THREE WAYS TO SPEND MORE TIME ON THE WATER AND LESS IN THE BOAT YARD
Not having a maintenance plan can keep you at the dock instead of enjoying your boat.
The first of several posts by industry insider Cam Collins on his personal experiences out on the water.
It had finally arrived. Our 34-foot Intrepid, aptly named “Megabites,” would be shuttling my family and some friends from Stuart, Florida, to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, for a weeklong trip. All our gear and provisions were loaded. Among other things, I had brought aboard spare props, extra filters and a self-inflating life raft. I even topped her off with fuel the day before.
When I arrived at the marina first thing in the morning I pumped the fuel balls, switched on the batteries, turned the key and all I got was “click, click, click.” Yes, the dreaded CLICK CLICK CLICK! The engines would not turn over. With my wife, kids and friends staring at me, I scrambled around to try and figure what was wrong. Were the batteries going bad or did something drain them over night?
Turns out that instead of switching my start batteries to the off position, I had mistakenly switched them to the house circuit. As luck would have it, a light was left on in the forward cabin and that little sucker drained my batteries completely. I had a spare battery on board but I needed two, so I replaced one with the spare and charged the other while everyone wondered if the guy who couldn’t even start his boat had what it took to carry everyone safely over 200 miles of ocean to our destination.
The point is, small errors can wreak havoc on a boating experience. I had shut down the boat many times before, so I really didn’t feel I needed a formal checklist that afternoon prior to our trip. But not having a mental list impeded our big trip.
Preparation is critical when it comes to increasing the odds that our time spent on the water will be without hitches. However, amid our fast-paced, digitally distracted lives, we find we’re more often overlooking those simple checklists that could help us prepare for a great day on the water. We learn from our mistakes and I’ve made most of the mistakes that come from not having a solid maintenance plan in place and sticking to it.
I learned the hard way that staying atop of a boat’s care requires that you have a plan in place. Every boat on the water will have a slightly different maintenance regimen depending on the size of the boat, the equipment installed and how the boat is being used (e.g. cruising, fishing, wake boarding, etc.) This approach is effectively a list of things that are required to ensure that your boat is properly maintained and ready to go. Preventative maintenance is the goal as this greatly reduces the need for costly repairs.
There is a difference between regular maintenance that occurs after a period of time has elapsed or after certain systems have been used for a period of time, and random tasks that have to be completed. And as well, there are a number of ways to get reminders of when your boat and the equipment it contains need regular maintenance.
Here are few tips:
- Create a maintenance plan for your major systems and equipment – Your maintenance plan will be roughly based upon the manufacturer recommended maintenance intervals on your equipment like engines, generators, HVACs, etc. These are typically recurring tasks that should be done after a certain period of time or use. Examples include a 100-hour service, an annual haul-out or a monthly inspection. The trick is to put a system in place that will automatically remind you and/or your service center or boat yard when these tasks become due.
- Use check lists and reminders to maintain the basic components of your boat – Using checklists on a recurring basis or to perform a particular task can help insure that you perform things the right way in the right order. A checklist can be created for start-up and shutdown procedures, every time you store your boat and on a recurring basis as well. The following items should be included in your checklist:
- Batteries (check ventilation, corrosion and leakage)
- Bilge Pumps (check float switch and proper water flow)
- Cooking Equipment and Refrigeration (spilled oils, gas leaks, ice build-up, etc)
- Electrical Systems, Lights, Wiring and Zincs
- Fire Extinguishers and Safety Equipment (check expiration dates)
- Fuel and Oil System (check for leaks, odors and fumes)
- Ground Tackle (e.g. anchors, chain, shackles, etc)
- Inspect Sea Valves (should be exercised regularly) and Hoses
- Count and Inspect Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) and Life Jackets
- Props, Shafts, Bearings, Rudder Fittings, Through Hulls, Strainers, Exhaust and Exposed Fasteners (check for corrosion and proper operation)
- One-off tasks. These are the tasks we run across or think about during the day. Having a punch list or a to-do list of things that your boat needs is a common experience for boat owners. The trick is to ensure that these ideas or tasks effectively go from your brain to your list. If you think of something and don’t write it down, it will pop back into your mind and continue to nag you until it gets properly noted in task management system.
Most boat owners know that the to-do list of things to fix, update, purchase or adjust on a boat never ends. That’s what we love about boating right? Well if you are a DIYer, you might get a kick out of working on the boat, varnishing the teak, polishing the handrails, etc. The rest of us hire or task these to-dos to others. But at the end of the day, your boat will “produce” a to-do list and so don’t ignore these items and let them fester unresolved, as it will mean more days “on the hard” and less days on the water.
We did make it the Bahamas in one piece and had an extremely memorable trip. But we also ran into some other problems while there that could have been avoided if I had followed a maintenance plan.
In the next post I will share the rest of the story and ways to use a smartphone and/or tablet to track all of the tasks that will help you spend more time on the water and less time at the boatyard.
POSTED BY CAM COLLINS. http://mytaskit.com