Ready, Set, Launch

Many sailboat owners haul out annually, either to store them for the winter or to perform routine maintenance and paint the bottom. If the boat has been out of the water for a while and you (or others) have worked on the engine, prop and shaft, plumbing, electrical system, steering and more, then you need to methodically check the following prior to launching to ensure that the boat is safe and watertight:

1. Sea cocks: Make sure all of the seacocks are working so they can be closed easily. All hoses running to seacocks of thru-hulls need to have double stainless steel hose clamps. Check these for rust or failure and replace/tighten any that look suspect.

2. Prop and prop shaft: Check the stuffing box or thru-hull where the prop shaft exits the hull to make sure it is in perfect condition. Modern dripless thru-hulls need to be well clamped with double hose clamps and in good condition. Old fashioned stuffing boxes should be repacked prior to launching and then tightened after the shaft has turned for a few hours. Make sure the prop is well attached to the shaft and that the zincs are fresh and large enough to last a year or more. If you are going to install a line cutter to the shaft, now is the time.

3. Steering and rudder systems: Many modern boats have spade rudders that are turned by wire steering cables or direct rack and pinion linkage. Before launching, check the rudder bearing and the fiberglass tube it fits into for cracks, wear or signs of leaks. If it is leaking, you may have to drop the rudder and replace and reseal the bearings. Check the quadrant on the rudder post for cracks and the key in the rudder shaft for corrosion and wear. On cable systems, inspect all the sheaves for wear and any play in the mountings; the cables should be taut but not too tight and may need to be adjusted at the quadrant. Rack and pinion systems should move freely, and all links and guides need to be secure and moving in the proper direction. The below decks steering systems need to be cleaned and then greased to keep them moving freely all year.

4. Engine cooling system: Make sure the raw intake for the engine is clear and the hoses in good condition. Check the water strainer for any blockages and the anti-siphon loop for salt or dirt build up. Make sure you have checked and changed all of the zincs on the engine prior to launching.

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