Summer has already started for good and many of you have planned a trip abroad on your sailing boat. Due to Cyprus’ geographical position any trip abroad (usually to Kasteloriso, Rhodes, the Aegean Sea or Lebanon) is not to be considered coastal navigation. Therefore the right preparation of the boat is probably the most important detail for a safe and pleasant trip.
Boats certainly differ to each other and their preparation varies, but here are some essential steps everyone should follow:
EXTERNAL CONDITION OF THE BOAT
Check the hull for any obvious or hidden external or internal scars. Certain shallow scars on the hull can be observed only if you look at the internal side of the hull.
Check if the rails and stanchions are firmly attached. Make sure that the hatches can be watertight closed and the cabin door can be locked.
Another good idea is to dive under the boat for a visual inspection of the shaft, propeller, anode(s), cutless bearing and all the undewater parts in general.
Check the mast, the boom, the shrouds, the winches, the navigation equipment in general (blocks, leaders etc), the sails, the helm (steering wheel and tiller), the awning and the spray hood. Do not hesitate to load on the boat any old sails you keep stored, if they are in a funtional state, and use them in case you need them.
Pay particular attention to the anchor, the capstan, the cable and its riding scope. In many ports and anchorages it is likely to need a larger riding scope, so make sure that you are equipped with many metres of cable and rope.
You should always have at least one spare anchor and it is advisable to have a spare swivel as well.
CONDITION OF THE BOAT’S INTERIOR
Pay attention to the overall condition of the boat’s interior. The boat must be clean, the bilges should contain no wastes that could block a leak to the bilge well and in general everything should be in the right place. You should not forget that loose supplies could pose a threat to your safety when the boat leans.
Ensure that the bilge pumps work properly, both the electric and manual ones. Perhaps it is the right moment to check that the manual pump which is left somewhere in the cockpit still works.
Check that the hydraulic system, the valves, the toilet and the shower work properly. It would be wise to have some toilet spare parts on the boat (mainly for the pump), as well as some spare hose clamp and perhaps a piece of rubber hose.
The fridge and the cooker (oven and boiling rings) must work properly. Make sure that the gas cylinders are full and do not have any leaks.
Check the engine’s overall condition and function. Check the engine oil and the gearbox oil, the cooling system and anything that could block the exhaustion, the impeller, the filters, the transmission belt, the shut-off cable, the fuel supply control mechanism or anything else you might observe. Although it is more likely that the maintenance service was performed in winter, it is advisable to change the oil, the oil filter and the impeller, if the engine has already worked for several hours. The engine’s control panel and indicators must work perfectly.
You should definitely keep many engine spare parts on board. Impellers, diesel and water trap filters, oil and air filters, a sufficient amount of oil for a full change both in the engine and the gearbox, antifreeze/anti-corrosive liquid and all the necessary tools.
ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC SYSTEM
Check if the autopilot and all the instruments you might be equipped with (anemometer, log, fathometer, radar, GPS/plotter etc) work. The boat radio should also work properly. It is good to have a spare handheld radio device and a handheld GPS unit, too. It is very important to have the boat’s geographical position and routes saved on the second GPS unit before sailing off.
Check all the lights inside and outside the boat. It is vital that navigation lights, masthead light, sternlight and anchor light work properly. Make sure that you have spare bulbs for all navigation lights, as well as spare navigation lights that work with batteries.
Batteries are the heart of the system and they should be in perfect condition, secured with straps. It is necessary to check if they work properly (they should maintain their charge over some period of time without the use of charger). For such a trip you should ensure that the engine battery is isolated from the rest of the circuit and in case of emergency there is an easy way (eg a switch) that allows you to start the engine using the rest of the batteries.
MAPS, SAFETY AND MORE
You should have all relevant maps of the destination seas and all portolan charts of the destination ports. Plot your course before departure and keep a notebook with all the details of your course in case of emergency.
Check all fire extinguishers and rescue equipment such as liferaft, life jackets, security straps and any MOB systems.
Check the buoyant smoke signal, flares etc and the boat first aid kit. If you have a rib boat (dinghy) ensure that it is in good condition and, provided you keep it tied on the deck, it will not move in case of rough sea. Also, make sure that its outboard engine works.
Keep on board all necessary documents and certificates and keep in mind the expiration dates. You should also have the respective flags of the countries whose territorial waters you are planning to enter, as well as any other flags you might need (eg a yellow flag). Moreover, a slide rule of the International Regulations for Preventing collisions is always useful.
It is also advisable to have an extra handheld compass.
Ensure that you have enough fuel for the whole trip. It is even better if you keep a reserve of 20% extra fuel in case you need it. It is important to secure the petrol cans (in a well-ventilated area outside the cabin), so that they do not fall down and the petrol does not spill out every time the boat leans.
Keep on board lots of stern, bow and spring lines. A long anchor rope (30 metres or longer) will be usefull in case you want to moor stern-on or bow-on to a tree or rock. It is also good to keep on board some spare halyards in case of emergency. The wind in the Aegean Sea never calms down, so you will need extra fenders, because the ports have extremely limited space.
Enjoy nice and safe trips in calm seas and do not forget to watch the weather broadcast before sailing off!
By Philippos Charalambous
Issue 11, June 2011