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Five Industry Professionals Guide to Spring Commissioning

Five industry professionals provide tips on ensuring your boat is ready for the season.
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Five industry professionals provide tips on ensuring your boat is ready for the season.

Steve Thurston
Third-generation sailor and owner of Quantum Sails, Newport, RI

Roll the Right Way

Although it seems obvious, be careful not to accidently roll up your headsail furling line in the wrong direction after removing it in the fall. This mistake is easy to catch on a sail with brightly colored UV protection, but a white sunshield can be rolled up on the inside without being noticed, thereby exposing the sail to the sun’s rays. For this reason, we always sew a “this side out” tag on all sails with white UV sun covers.

Look out for Snags

Be sure and check all the cotter pins aboard your boat. They should be bent away from areas where the sails can catch on them and carefully taped. This is especially important on boats that have just been re-rigged. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to make sure no pins hurt your sails, not the boatyard’s. If necessary, go up the rig and carefully run your hands across the spreaders and the face of the mast, looking for any sharp screw edges or pieces of hardware.

Hoist Carefully

When first hoisting your furling headsail in the spring, be careful to watch the sail as it enters the feeder on the furling rod. It is very common for the sail to bind or take an odd angle as it enters the luff groove, which can tear the luff tape in a second, sending you back to the loft for a repair. Use a pre-feeder to help guide the sail into the actual feeder or ask a friend to help. It only takes a couple of minutes!

Snug Shackles

Tighten down the pins on the shackles on all of your deck hardware. Add a tie-wrap to the shackle and pin on the swivel of your headsail furler before you hoist it for the season to guarantee it won’t loosen up and drop your furling sail when you least expect it.

Loric Weymouth 

Owner of Weymouth Yacht Rigging Inc., Rockland, ME

Winch in a Bucket
To make winch maintenance more pleasant, drop the drum, bearings, gears and other parts in a 5-gallon bucket and take them all home, where you can clean them off in the comfort of your garage or basement. A bucket is idealfor this task because it ensures all the pieces and parts stay together. A single bucket for each pair of winches will suffice, as it’s

a good idea to only disassemble one winch at a time in case you get confused and need a guide when it comes time to put the winch that you’re servicing back together. Use an odorless paint thinner­—as opposed to diesel oil—for cleaning out the old grease to make the job pleasanter still.

Cap Shrouds and Spreaders
It goes without saying that you should check your standing rigging from top to bottom whenever you pull the mast. When doing so, it’s important to look not just at the swaged end fittings, but also at where the shroud abuts the spreader. There should be a mechanical attachment, some wire seizing or a clamp. Otherwise, the cap shroud could pop out in a seaway, leaving you vulnerable to a possible

dismasting. Be sure to remove the spreader boot or any other covering you might have so you can take a close look. If the clamp or seizing is at all questionable, replace it before re-stepping the mast.

Slippery Sheaves
It seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but in the hurry to re-step their masts and re-launch their boats, many sailors don’t take the time to carefully examine the sheave boxes at the top of the mast. At the very least, be sure to inspect them for damage, spin the sheaves around a few times and lube them up with Super Lube or some kind of winch grease. Better yet, disassemble the boxes completely, to ensure all parts are clean and functioning properly.

Helmut Bittlingmayer Manager of McMichael Yacht Yard, Mamaroneck, NY

1, 2, All Test
After you’ve hooked up your battery cables, try this simple test. Turn the battery selector to “1” and then crank up your auxiliary. Once it has started up, turn it off again and do the same thing with the selector on “2” and “All.” If the auxiliary starts up on all three settings, that’s an indication things should be OK.

Engine Mounts and Shaft Couplings

As you’re getting your auxiliary ready for another season of service, be sure to clean up your engine mounts and shaft coupling, checking both for corrosion as you do so. Not only will this help make for a tidy engine space—always a good thing—it will hopefully make the engine easier to service down the road. Wiping down with a cloth and a shot of CorrosionX, Volvo corrosion inhibitor or something similar should do the trick. Use a wire brush if you’ve let things go for a while and some rust needs to be removed.

Grease is the Word

Corrosion is also the enemy of any electrical system, so be sure to guard against it. To ensure sound electrical connections throughout the season, dab some dielectric grease on exterior contacts like the bulbs in your running lights and your antenna connections. It’s an especially good idea in hard-to-reach spots, like the VHF antenna at your masthead.

John Martino
President of the Annapolis School of Seamanship, Annapolis, MD

Seize the Chain

Don’t forget to examine your ground tackle. Pay particular attention to the wire seizing on the shackles connecting the chain to the anchor. Like a chain, an anchoring system is only as strong as its weakest link. You don’t want to even think about what could happen should the wire break away, allowing the pin to work its way loose in the middle of a wind-swept night.

Update Your Charts

While taking care of your boat’s mechanical systems, why not also take a few minutes to update your charts and publications? Granted, you could do this later in the season as well, but why not knock out this little chore before you get swept up in the fun of sailing season? In this era of electronic navigation, it’s a simple matter of going online or swapping out a chip. Accurate charts will save you some serious heartache down the road, especially in areas like the Jersey shore, where storms may have recently altered the seascape.

Rich Larsen
General manager of Manitowoc Marina, Manitowoc, WI

Wipe Down Steering Cables

Wipe down your steering cables with a cloth or facial tissue and a few drops of oil to ensure they travel smoothly over quadrants and sheaves. While doing this, you will also quickly find any “fish hooks” on the cables. While you’re down there, give the entire system a once-over: make sure your cables are properly tensioned and that your stops are in good shape, something far too many sailors fail to do until something goes wrong.

Flush out your Furler

Start out the season right, by cleaning the head swivel and drum bearings of your headsail furler. Pour in a little Dawn dishwashing liquid, start spraying each bearing with water, then spin, spin, spin and watch as all the crap comes out!

Photo by Billy Black (top), by Peter Nielsen (left and above)



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