Skipper’s Tips #4 – Daily Checks

“Every day before you go out, you must check your engines…” This is what I tell my students when I’m training.  It is actually very sound advice, but how many of us actually follow proper procedures every time we go out?

I am definitely guilty of just hopping on a boat, turning the keys and driving off – I know the boat has recently been checked by someone else, I know I’m only moving it around to the hoist, and I know I’m in a hurry but that doesn’t make it right.

I’ve seen another very skilled boat handler, do exactly the same thing, only to have the engines stop just as he moved off the berth; the fuel shut off switches had been turned off.  We never turn them off, nobody I know ever turns them off, as far as I am aware they’re only there so that they can be turned off in an emergency but the owner of this boat had turned them off.  As Roger glided across the channel towards the boats moored on the other side his heart must have missed a beat or two.

All credit to Roger though. He knew exactly what the problem was, turned on the fuel valves, started the engines and missed the other boats by inches… Roger’s years of experience had introduced him to most of the things that are likely to trip you up when you’re trying to be professional and cool.

The question is, how would you have coped in that situation? I’m not certain I would have immediately thought of the fuel shut off valves.  I suspect I’d have leapt to the front of the boat and prepared to fend off.

The moral of the story has to be, ‘Carry out daily checks’. Especially if you have decided to heed my advice from my previous tip and you are keeping your boat in the water over the winter months

  • Always check your engines before starting a journey, especially at night
  • Enter fluid levels and rectified faults in the ‘Deck Log’ before you setoff
  • Keep a selection of spares and tools on the boat at all times
  • Turn on and check all your navigation and anchor lights
  • Check all safety equipment, e.g. life-jackets, flares, life-raft
  • Make a VHF radio check on Ch. 80 to your marina

Unlike our fellow boaters, who enjoy the delights of gliding along at 6 knots under the power of the wind, we have two (sometimes one) dirty great lumps of engineering supremacy drumming away in our bilges.  They are the only means of propulsion available to us and as such we have a duty to understand how they work and more importantly, to know how to keep them working.

Regular servicing is, of course, essential. However, that alone will not prevent the occasional glitch. We must monitor our engines to make sure that we notice the first signs of something going awry and see that it is dealt with straight away.

Daily engine checks should include: checking the level of engine and gearbox oil, are the raw water filters clear of debris, do the engines have enough coolant in the freshwater system and are the belts all at the correct tension.

Look after your engines and they will repay you with mile after mile of trouble free boating.

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

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