Preparing the boat

Whether you're preparing for a journey, or just preparing your boat for the season, check-lists are excellent for making sure you don't forget a vital task

Here is a the most comprehensive check-list I’ve read of things you should at least consider before leaving port – it’s an American site, but quite useful, called Boatsafesame

There’s also a pretty good checklist in the Boat Bible (which is also good for other information), by Jim Murrant, and published by Sheridan House. See your local marine shop, or refer to Boatbooks

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The all important engine:
This is the run-down on what should be done to your diesel engine before going on a long trip. Even if you don’t do the work yourself, it’s a good indication of what you need to tell your diesel engineer you want done. DON’T assume that ‘he knows what to do’.

This information has been provided by Laurence Burgin, of Marine Stainless in Sydney. Laurence also runs excellent one day workshops for those who want to know more, and be able to troubleshoot when help is not near.

Laurence Burgin
Media Services


Fuel Tanks
· Check breather hose and outlet is not blocked
· Check tank is securely mounted
· Ensure fuel lines are good quality
· Check for bacterial growth after sea trial – growth lies in base of tank so give it a shake up first (as a storm would)
· Drain or pump fuel from base of tank to ensure no water or contamination
· Clean fuel is essential – don’t go to sea with bad fuel

· Ensure there is enough fuel in tank for intended passage, plus a healthy reserve
· Check fuel shut off valves are in good condition
· Replace primary fuel filter for water or contamination – drain water till clear
· Check no fuel leaks from system in operation
· Get to know lift pump operation
· Replace engine filter
· Test bleed engine at anchor so you will be able to do it at sea

· Check water inlet valve is in good condition
· Check raw water strainer is clean – remove strainer basket and clean if needed
· Check coolant level in header tank, top up if needed. (Where did it go?) Carry good quality spare coolant
· Check hoses and clamps for wear, looseness or leaks – replace if in doubt

· Dip sump and check oil level – top up if necessary. Change oil and filter every 100 hours or 6 months
· Check gear box oil level – some hydraulic boxes need the engine idling in neutral to check oil
· Always carry spare engine and gearbox oil and filters

· Turn on battery switches and check operation of switch mechanism
· Check battery hold down system is heavy duty (not just a plastic box with a crappy strap)
· Check all battery and engine wiring for loose connections – put your hand on and see if they rattle (engine off!)
· Clean terminals and grease
· Load test batteries

· Check belts for correct tightness (12mm or 1/2” deflection on longest run) and alignment
· Check pulleys for rust and running true
· Check for belt wear and carry correct spares

Throttle Box
· Check operation of throttle and gear change – replace control cables if needed (cheap compared to ramming dock!)
· Grease throttle box (remove from boat) and linkages on box and engine
· Learn how to remove cables from engine for jury rig throttle

Do a sea trial with your motor
Give engine a good hard run (80% revs) for at least 10 minutes pushing into wind and sea/current, look at engine during this time
· Be aware of unusual noises, vibrations or smells
· Check for leaks – fuel, cooling or oil
· Check steering operation
· Check oil pressure gauge, temperature gauge, voltmeter for charging
· Make visual checks of engine for leaks, loose ancillary equipment
· Check stern gland for excessive leaking or overheating
· Keep an eye on fuel consumption – know the hourly consumption under load
· Check other equipment

Engine Mounts/drive system
· Check for worn or broken mounts
· Check engine alignment is good
· Check stern bearing and shaft not worn (slipway or dive)
· Check flexible coupling is in good condition
· If there are any doubts about the mounts have them changed
· Check propeller is tight and foul free (Prop speed is the go)

· Check engine exhaust dropper for blockage and excessive corrosion (a common problem)
· Check all hoses and clamps are in top condition
· Make sure your exhaust system is correctly designed and installed to prevent water backflow from wave action or syphon effect. Many systems are not up to passage making standards
· Have you a syphon break installed in system?

Heat Exchanger
· Bi-annual removal and inspection of your cooling core (the boat’s radiator) for blockage
· Check anodes for wear, replace and carry spares

Impeller pumps – raw water
· Remove and replace the impeller in the engine (know how to do this yourself)
· Check oil seals if direct drive pump
· Carry spares

· Annually remove starter motor and have serviced

Spares – a complete list of recommended spares is available in available from Marine Diesel Engines for Beginners

· Regularly remove alternator and have serviced. For long range cruising carry a spare

· Carry good quality tools and have engine manuals on board

TOOLS YOU MUST HAVE – Inshore tool kit
(store in a strong plastic box)
Quality screwdriver set
Bahco quality hacksaw 2 x Bahco hacksaw blades
Heavy ballpein or lump hammer Rubber hammer
Metric & imperial Allen key sets—fold-up type Torx driver kit
Linesman’s pliers Long nose pliers
1 pair vice-grips—Genuine! Model I0 WR Oil filter strap wrench
Side cutters 18½ Stilsons
4½–6½ & 12½ shifters Razor knife and spare blades
1 set metric & imperial combo spanners Small bolt and screw kit
3/8½ sockets (small engine)(Must come in a plastic box – look around) 1/2½ Sockets (large engines)
Lanoline grease or spray Round and flat file—Bahco
Vice grips style electrical crimp pliers & crimp lugs Wire brush
1/4½ pin punch Hose clamp driver
Liquid paper pen for marking 12½ steel ruler

(store in another strong plastic box)

Large parrot-beak cutters (not bolt cutters) Multi metre
T-Bar tap holder Hose clamp driver
Soldering Iron 18½ shifter
12½ Stilsons Another pair of vice grips
Small Vice to bolt or clamp somewhere 1/4½ socket set
12volt Cordless Drill / Torch Combo plus as many batteries as you can store and, ideally, the ability to recharge batteries Drill bit index—quality
Extensive bolt kit Wire strippers
3/16½ Pin Punch Center punch
1 m Steel Rule Bahco file set
Tube Cutters Large multi-grips
Tin Snips Engine workshop manual
Quality rigging knife in scabbard

and don't forget the...