No matter what size boat or yacht you have, proper maintenance and regular service is imperative to keeping it running safely. Routine maintenance and thorough cleanings, for boats in saltwater especially, can go a long way towards limiting costly repairs later on down the road. It doesn’t matter whether you own a Viking Yacht for fishing or a Princess Yacht for cruising, the mixture of saltwater and sun along with the vibrations of running the boat will eventually lead to needing a service appointment with a professional. There are a few general things you can do to save time and money if you don’t have a professional captain maintaining your boat seven days a week. Of course, what needs to be done to a smaller center-console is different than a 60-foot cruising yacht.
The first and easiest task in maintaining your boat or yacht is thoroughly cleaning it after every use. Saltwater is naturally corrosive and will eat away at the gelcoat, engine parts, and any chrome on the boat over time. If you happen to own a center-console boat that’s on a trailer, you will also need to clean the trailer wheels, rims, and all visible parts. Try and use a cleaning brush that is sturdy enough to get rid of any salt still stuck to the boat. Using a pressure washing system can help as well, but be careful not to damage your paint or finish. Selecting a good soap is also important. Environmentally-conscious soaps are popular now especially with the algae problems each Summer in Florida. Stay away from super concentrated soaps where possible and try and use a brand that is specific to marine applications. For teak on your yacht, wash it off gently with the same soap you used on your hull. Apply the teak oil afterwards and if needed, even sand it down slightly before applying it.
Lessons and tips on proper boat washing
Just like your car, your boat or yacht also needs a regular oil change. Whether you have outboard or inboard engines, forgetting to regularly change your oil can drastically reduce the performance and life of your engine. It’s been said that a good rule of thumb is to change the oil after every 100 hours of use, although this can vary by model, size, and other factors. Changing the engine on an outboard is a lot easier than many inboards, particularly on much larger yachts. If you’re changing oil on an outboard you will need to either put it in the water or use a hose to supply cooling water to the water intake at the gearcase. Both outboards and inboards need to be operating at the correct temperature before changing the oil so get them running first. Oil is thinner when it’s warmer so it becomes easier to withdraw. Make sure to consult the boat owner’s manual before changing the oil on your engine.
Our oceans, lakes, and waterways are full of debris and an ever-changing landscape on the bottom. Running aground or hitting a rogue piece of drift can cause damage to your propeller which can reduce performance and speed. Spotting a chunk out of the stainless steel is easy to see, but sometimes a bend in the blade can be hard to spot. While many DIY boat owners may choose to file down a small ding in a prop blade, it is highly recommended that you seek out the advice of a trained professional for repair and rebalancing. One tip in trying to determine whether or not a blade is bent is by simple measurement. Take your tape measurer and record the distance between the outer edge of each propeller blade and a straight edge that is suspended from a fixed position. You might look at using the anti-ventilation plate on an outboard engine for example as the fixed point. If you record a different length on any of the blades, then it is possible it could be bent. Any damage to your propellers should be fixed quickly to avoid other complications.
There are many websites online that have boat and yacht maintenance checklists that are easily printed. While they may not be completely applicable to your boat, many of the items on there can be adapted. At the end of the day, it may be in your best interest to find a professional service department at a marina that can handle the routine maintenance of your boat. While this may cost more short term, the savings will be seen throughout the life of your boat and in re-sale value. Marinas may also offer inside or covered storage which also goes a long way towards preserving your upholstery, vinyl, and other components on board. Just as important as keeping your boat serviced is also keeping an eye on your safety equipment. Have you checked how old your inflatable life jacket is? You need to make sure that the components on your equipment have not expired. A CO2 re-arming kit has the proper sized CO2 cartridge and components needed to get your inflatable life jacket back into conformance. It's not difficult to find re-arming kits, replacement pins, and bobbins.
It’s easy to overlook routine maintenance on your boat, especially after a long day fishing or cruising in the sun. Many yacht owners have the financial capability to employ a full time captain who is responsible for proper maintaining the boat and engine. The captain often works closely with the service manager or engine representative to complete all work. This is obviously the ideal situation, but there are plenty of resources to help you do it yourself or local marine service technicians. Boating is one of the best pastimes for relaxing and making memories. Don’t let service issues keep you on dry land!
Just as important as boating maintenance is to a safe day on the water is making sure all of the children on board the boat practice safe swimming as well.
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Written by Frank Bongiorno