull of a ship is in fair condition and ready to sail.


Know Your Hull Identification Number

But also—along with your visual overview—there is also what is known as a “hull identification number” that can e of tremendous help as well. The hull identification number is a 12 character code that has been plastered on these boats since at least 1972 that are used to classify the finer details of the craft.

The code generally looks something like this: PEA45266L795. If you will notice, the first three letters, the “PEA” are an indication created y the manufacturer of the watercraft, the five letters following the first three are the production and model designation numbers for the series.

The last four numbers are very important because it indicates the actual age of the vessel. In hull code speak, the letters A-L represent are used to represent the 12 months of the year, with A representing January and L representing December. So with that knowledge, you can decipher that the last four letters in our example given above, “L795” indicate that this boat was built on January, 7th, 1995.


Handling Wear and Tear

A boat this old (over 20 years) may be showing some general signs of wear and tear such as cracks emerging in the gel-coat of the fiberglass. These cracks may be hard to perceive at first, but you may find that by running your hands across certain areas of the hull you can actually feel out some of the most problematic areas.

You can also use a penetrating dye called “Spot Check” that can be sprayed directly on the hull in order to check for hard to find hairline cracking on the ship’s exterior.

Just be sure not to mix up what are nothing more than a bit of surface crazing with actual cracks in the hull. Instead of cracking, the surface aberration is known as “crazing” is simply a random pattern of relatively harmless indentations that appear over large areas of the boat’s surface.

Besides cracking and crazing, the most important thing that you should be looking out for is scarring on the surface of the ship. Scarring is a major indicator of precious collisions and other serious impact damage.

If the scar is not immediately obvious, you may detect after further inspection as a small concentric pattern of cracks nestled right in the gel-coat surface of the hull. Many times boats will have this scarring on the front corner panel of the boat from repeated collisions with docks. If your previous owner was particularly careless in parking his boat, you may actually see a lot of these markings bearing testament to the many reckless landings he subjected the boat to.

They say scars tell a story, and this is definitely the case with sailboats. Impacts with sharp objects are particularly showing, as they emerge in the form of classic bull’s eye type collision patterns. It is when you see these that you need to pay particular attention and take a small hammer or mallet and start probing them for any de-lamination. If you hear a dull thud when you tap on these spots these could be an indication of just that. You should also take a look at the inside of the boat, to make sure that these impact points have not damaged the glass interior.

Another area of special maintenance is the bow of the boat which can often be subjected to what is known as “panting” a phenomenon that consists of near-parallel cracks forming on each side of the front panel of the bow. These markings occur when the ship moves forward through the water and if left unchecked could eventually deteriorate in an all out crack in the hull. So be sure to maintain a certain amount of vigilance in this area of your boat.

The best way to prevent cracks and fissures in your ship’s hull is to regularly apply a chalking application of wax. This wax serves to protect the skin of your boat’s hull from erosion.

Chalking is also helpful in restoring and repairing a minor cracks on the boat’s surface by applying wax and buffing it into these areas to smooth out the hull. Another sailboat affliction that you can easily cure is that of “boat pox” just like some of those other pox maladies, like chicken pox, this contagion tends to spread.

Boat pox is a series of listeners that come to form on the bottom of a boat from general wear and tear. In order to get rid of this pox you will need to remove the gel coat of your hull completely, then sand down your hull and apply a new one.

This regularly done by professionals for as little as $200 per foot, it might cost a little money but sometimes after many years of wear and tear, it just needs to be done. A fiberglass hull is actually one of the least maintenance prone materials to have to take care of, but even it needs a facelift after so many decades.


Changing Oil

Another thing that should be maintained quite regularly is the oil in your sail boat’s engine. A lot of people that don’t know anything about sailboats often look at me like I’m crazy to even when I mentioned maintaining the engine of sailboats. They stare in confusion and mutter, “But I thought that sailboats are powered by the wind?! They have an engine?!”

But yes, even though sailboats do indeed use their sails to capture the wind, they do still have an engine as well. So having that said, these engines also have oil, and that oil needs to be maintained and periodically changed.

Most marinas allow boaters to dump old oil in 55-gallon drums that they will then dispose of for you. It is a good idea to take advantage of this when you can in order to make sure that you keep your sailboat running in tip-top shape. So take all of these maintenance tips to heart as if your boat depends on it; because it really does.

Angela Oliver

Angela is a co-founder of Nature Immerse. Love nature and want to be a part of nature. Her mission is to pass her interests to others by using detail guides and tips on camping, hiking, cycling... Follow her on Nature Immerse to explore the world of outdoor recreations

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