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Staying Ship Shape

"Getting ready for Opening Day Krabby?” said a dock walker on a fine Saturday afternoon as I rubbed down a section of Sally’s cap rail. “It’s over two months away and you’re already varnishing?” “Well, you know the old saying – eat the elephant one bite at a me. I just keep at it, little-by-little and by the me the inspection committee walks down the dock she’ll be in Bristol fashion as they used to say.” “I guess you’re right, your first article last year spoke about getting a head start...” said the dock walker. “Here’s a Scotch bright pad; you might as well rub some bright work as you bend my ear.” As I handed him the pad, out came the expected, ‘well I was wondering...’ “Ok. Pick a piece of rail and start rubbing, we can talk and work – then you can buy me a drink.” “I am a little new to this Opening Day Inspection thing. Isn’t it a lot of work for just one day and maybe your name on a trophy on a shelf at the clubhouse?” “Yep, you’re right, for one day it’s not worth it. Keep rubbing, I’m getting thirsty.”


First of all, taking care of your yacht shouldn’t be drudgery. Pick the tasks you enjoy and can handle, the rest can be done by professionals. There is a great deal of pride in keeping your yacht shipshape, even more so when you are able to be a part of the process. Yes, there are tasks best left to the pros, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be involved. I help many of my clients to work out a task list that is divided between owner tasks, boatyard tasks, and subcontractor tasks. Then, prioritize what needs to be done and when.

For example, a few months ago we talked about hauling a boat out for bottom paint. In my article, I outlined several tasks that can only be completed out of the water. Taking care of tasks like bottom paint while the boat is dry-docked will save you from having to haul the boat out again in the middle of summer. A little planning goes along way when you are taking care of a boat.


The whole idea of Opening Day inspection is not just spit shine for one day. It’s about being the best-maintained yacht. There are several categories but they are all based on the boat being shipshape, in full commission, and ready for sea. That means that all your safety gear is on board, up to date, and stowed properly. Your machinery (engine, generator, etc) is fully opera onal, ready to start, and clean (not an oily mess). For this machinery, you must have spare parts on board such as belts, hoses, pump impellers, etc. Navigation lights should be functional. Charts, compass, and deviation card should all be on board, along with all the tools to use them. You must have current documentation and insurance papers. For the most part, you need all the stuff that the Coast Guard will ask you for when they board you at the most inconvenient me.


OK, starting to get the picture? You need all the things that you should always have, but tend to forget about until that one day when you need them half way between here and Catalina. That’s what this is about. Sure, having shiny varnish and chrome and having your signal flags dressing your ship are important. But the point of best maintained yacht is to have all of the yacht: from the depth of the bilge to the truck of the mast, clean and in good working condition. Oh, don’t forget the rum locker. You wouldn’t put to sea without proper provisions or you risk mutiny. Besides, the inspectors are likely to be thirsty.


You might think this exercise of preparing your yacht for inspection as a pain in the transom but I like the idea of it as a deadline to get ‘er done and be all set for the season.


It is an honor to take part in a tradition that we, in some ways all carry on from the old days of the sailing ships of the British Navy. I am sure you have heard of the strict discipline for keeping a ship of the King’s Navy in perfect fighting order. When this was done in fine form the order was given to ‘splice the main brace’. This means an extra ration of rum for all hands for a job well done. I think it’s time to inspect your rum locker.

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