Boat Owners Checklist

Boat Owners Checklist

Preparing your boat for summer

The clocks have gone forward, spring is in the air, and - if you’re a boat owner - you’re itching to get out on the water. This is the time to go through the list of checks to ensure that you and your vessel are ready for the season:


If you’re responsible for your own mooring, check all the fittings, chains, strops and shackles before the season starts, to ensure they are in a good and safe state of repair.

If you have a marina berth, it’s still your responsibility to ensure the mooring strops, thimbles and shackles are maintained and fit for purpose.

Deck and fittings

Repair any minor scratches and anti-foul and, unless they’re bronze, skin fittings have a shelf life of six years. Then, before starting your boat for the first time, fill your tank with the freshest, highest-quality fuel available and change the oil, ensuring it’s at the right level. And check:

  • stanchion, pulpits and lifelines for integrity
  • ground tackle, lines, fenders, etc.
  • chainplates and cleats
  • hull/deck joint
  • deck and windows for leaks
  • inspect anchor windlass and lubricate
  • clean and grease winches
  • check and lubricate blocks, pad eyes, etc
  • lights and lighting fixtures (including navigation lights) for leaks, make sure they’re working and that you have spare bulbs and fuses
  • the engine compartment for excess water or oil in the bilges
  • the battery is properly secured to the vessel
  • for electrical issues such as loose, disconnected or corroded conductors/anodes
  • fuel tank for leaks, and ensure there is proper ventilation
  • the fuel filters to make sure no water is present
  • pipes for wear and damage
  • propellers, and make sure they’re balanced correctly
  • seacocks (test and lubricate)
  • limber holes (and clear any debris)
  • all hoses and clamps, and make sure below waterline hoses are double clamped
  • bilges pumps for automatic and manual operation

Your electrical system

Inspect all wiring for wear and chafe, and:

  • recharge batteries and check battery water level
  • clean and lubricate terminals
  • check the bonding system
  • test all gauges
  • check shore power and charger
  • check all electronics for proper operation
  • inspect antennas

Sailing boats

As a rule of thumb, rigging has a ten year shelf life, masts last up to 20 years unless it’s carbon or you race you boat.  Check:

  • halyards and backstays for cracks, rust and general wear, and consider replacing or swapping them end for end
  • stays for fraying and ‘fish hooks’, plus forestay and backstay connections
  • sail track, rigging, turnbuckles and clevis pins for corrosion
  • masthead fitting and pulleys
  • roller furling (and lubricate)
  • turnbuckles, cotter pins, and spreaders (and tape)
  • reefing points and reefing gear
  • battens and batten pockets
  • anodes

Safety equipment

If you carry gas, flexible gas pipes should be changed, and a qualified engineer should conduct a Gas Safe examination, every four years. Also check:

  • dinghy
  • life raft is within service expiring date
  • signalling device by sounding it
  • distress signals / flares are within expiring  date
  • personal floatation devices / life rings and cushions
  • fire extinguishers (recharge if necessary)
  • compass (adjust if necessary)
  • navigation lights
  • navigation aids
  • charts and replace as necessary
  • radar reflector
  • first aid supplies (and refill as required)
  • bailer and hand pump
  • carbon monoxide alarm (and ensure you have one)

Below decks

Check your heads:

  • lubricating and cleaning as necessary
  • if equipped with treatment system, have chemicals on hand
  • Y-valve operation with the valve labelled and secured

Check your water system, by:

  • flushing the water tank
  • checking the water system and pump for leaks
  • checking hot water tank working on both AC and engines
  • ensuring the tank cap keys are on board
  • cleaning the shower sump pump screens

In the galley:

  • fill the propane tank
  • check the electric and manual valves
  • make sure storage box vent is clear
  • clean the fridge and check it operates on AC and DC
  • clean stove and check that all burners and oven are working

Inboard engine

Even if it was only used for a short time last year, have your engine pre-season serviced. You should have an engine maintenance log with, in particular, the date and hours of last oil changes. Ensure the good working order of the:

  • backfire flame arrestor
  • impeller
  • water strainer
  • bilge blower

 Check and, if necessary, change:

  • the engine anodes
  • oil and filters and cooling system coolant (and make sure you have spare onboard)
  • belts for tension
  • transmission fluid

Outboard motor

The fuel lines, primer bulb and tank do not have leaks, and lubricate and spray all moveable parts. Replace the spark plugs and check:

  • plug wires for wear
  • prop for nicks and bends
  • gear lube


If you have a trailer for your boat, make sure it’s roadworthy, fit for purpose, and legal. Check:

  • rollers and pads
  • wheel bearings (and lubricate)
  • winch, tongue jack and wheel (and lubricate)
  • lights and electrical connections
  • tyre pressure and condition
  • brakes (if equipped)
  • safety chains
  • tongue lock

You and your crew:

Check that you and your crew know:

  • where the safety equipment, emergency kit, electronics and other devices are
  • what the engine temperature is so that you can ensure it’s not overheating
  • your safety procedures - if you or your crew haven’t gone on a safety course, then consider enrolling on one
  • if there have been changes to buoyage and channels - winter storms often mean shifts
  • what your safe launching practices are

It can take a little time, but a complete check of your boat now will mean that you have a summer of great sailing.

If you would like advice on the kinds of insurance you need, please get in touch.