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It’s settled, more or less.

Due to the latest decree of the Italian PM, which came into force some days ago, nautical activities are gradually being resumed. Since May, 4th boats can be taken care of and hopefully soon a full resumption of nautical activities is expected.

At the moment regional decrees, municipal regulations and interpretations of harbour master’s offices – on the validity of which doubts may be raised – sometimes overlap and extend or limit requirements that must be observed based on the current local health trend.

That being so, the situation in force in your area has to be checked even if, broadly speaking, what is currently allowed in your region of residence, is to get to your boat to perform all alone small maintenance and repair works.

It should be remarked that the decree refers to your own boat, thus underlying that the works mentioned above shall be carried out by the owner (and not e.g. by a friend of his) or by a professional, such as the sailor in charge of the boat or, likely, an operator from a charged shipyard.

Well, having said this, the question of each and every owner remains: “How are things going at the quay? How is my beloved one?”. Let’s think about that together and try to foresee possible troubles and checks to be carried out.

First of all, good news! Unless your boat has been abandoned at a pier in the middle of nowhere, it is more than likely that marina’s operators have taken a look from time to time and therefore your boat is still afloat with all its equipment more or less in working order.

Although it seemed an eternity to all of us, it has been slightly more than two months since we separated from our boats. Considering that the weather in Italy has been generally mild in this period, nothing catastrophic could have happened – unless the boat was in extremely poor maintenance conditions before the lockdown.

It is well known that most of leisure boaters consider sailing as a summer game and, as such, it goes into hibernation when bad weather and cold forecast winter. This year the idle time has been maybe slightly longer, but now let’s face with a positive attitude the steps the boat requires before going back to sea.

Some maintenance works can be carried out by yourself, provided you are already familiar with pliers and screwdrivers. Others can be better performed by an expert. Before starting we suggest to wash the boat thoroughly to have a clearer perspective of the boat’s conditions.

Making a tour of the cabin means to test and check systems, operate the WC, open the cocks, ignite the gas in the kitchen, but also lying in a berth and find out if it smells mildew or if the pillow is just dirty.

So, first make a to-do list and rank the works on an urgency basis. Then roll up your sleeves and start.

DECK

Talking about cleaning I would consider to invest some hundreds of euros to buy a high-pressure cleaner. It’s easy to stow and can last a lifetime. Among those on the market, I recommend to choose a branded one, with aluminium impeller, 20 bar at least, flow: 500-600 l/h. High pressure hose of at least 10 m, max. absorbed power 3 kW. It’s useful also to clean the car and much more. It will soon become a close friend and won’t make us regret the 200-300 € spent to buy it. Cleaning teak is simple enough for everyone, unless it requires extraordinary maintenance. You can choose among a variety of dedicated products on the market and, no doubt, the required tools can be surely found in a peak: a water bucket to dilute detergent and a stiff bristle brush, that’s all

For a homogeneous result and complete removal of the dirt, rub crosswise the teak stripes. A more homemade and yet very effective solution is to use detergents for dishwashers to make teak natural and white. However, remember that rinsing teak with seawater (no, don’t use water from the harbour as it must be very clean) is enough to make it last longer. Washing teak with soap once a year is – in my opinion – more than required.

If you sail a lot, winches should be checked. They have to be disassembled and greased (apply few grease, please) every five years to prevent salt deposits. As they are made up of many parts, make sure a basin is at hand to place them in. Take pictures with your mobile of every step to avoid the unpleasant situation to find out there are some “extra pieces” when re-assembling the unit.

Use a little naphta and a brush to remove the old grease from the parts, dry them and apply lithium grease. Check if clutches, sheaves and cleats work properly. Replace bearings if necessary or, at worst, the whole part.

Now inspect the roller and the anchor ring. Check possible welding oxidation and the rubber pulley for normal chain movement. Make sure no peak significant abrasion or breaking is present that may cause infiltrations.

Check also the conditions of anchor and chain. Sooner or later you will need them when staying overnight in a roadstead ad it is better to avoid any unpleasant surprise.

MAST AND SAILS

Let’s focus now on our mast: the ideal would be to unstep it and place it horizontally on the ground. However, somehow, most of the checks can be performed by an owner acting like an “acrobat” with the aid of a bosun’s chair and of a pair of friendly arms to help you when climbing the mast. In all cases check windex, anemometer, navigation lights as well as hardware.

It could be the right time to replace navigation lights with LED bulbs, low-power and very effective. Only after that – and if it lies on the ground – the mast can be washed. Check both spreaders and splicing. Check turnbuckles and clean thread with distilled water. And don’t forget to check all the ropes. These have to be washed, preferably in washing machine to remove salt and make them look brand new again. 

Coming to sails, they should be washed, bent and placed in a dedicated bag at the end of the season. But the sudden lockdown may have caught someone unprepared and so the sails could still be as we left them during the winter championship suspended in February.

I called my friend Andrea Roccatagliata of A.R. SAILS in Arenzano to ask him in what conditions he expects to find sails now that his customers are starting to call him to provide maintenance service. <<In winter, or generally speaking if a yacht is not going to be frequently used, the sails should be removed and stored below >> he told me, <<genoas often open, start to flog due to a gust of wind and in the end they got torn. Of course sails require a little maintenance and servicing but, apart from hoisting and airing them, I don’t think big troubles can arise in a couple of months’ break from sailing >>. And finally Andrea optimistically says <<not to mention… not to mention that time when I found a nest of wasps in a lazy bag>>. Very consoling, isn’t it?…

Sailcloth gets easily stained. Use oxalic acid diluted 5/10% in hot water to remove rust. It’s important to bear in mind to store sails only when they are completely dry. And don’t forget to wash storing bags from time to time.

BELOW DECK

All on-board systems have to be checked. Make sure the WC and all sea-cocks are in good working order before going back to sea.

A careful check of pipes and relative gaskets and handle can rescue your summer holiday from troubles. 

Checking fresh water tanks is necessary. I suggest to empty and wash them with special products before filling them again.

Particular attention must be paid to coils, presence of water, porthole tightness, possible leaks, state of wear and tear and tightness.

As for the electric system, check the charge of the battery pack and, if necessary, run the engine to charge the battery.

ENGINE

Being a mechanic is the dream of many leisure boaters but it may turn into their nightmare.

For simple maintenance works do-it-yourself is OK, for all the others, it isn’t. Change oil and check oil filter. Check the state of the impeller of the cooling circuit, of fuel/water separator filters and of belts.

4-stroke engine timing belt has to be replaced at regular intervals in order to avoid serious incidents. It is fairly simple to carry out and yet very important as a broken belt could cause serious engine damage in case valves and pistons should smash into each-other. First insert the new belt onto the shaft, then start fitting it on camshaft pulley making sure both shafts don’t rotate.

Finally don’t forget to clean the engine compartment carefully. This is necessary also to be able to detect any leaks or oil and fuel drops during navigation.

Last but not least check fenders, mooring lines and on-board electronics. This should end this anxiolitic inspection of ours, which sometimes – I’d put money on it – will end with a kiss on the coach roof of our beloved one!

Well guys, now maybe we are ready to turn the page.

If things continue smoothly, the lockdown of our personal and sport lives is coming to an end and all will return to normal. Normal, normality….but what normality? Maybe the new one that many of us have tried to imagine but only few will manage to make it happen.

As for me, I would try not to talk anymore of the present situation as an emergency but instead, as normality seen from a different view. I need to meditate a little on this point and then, maybe, I will share my thoughts on these virtual pages.

I imagine a social distancing where we get rid of ourselves, our obsessions and our a little empty aspirations.  

In the last months death and sickness have entered our lives and these wounds will remain unhealed for long. But it would be a good thing to be aware, keep our feet firmly on the ground and have the chance – at least once in a while – to let all our cares drift away.

Renzo Crovo

Renzo Crovo
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