Basic Cruising Sailboat Trip - Suggested Checklist Items

Basic Cruising Sailboat Trip - Suggested Checklist Items

When preparing for a basic cruising sailboat trip, it's essential to ensure that all safety, engine, and system checks are completed. Here are a few suggested items to check to prepare for your sail:


1) Safety Equipment Locations

  • Fire Extinguishers: Know their location and ensure they are easily accessible.
  • Bilge Pumps: Locate both manual and electric bilge pumps.
  • Seacocks: Identify the location of all seacocks on the boat.
  • Master Battery: Know where the master battery switch is located.
  • Stove Fuel Shutoff: Find the shutoff valve for the stove fuel.
  • Life Jackets: Ensure life jackets are available for all crew members.
  • Flares: Check the location and expiration dates of flares.

2) Inboard Engine Checklist

  • Complete engine inspection.
  • Turn the battery switch to the ON position.
  • Start the engine blower (if gasoline).
  • Set engine stop control (kill lever) to the operate position.
  • Put the gear lever in neutral.
  • Throttle slightly open.
  • Preheat (if necessary) and start the engine.
  • Check the exhaust outlet for water within 30 seconds of starting.

3) Engine Inspection Checklist

  • Inspect the engine and compartment for signs of fluid leaks and changes since the last inspection.
  • Confirm that the raw water intake seacock is open.
  • Check engine oil before each trip (Diesel engine oil is normally a sooty black color); add oil if necessary.
  • Check engine coolant level in the plastic reservoir, or on the engine if no reservoir (when the engine is cool).
  • Check the belt or belts for adequate tension, wear, or cracks, and look for black dust indicating belt wear.
  • Transmission fluid should be checked periodically, ideally with the engine off but still warm.
  • The raw water strainer should be checked daily.

4) Battery Checklist

  • Locate the batteries and check the fluid levels (unless they are dry/gel).
  • Ensure the batteries are clean with no signs of corrosion.
  • Set the battery switch to the desired position (1, 2, or ALL) before starting the engine or turning on lights.
  • Set the battery switch to ALL if batteries are low to provide sufficient power to start the engine.
  • Determine if your automatic bilge pump is wired separately from the battery switch.
  • Do not change the position of the battery switch while the engine is running.

5) Fresh Water Checklist

  • Run the water hose for 30 seconds to clear debris before filling.
  • Taste the water to check quality.
  • Check the deck plate to ensure it's labeled "water" before filling.
  • After filling, tighten the deck plate securely to prevent contamination by seawater or cleaning water.
  • If the pressure water pump runs constantly, check faucets and the system for leaks, and ensure the water tank is not empty to avoid burning out the pump.

6) Head Operation Checklist

  • Open the raw-water (seawater) seacock.
  • Open the valve to the holding tank.
  • Engage hand or foot lever and pump a small amount of water into the bowl before use.
  • Engage hand or foot lever to flush, and pump until the bowl is clear, then pump additional strokes to clear the discharge line.
  • Release hand or foot lever and pump the bowl dry.
  • Close all valves and seacocks after use.

7) Bilge System Checklist

  • Locate bilge pump handles for manually-operated systems and switches for electric pumps.
  • Check the bilge pump switch at the electrical control panel and the bilge alarm.
  • Automatic bilge pumps should be active even when the boat is unattended.
  • Ensure all bilge pump intake screens are free of debris.
  • Inspect each through-hull fitting for a working valve and look for wooden plugs at each fitting.
  • Pump the bilge before departure.

By following these suggested checklist items, you'll be on your way to a safe and enjoyable sailing experience. Proper preparation and maintenance are key to preventing issues and ensuring smooth sailing.
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