It might surprise you to learn that how to prevent boat fails comes down to several critical pieces of paper. The secret weapon boaters use to combat engine issues, leaks, rigging failures, and everyday boat problems is the mighty checklist.
If you’ve used checklists in your previous professional or home life, using them on your boat won’t be a difficult transition. But some cruisers forget the benefits of using checklists. They get on their boat and ‘wing-it’ rather than create routines and procedures that enable a happy running boat. Watch the video below or if you prefer to read scroll down to discover how to prevent boat fails!
How To Prevent Boat Fails Video
Sure, boat life is all about going with the flow and being adaptable and flexible.
It’s about throwing a bit of caution to the wind and allowing your spontaneous and carefree lifestyle to finally present itself. The last thing you’re thinking about is how to prevent boat fails!
Back home in your land-based life you had deadlines, appointments, due dates, structure, routines, rules, and restrictions. That’s not what you want on a boat. You want freedom. You want the space to do what you want to do when you want to do it. And that IS what a cruiser’s life is all about, but there are exceptions.
Boats are mechanical.
They’re also living in the harshest conditions on Earth. Anything surrounded by saltwater is in a constant state of perpetual decomposition. Without proactive servicing things will fail. For example, if you fail to properly service your engine routinely (doing the same tasks at the same time every x weeks) it’s going to eventually stop working.
And let me assure you if it’s going to stop working it’s usually in the worst spot like the entrance of a marina or between two reefs!
Humans are imperfect.
Being a boat owner requires a humongous amount of working memory. Without a set of reminders it’s possible to miss one or many critical steps while maintaining and operating a boat.
For example, a simple day out sailing consists of making a plan, working backward to ensure preparations for the plan are possible, and then working the plan. You have to check the weather, understand the tides and sea state, plan a passage, do the engine and rig checks, ensure safety systems are operating correctly, brief any crew or guests on what the day involves, ensure food and drinks are already prepared or easy to prepare, safely leave your current location, and this is before you even set sail!
And note that you’re not even thinking about how to prevent boat fails.
I don’ want to come across like cruising life is no different from life on land. Cruising life is amazing. Getting the sails up, turning the engine off, and allowing the boat to slice through the deep blue sea is nothing short of magical. Having the warm breeze in your face, feeling the sun on your skin, and looking out at a variety of amazing landscapes is priceless.
But that’s the reward for a heck of a lot of hard work!
So, how do checklists help a cruiser prevent boat fails?
1. They will help you stay more organized by ensuring you don’t skip a step.
For example, before every voyage it’s important to check, at the very least, the engine water, oil, belts, batteries, leaks, electrical systems, and strainers. You also want to ensure that when you start the engine you can see the exhaust coming out. Skipping any of those steps could prove disastrous.
2. Checklists are motivational in their own right. When you have a set procedure to follow you’ll feel compelled to do it.
There is nothing sweeter than ticking off a checklist!
3. Checklists will allow you to complete repetitive tasks more quickly and efficiently with fewer mistakes.
For example, there are quite a few steps involved in wintering a boat or putting it up on the hard. Since this task is done infrequently – perhaps once a year or once every several years it’s important to follow all the steps. Like ensuring that cockpit and deck drains are left open is imperative!
If they are closed it’s possible for the boat to flood. This happens too often – a boat owner leaves his boat on the hard, the cockpit fills up with rain and finds its way into the boat, and floods the engine and ruins the interior.
4. Another benefit of having boat checklists is clarity.
Checklists mean fewer fire drills and less stress helping you to think more clearly. When we grab or leave a mooring ball there’s a very set procedure we use. We do the same thing every time. By following our checklist when issues arise we’re more prepared for them. We are clear as to what’s wrong and can usually be creative to find a solution. Since we follow a checklist we can also analyze what went wrong and determine if there is something we can add or remove from our list to improve the procedure.
5. Checklists enable easier delegation.
Now that we offer 7 to 10-day experiential liveaboard cruiser charters, The Britican Experience, we have to quickly and easily delegate jobs. We have a variety of checklists to hand our guests so they can not only help to prepare/maintain the boat but also learn what it takes to keep a boat in good shape.
Some of the checklists we delegate include engine checks, pre-passage checks, after-passage duties, rigging, and safety system checks, anchoring/mooring, taking the dinghy to land, and daily cleaning duties.
We always walk our guests through a checklist the first time. Thereafter allow them to follow the checklist themselves so they can clearly understand the process. It helps our guests learn the liveaboard life and frees up time for us to do other tasks. Having a variety of checklists is great for children too – it allows them to feel included and important.
6. Checklists can ultimately save lives and are a big answer to how to prevent boat fails.
We have a variety of safety checklists ensuring that we keep on top of our life-saving equipment. Every year at the same time, we collect all of our flotation devices (life jackets, life raft, down buoy) and have them tested in addition to inspecting every safety device on our boat. Without a reminder boat safety checklist we would not be able to properly understand the state of our life-saving devices.
7. Checklists allow for continued improvement.
We often add a new step or find an alternative way of doing something. Having a set checklist it makes it easy to insert something new and truly hit the ground running. For example, we have a spare parts checklist that is mandatory to have on board at all times.
If we use something in our spare parts list, we do our best to replace it as quickly as possible. Since we’ve been sailing for over six years that list has grown over time. Some of the items on the list I didn’t know existed but are mission-critical to allow us to run safely!
If you’re unsure of what checklists you may or may not need on your boat, download our free checklist, Suggested Checklists For Sailors. Getting the checklist will enable you to consider which checklists will help you to make cruising life more enjoyable!
Other Articles About How To Prevent Boat Fails
- Check out all our checklist articles and videos here: Checklists
- Read and watch our real-life Man Overboard experience: Rescue At Sea
- Get 50+ Checklist Suggestions here: Suggested Checklists For Sailors
- Also, check out our shop for a variety of guides that include checklists here: Britican Shop