One of the things that came home to me once I started cruising long distance was the importance of preventative maintenance. Not just the obvious things like having the engine serviced on time and checking the standing rigging regularly, but really developing a work-list to cover all equipment on board.
Think of those pieces of equipment that are used or working regularly or exposed to weather. Items such as the anchor-winch, autopilot, gooseneck, mast sheaves, steering cables, winches, blocks, toilets etc, and develop your own schedule to check and service rather than waiting for something to break.
Keep a sensible amount of spares, but you will never be able to cover every eventuality. My anchor winch failed half way up the Red Sea and I found a washing machine mechanic with a backyard workshop in the port of Massawa, Eritrea who rewound the motor for me while he insisted I sit with his family and have a cool drink! And in the Port of Suakin in The Sudan a friend had his mainsail restitched by a shoemaker (He didn’t know that a camel was standing on it stopping it blowing away while it was being repaired until he raised it as he left the harbor and saw the foot prints – one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen!). The point being that you can get repairs done even in the most remote places.
There are sensible things to consider before heading off which will make life easier over time. Spreader patches, all pins on shrouds and lifelines taped so as not to tear or chafe sails, cleaning and then waxing stainless so that it will be protected from corrosion for much longer, lubricating steering cables and servicing winches. Spreader leathers and rigging screw covers will considerably lengthen the life of your genoa if it is overlapping.
One idea which I like is to fit twin fuel filters in parallel with a valve to switch from one to another (the clear bowl type). You can then switch filters and clean and replace the dormant one without inducing air into the system and having to bleed the fuel lines which is a great time saver and saves spilling diesel into your bilges.
Another idea I like is to have halyards with removable snap-shackles and loops on both ends so that the halyards can be reversed considerably extending their life.
Finally, don’t forget that the skipper and crew need preventative maintenance as well, so don’t try and take on too busy a sailing schedule, or head out in unpredictable weather. We’ve all made that mistake and been caught out by being impatient. If in doubt stay and enjoy where you are!
By Lee Condell
Lee Condell is a Director of Performance Boating Sales and cruised his own 44 foot yacht from Sydney to the West Coast of Ireland covering 26,000 miles and 27 Countries in a 12 month cruise.