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Spring Awakening of a Sailor: preparing your sailboat

Winter cover
Winter cover for Beneteau Oceanis 311 Clipper.

Preparing Your Sailboat for Launch (Nordic Edition)

As the Nordic sun stretches its golden fingers across the land, the call of the open water becomes irresistible. But before you unleash your trusty vessel upon the invigorating spring seas, some essential preparations are necessary. This guide explores two common scenarios: a boat left in the water over winter and one kept on dry land.

Scenario 1: Winterized in the Water

Leaving your boat in the water over winter is more and more popular in nordic countries and it has its advantages, but requires extra attention come spring. Here’s what to do to prepare for season:

  • Uncover and Clean: Remove any winter covers used to protect the deck, cockpit, and hatches. Give the boat a thorough cleaning, both inside and out. Focus on removing salt deposits, grime, and any winter debris.
  • Bilge Patrol: Pump out any accumulated bilge water and clean the bilge area thoroughly. Check for any leaks or signs of moisture ingress. Ensure bilge pumps are functioning properly.
  • Hull Inspection: Dive in with a mask and fins (weather permitting) or use an underwater camera to meticulously inspect the hull for cracks, blisters, or signs of marine growth. Do this extra carefully if the boat was exposed to any icing during the winter. Check the thruhulls. Address any concerns promptly. This is most critical step in preparations to safe and hassle free season ahead.
  • Rigging and Sails: Inspect the mast, spars, and standing rigging for damage or corrosion. Check the tightness of swaged terminals and tension of the standing rigging. Unfurl sails and check for rips, tears, UV damage, or weak stitching. Clean any mildew with a mild soap solution. Consider professional repair or replacement if necessary. Lubricate all moving parts with marine grease.
  • Electrical Systems: Inspect all electrical connections and wiring for damage or corrosion. Test batteries and ensure they are fully charged. Consider replacing batteries nearing their lifespan. More and more coastal cruisers opt for solar panels in preparation to this season due absurd shore power pricing last few years.
  • Engine (if applicable): Change engine oil, filters, and spark plugs if you skipped the maintenance in the autumn. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Run the engine for a short period to check for proper operation and (no) leaks.

Scenario 2: Winterized on Dry Land

Winterizing on land offers better protection from the elements, but requires additional steps before launch. Here’s how to get your boat ready:

  • Visual Inspection: Perform a meticulous visual inspection of the entire boat, inside and out. Look for cracks, delamination, or any signs of damage that might have occurred during storage.
  • Rigging Check: Once the boat is upright, thoroughly inspect the mast, spars, and standing rigging for damage or corrosion. Check the tension of the standing rigging and consult a professional rigger if necessary.
  • Reassembly: Reattach any components removed for winter storage – lifelines, sails, canvas etc. Ensure everything is secure and properly aligned.
  • Anti-Freeze Removal: If you used antifreeze in the engine cooling system during storage, drain and replace it with fresh coolant. If you used antifreeze in the fresh water system – drain it all out with fresh water and have at least 2 full tanks of flush before using any drink water from tank. Antifreeze the toilet by flushing this with fresh water using at least the amount of your black water tank.
  • Battery Boost: Fully charge your batteries or replace them if necessary. Reconnect any battery chargers used during storage.
  • Launching and Sea Trial: After completing all the checks, carefully launch the boat. Once in the water, conduct a sea trial to ensure all systems, including the engine, steering, and navigation equipment, are functioning properly.

Additional Considerations for Both Scenarios:

  • Safety Equipment: Ensure your life raft has been serviced within the recommended timeframe. Check the expiry dates of all safety equipment and replace any outdated items including life vests and fire extinguishers.
  • First-Aid Kit: Replenish your first-aid kit with any missing or expired supplies.
  • Navigation Equipment: Test all navigation equipment, including GPS, chartplotter, and VHF radio. It is recommended to test VHF in actual conversation with your marina, other vessels or traffic controller. Ensure charts and publications are up-to-date for your intended sailing area.

By following these steps, you can ensure your sailboat emerges from its winter slumber ready to embrace the invigorating spring season. Now, with a well-prepared vessel and a heart brimming with anticipation, you can confidently set sail and explore the stunning Nordic waters. In case your boat canvas needs an update, check here.

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