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First Sail of the Season: Cruising Checklist

Spring is officially here, and if you're itching to get the sailing season started, it’s time to get going on the boat prep. Quantum Sails expert Andrew Waters shares his prep checklist for starting your season on the right track.

Scrub It Down

True preseason preparation starts at the end of the previous season. The best plan is to clean out the boat in the fall. Take out everything that is not bolted down and put it in clear plastic boxes. Clean the entire interior of the boat, wiping down the cabinets, lockers, and bilge. Starting with a clean slate (literally) gets the season off on the right foot.

Save the Date

In spring, the top priority is to set a launch date. This will help you set a timeline for your list of projects and when they need to be done, and you’ll have all prep work finished by your launch date.

Purge the Stuff

If you took everything off the boat last season, go through each box. If not, unload all your gear, and inventory every item. Consider donating or throwing away anything you didn't use last season. Things like ratty old sheets, expired flares, triplicate gear, outdated charts, and binoculars that no longer focus all take up valuable storage space. If you tend to hold onto things, ask a friend for help or get a second opinion about the importance of questionable items.

Start with the Bottom

Prepare the bottom of your boat by making it as smooth as possible. After sanding, mask the waterline and drape the sides of the hull to make sure you don't get any paint on the sides of the boat. Apply a fresh coat of paint. Seek the advice of your local marine services if you need help choosing the correct bottom paint for your region. Wash, compound, and wax your hull sides. An extra coat or two of wax on your bow and transom will help keep your boat looking good all season. Grab your deck brush, preferred environmentally friendly soap, and wash the deck, applying wax to cabin sides where appropriate.

Deck Gear

Thoroughly evaluate your deck gear and perform any needed maintenance. Servicing most winches using a rebuilding kit with new pawls and springs can be a satisfying DIY project. Inspect the mainsheet purchase, main and headsail furling systems, Dutchman or Lazy Jacks, and outhaul systems. Ball bearings within sheet cars or blocks can wear out from repeat, sudden awkward, and high dynamic loads, but many blocks can also be rebuilt for smooth operation and easy trimming. Carefully inspect your jib lead and mainsheet tracks both top and side for dings or wear, and below decks for water intrusion. Re-bed your hardware with the appropriate sealants to prevent further leakage. Check lifelines for frayed strands, and adjust the gate hooks. If your boat is fitted with an anchor windlass, run it through the paces before that first anchoring maneuver at night or seeking refuge from a nasty storm.

Sheets and Steering

Two systems on your boat that you engage with most often are the running rigging and steering systems. Thoroughly inspect all your sheets and halyards, address any chafe, and retire worn or damaged lines. Check over the control lines, including furling lines, topping lift, outhaul, backstay purchases, traveler line, jib lead adjusters, and even dock lines and fender whips. Get a good visual on your steering quadrant, address worn components, and make sure the emergency tiller is where it should be. Day sailors, don't forget to look over your pintles, gudgeons, rudder head, and tiller extension universal.

When your boat is clean inside and out, the hull is prepared for the season, your rigging and steering systems have been examined, it’s time to launch. Before you sail, however, check the rig.

Set the Rig

To maximize sail control, make sure your rig is centered and tuned. Waters uses a ProFish International Big Game Fishing EZ Set Drag Scale 25lbs to set his rig. To tune the rig, attach the scale to the main halyard shackle (or any halyard that is centered on the mast head). With the fish scale attached to the shackle, extend the halyard to one of the shroud bases with about 15 pounds of pressure on the scale. Then measure the rig setting. Take it to the other side in the same location and see if it comes out to the same setting. If not, you will need to adjust in order to center the rig. You can do this yourself, but Waters recommends contacting your Quantum loft to enlist the help of a rigger to ensure everything is done correctly.

Take a Shake Out Sail

Once the rig is centered and tuned correctly, attach your new or freshly serviced sail to your rig. Head out in light/medium conditions, and take photos of your sails from mid-foot looking at the head of your sail. Keep a record of these photos to log the condition of your sails. In the future, if the jib or genoa starts to cup in on the leech or the draft positions itself too far aft, the photos can help our Quantum sail experts determine the best solution.

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