In the midst of winter, sailing and boat work are likely the farthest things from the minds of many cold climate boat owners. With the arrival of early spring, warmer days melt the snow, and the thought of pulling off winter boat covers and planning for launch day begins to blossom. Sailing season will come faster than you think, so here are some ways to prepare for getting your boat back on the water.
1. PLAN THE WORK
The best way to start any spring preparation is to make a list of projects (big and small) you would like to complete along with a rough timeline. To avoid the last minute rush as the start of the sailing season nears, map out the tools and equipment you'll need and a schedule for boat work days. A word to the wise: If you’ve never tried a certain type of boat project yourself, but you watched a few YouTube videos to get the gist of it, don’t forget to check with local riggers and boatyard experts for their tips and tricks before proceeding.
2. PLAN THE ADVENTURE
Excited to explore a new cruising destination? Looking forward to competing in a new one-design class or at a new regatta venue? As you anticipate the season ahead, now is the perfect time to outline your float plan, consider logistics, update shared calendars with key dates for shake-down cruises, and sort out travel and crew schedules.
3. INVOLVE YOUR CREW AND FAMILY
One way to make the spring preparation process more manageable and fun is to involve your crew and family. It's a great way to bring your team together, give them a sense of belonging, and create more loyalty. Working with your crew and/or family members helps everyone get excited about the upcoming season, and it can be a great time to brainstorm exciting adventures.
4. CLEAN AND RESTOCK
It’s best to start the season with a clean cabin. If you didn’t do this in the fall, now is a good time to remove unnecessary items from the cabin, give the cabin a good scrub, and inspect it for damage. Your crew and passengers will not only appreciate a clean cabin when they are below deck, but keeping things clean and repairing minor damage early will prolong the life of your cabin. Racers and day sailors should clean out the trailer box, throw away old scrubbies, inventory your performance wax of choice, and dig those crusty dock lines out.
Next, restock and organize. Take inventory of the things you like to have on hand for day-sailing or for longer cruises. From extra sail ties and tape to ring-dings, towels, and sunscreen, now is the time to make sure you have the staples you need for the season. Revisit your on-board sail repair kit and make sure it fits your style of sailing.
5. SAFETY CHECK
The start of a new season is the perfect time to make sure safety gear is fully stocked and in working condition. Check expiration dates for flares, fire extinguishers, inflatable lifejackets, and rafts, as these need to be serviced or replaced over time. Inspect your navigation, anchor, and steaming lights, and replace bulbs with LEDs if possible. Take time to perform a quality-control check of regularly used safety items, and repair or dispose of any outdated gear appropriately. Replenish first-aid kits–it's amazing how fast the bandages get used! You can get a lot of great information about safety and regulations at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety site.
6. BOTTOM WORK
With your boat out of water, it's the perfect time to make sure the bottom is in good condition. Each year, the bottom of your cruiser should be lightly sanded to smooth away any imperfections from previous paint jobs and any aquatic species that may still be attached to the hull.
Each region experiences different aquatic growth, so before painting, seek out local expertise if you're unsure about the best paint to use for your application. Generally, it’s best to apply multiple coats of antifouling paint to the bottom, especially in high-wear areas such as the bow or the leading edge of the keel and rudder. This ensures adequate coverage to the entire hull and antifouling protection through the end of the season. This is especially important if you plan to have someone dive and/or wet-sand the hull regularly.
7. RACING NOTES
The offseason is the perfect time to organize and prepare. Sort through accumulated paperwork, recycle old Sailing Instructions Guides, refresh your copy of the Racing Rules of Sailing, download, print, and laminate new Quantum Sails tuning charts (find your OD Class tuning guide here), and check to see if your VHF survived being left in the trailer box all winter. Get yourself some new pencils, Wet-Notes, a fresh roll of rigging and sail repair tape, replace the tattered class flag, and send in your class dues. It’s also a good idea to look ahead at the regatta schedule and plan your season. Manage the minutia now so you can focus on sailing fast when you're in sequence for the first race.
8. SAIL WORK
If you haven’t done so already, spread out your sails and inspect every inch, looking for rips, tears, pin holes, and frayed stitching. In this at-home sail inspection video, one of our experts details exactly what to watch for. If you don't have the space or are short on time, bring your sails to one of our lofts and our service technicians will be happy to give them a thorough inspection and alert you to any issues.
As spring nears, sail lofts become busy. Avoid delays or the last-minute rush by scheduling and dropping off any sails that need repairs or modifications as soon as possible. Many of our lofts offer contact-free options for drop-off and pickup. Likewise, with new sail purchases, beginning the process now with your local rep will ensure you'll be ready on launch day with a complete inventory. Easily schedule service online or request a quote to fill out your inventory.
9. HARDWARE & RIGGING
While out sailing for the first time, make sure all deck hardware is working properly to avoid any issues. Clean and inspect blocks, service your winches, and carefully remove that bird’s nest from the boom. Perform a complete review stem to stern, from anchor rode and furling line to tiller extension and backstay adjuster. Look up, inspect all standing and running rigging for damage, check lazy jacks, and make sure in-mast furling systems function properly. All halyards should be inspected for any new wear or chafe areas; replace them if the damage is too great. You don’t necessarily need a brand-new line, but you should make sure it has low stretch and is not at risk of breaking. In some cases, end-for-ending a halyard can get you another season or two. Check all standing rigging and their connections to the mast for any corrosion, broken or separated cable strands, and cracks. By doing this now, you can avoid a major catastrophe that may lead to a ruined season.
As you organize and tackle your to-do list, be sure to engage with the marine professionals in your community who can help ease your load or provide you with advice and tips to ensure the best results. We’re here to help, so let us know what we can do to lend a hand. We hope you enjoy a season of trouble-free sailing!