Preparing Your Boat for Cruising Checklist

At the Waggoner Cruising Guide, we work to keep our boats in top condition because we can’t afford to have a breakdown while out on one of our flotillas or on summer research visits to marinas up and down the coast. We have come up with a preparing your boat for cruising checklist of how we maintain and equip our boats.

Preparing Your Boat for Cruising Checklist

We start our refit checklist right at the end of the season with a list of items that need to be addressed and items that were not dealt with in the prior year. The refit checklist indicates the priority of a repair or installation of new gear. Some items can wait or even slip a year if necessary; others are more critical. Some may include nice things to have, such as adding Class B AIS to your electronics suite.

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Preparing Your Boat for Cruising Checklist

The salt water environment is harsh.

Hidden items can also fail if not maintained. For example, carefully inspect your anchor windlass, not just on the deck but down below. Consider having the windlass motor rebuilt by an electric motor shop every ten years or less. It is a single point of failure on the boat and critical. If your anchor windlass fails, it could be tough to retrieve your anchor and chain.

Your mechanic should have a checklist.

We have developed a preparing your boat for cruising checklist for our flotillas and seminars that are complete and thorough. We take the attitude that we could experience a failure in remote areas of Northern B.C. or Southeast Alaska where repair yards are miles apart and want to make sure we and the mechanic are as ready as possible. On our flotillas, we ask that each member uses a checklist to prepare their boat for a summer of cruising.

Preparing Your Boat for Cruising Checklist

Boat Yard

Book your repair yard now.

The end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 are different than prior years. The economy is good, and repair yards have not been able to hire enough qualified staff. The result–yards are booking up early. We highly recommend you book your time for tune-ups and repairs. If you need to haul your boat out this season, book the time for the yard now.

Do a sea trial.

After repairs are completed, and the boat is back in the water, do a thorough sea trial. Use a checklist and check ALL systems. We have found problems to address during a sea trial about half the time the boat has come back out of the yard. If you can, do your sea trial with your mechanic in the engine room and roaming around the boat.

  • Run the engine(s) up to wide open throttle. Does anything overheat? You can watch the gauges, and the mechanic can measure temperatures on key engine parts such as the exhaust system.
  • Do you see smoke in the exhaust after having your prop(s) serviced? The pitch may be off.
  • With the boat underway check for leaks with a flashlight throughout the engine room. Inspect the absorbent pads under the engine for any leaks.
  • When back at the dock run all bilge pumps and make sure they are pumping and not clogged.
  • Run all systems in the living quarters such as head systems, hot and cold water, the ice maker, and the furnace to name a few.
  • We even unplug the boat at the dock for two days to test the battery and charging systems.

Pacific Northwest Cruising

Take the boat out for an overnight sea trial.

Plan a 2-3 day weekend out on the water to check all systems. Does the oven work, and all burners on the stove? Do all the heads work? You get the picture. Carefully monitor the power draw on the batteries. The yard should have checked voltages on the batteries but put then in hard use by not plugging in and making sure they can handle

Spare Parts for Your Boat


Stock up on spare parts.

Take a look at the most critical items on your boat and determine which spares you should carry onboard. If you have a twin-engine boat, you can look at the second engine as a spare, and you may not need to carry as many extra parts unless you want to. Consider carrying the following:

  • Fuel and Oil filters – at least two sets
  • Fluids – Oil, ATF, coolant, Distilled water, hydraulic fluid
  • Full set of belts, and a collection of hoses
  • Starter
  • Alternator
  • Raw water pump and impellers
  • Fresh water pump
  • Head pump assembly
Spare Parts List

The list can be as extensive as you want. Some boat owners swear they sit lower on their waterline due to their spare parts inventory. While parts can be flown to just about anywhere, having your own spares save time. Even if you do not plan to do the mechanical maintenance yourself, spares on board will allow a local mechanic or new friend in the marina or anchorage to complete the repairs.

If you call out a mechanic or pull into a yard in some remote location, you will have the right part for your boat, and you will not have to wait for parts to arrive, which could take 1-7 days depending on where you are and if parts need to be cleared through Customs. We recommend identifying sources of parts in the country you will be cruising in ahead of time, just in case. Good maintenance before your trip and the appropriate inventory of spare parts can be invaluable if things go wrong.

Preparing Your Boat for Cruising Checklist

Taking Care of Your Fiberglass Boat

Take a troubleshooting course.

You may want to consider taking a few training courses that cover troubleshooting and basic repairs. A Hands-on Diesel Engine Training course will take you through how to change your fuel filters and bleed your diesel engine in case you take on bad fuel. Electrical Troubleshooting will show you how to track down short or faulty circuits when something does not work.

The Waggoner Cruising Guide offers troubleshooting courses through Cruisers College in March and April and other venues. We, and others, also offer a selection of other courses like Taking Care of the Fiberglass Boat where you can learn how to keep your boat looking its best. The courses offer valuable knowledge and tips even if you do not plan to do the work yourself. Our boats are complicated and have different areas to maintain. A good base of knowledge will allow you to consider whether you want to do a job yourself or manage a yard or marine technician to do the work for you. All classes are announced on the Waggoner Guide website and in the Waggoner eNews.


~Mark Bunzel



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