How to Manage Running Maintenance Work

Every yacht that is in use will deteriorate over time, the heavier the use, the faster. No boat owner will get around frequent repairs, and it is useful to manage these “running repairs” in an efficient manner. In this article, I try to give some advice on how to achieve this.

The maintenance of a yacht will require frequent repairs, since many parts of a boat are “consumables”: they wear off, they deteriorate, and eventually they break and need to be fixed. It is useful to have a checklist handy when it comes to managing running repairs.

Since different boats have different “weak spots”, I can only give general advice on how to manage repairs and maintenance work. A big uncertainty factor is the weather, which will depend widely on your local climate. Take this into consideration when you plan repairs.

Checklist for Returning Repairs

1.) Try to write down all parts of your boat that might need to be exchanged, fixed or treated in some way. Rank them according to their importance for safe sailing – start with crucial parts like the canvas and go down to “cosmetic” parts such as the teak on your deck. Designate numbers to each of these parts.

2.) Think about how often you need to check these items – once a year, once a month, before every sailing trip? Under most conditions, there will be checks necessary at the beginning of the sailing season and at the end of it; before major sailing trips; and maybe some for special occasions, for example, when it is dry in the summer and the ideal season for repairs on the hull or woodwork.

Write down all these dates or occasions and then add the numbers of all the parts that should be checked at this occasion. For example, you might find “Early spring: 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 18.” This will then match with all those parts of your yacht that you should check at the beginning of the sailing season of this time. A list of this kind can be very convenient.

3.) Over the course of a year or season, you should keep an eye on your boat; it is likely that you will discover more things that wear off and need to be fixed. Be ready to amend your list and keep in mind that it is meant to be a guideline, not a natural law.

4.) Mind the “risk curve”. Let’s go back to the list from above: The top-positions should be held by vital parts that will be crucial for sailing. If they break, you will have serious problems during a trip or at least an unpleasant interruption of the sailing season.

Ask some simple questions: Are spare parts available in my area? Are they going to be available all year round? How do these parts into the “risk curve”? The “risk curve” is a diagram in which you plot the likeliness of a part to break against the damage this would cause.

For example: The mast; if it breaks, the damage would be horrendous, however, it is not very likely that it will. The varnish on your deck; little damage occurs if it wears off, with no safety risk involved – however, it wears off quickly and needs to be replaced frequently. These two items will occupy opposite positions in the “risk curve”. It should help you to identify parts that have a particularly high significance for your safety.

5.) Especially if you go on cruises or if you do very competitive sailing, you might want to carry spare parts for those that have high risk-values. This might include parts of your radio and communication system; parts of the engine, oil, fuel or filters; electronics and energy supply (batteries); canvas, rope and rigging in general; hull repair kits, epoxy glue and assorted pieces of board from wood, GRP or plastic. Depending on your type of boat, your equipment, your location and the type of sailing that you do, the list of essential spare parts will have to be “custom made”.

6.) Manage your workshop: Most repairs are best done in a dry, warm place. Everything that involves solvents, such as handling paint, lacquers, varnish, as well as many detergents and epoxy resins should be used only in well-ventilated spaces. Some repairs will have to be done at sea, and if you are on a cruise, you might even have to do them seriously offshore.

Go back to your risk-curve and see if you could cope with that. Some cruisers have workshops on their yachts, others just try to match their toolkit with the requirements defined by their boats. Whether or not either way is sensible will once again depend on where and how you sail.

Read the series on Yacht Care and Maintenance:
Part I - Hull; Part II - Deck and Rigging; Part III - Yacht Interiors

Further Reading

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DMOZ on Boat Care and Maintenance

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