Monday, 7 July 2008

Deck Maintenance when Cruising

When cruising it is vital to keep on top of maintenance on a regular basis. Deck maintenance is part of this and on passage I always carried out a 'Deck Check' daily. This way you find little things that need attention and can be fixed in a few minutes before they become bigger things. prevention is far far better than cure when at sea.

The following is an extract from a feature article on Bluesheets Marine Directory:

Deck fittings need to be checked regularly, because the safety of both boat and crew often depends on them. The first items on the checklist should be load-bearing fittings such as winches and standing rigging: a rigging screw that fails can bring down the whole rig. Check their condition, operation and the security of the deck fixing.

Some items don't carry much of a load under normal circumstances, but need to be able to do so in an emergency: stanchions, guardwires and the like. If the motion of the boat throws you or if you trip and fall against a guardwire, you want to know it will be able to prevent you going over the side. So inspect it carefully for broken strands, and give it a good strong tug to ensure it's anchored firmly. Stanchions will often be a little loose in their sockets, but the base itself should be firmly fixed to the deck.

Hatches may be your only way out of the cabin in an emergency, so it is very important that they can be opened easily. Check that they don't leak when closed, and also do the same with fixed and opening windows, lights and ports.

Almost any through-bolted deck fitting can let water into the cabin, because the bolthole provides a convenient channel through the laminate for rain or sea water. Check that the fixing is secure, and that the sealant around the base of the fitting is not cracked or missing.

Sails: Anyone who has ever stood on a foredeck with a jib flapping round them knows the huge forces that can be generated by a sail. The rigging that harnesses those forces to drive the hull forward is only as strong as its weakest point. Sheets can chafe and part, a block can seize and fail, the sail itself can split at the seams: what's more, if anything's going to happen, it will happen at the most inconvenient moment when the loads are highest.

Blocks, sheaves and furling gear should be inspected regularly and if there is any sign of sticking, free and grease them. Anything that squeaks under load needs attention.

Look after your sails. A sail is actually a shallow bag rather than a flat panel, carefully designed and cut to hold and distribute loads efficiently. It should be folded and bagged sensitively, so that the fabric retains its shape and isn't bent in a direction that it's not designed for. Don't just stuff the foresail in the sailbag, but roll it so that the luff wire is not kinked or twisted.
If possible, hose sails down after use to get the salt off, and then let them dry before bagging them. If you have to leave the mainsail on, fold it over the boom and put the cover on.

Finally, check the condition of all cordage regularly, especially the sheets.

Reproduced courtesy Bluesheets Marine

You can read more about daily maintenance when cruising in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana', downloadable from my website

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