General Maintenance Tips for the New Boat Owner
We have owned our 1987 Catalina 34 MK 1 about a year. I thought it might be useful to share some of the things I’ve learned about my new-to-me boat. I’m fairly handy, and like to do my own work, but don’t consider myself an expert by any means, so please take these observations with a grain of salt (unless your boat is in fresh water…) and use them to clarify your own ideas.
First Steps: 1. Go for a sail. Sit at the dock/mooring with someone you love (or like a lot!). Don’t let the chores overwhelm you…enjoy the boat! 2. Introduce yourself to the people at your new (?) dock. Congratulations! Become part of the marina’s community, most will be happy to help/advise if asked. 3. Read the Critical Upgrades from the message board. Don’t worry; it’s not as bad as it sounds. Read them again a few more times. Print them out, as you complete step 3, cross out the ones that don’t apply. Explore the links that give you more background information. I took months doing this, and a year later I still spend a lot of time exploring this web site. I’ve learned about maintenance issues that I didn’t even know existed. Actually, I feel like I’ve made friends with people on this site. Not really what I would have expected. 4. Clean the boat, top to bottom. Every inch, every cubby - especially the bilge and engine – inside and out, front to back, top to bottom. Relax and enjoy getting to know your boat. This is a labor of love!! Keep a notebook. Write down your 3 lists (must be done, should be done, could be done). This job takes several days (or more … I took a lot of breaks). 5. Study the boat Survey – if you got one when you bought the boat. Hopefully you spent quality time with the surveyor while he/she did the survey. Study the Catalina 34 manual. Look for it on-line if you don’t have one. The link is on the home page of the Cat34 IA website. I joined the association because I found it so valuable and wanted to support its’ mission. It has certainly saved me money and time. Perhaps you might feel the same. Go to the manufacture’s websites for each of your boats systems. For example,
Edson has a great page on the maintenance of your steering system. http://www.edsonmarine.com/support/techsupport.php
Universal also has a great site – zincs, impellers filters, etc. http://www.marinedieseldirect.com/universal/200157/universal-owners-manual-caution-statements.html
Study your new boat. Learn where each wire goes, and where each hose goes. Read all the tech wikis!!!
6. Get a good maintenance list. Check this one out from the Catalina 380 International Association: http://www.catalina380.org/check_lists/check_list_page.htm
I found it on the forum under on the maintenance schedule link (thanks, Kevin).
Second Steps: 1. Set up your maintenance log. Keep records of everything (including receipts). 2. Prioritize your to-do lists. What needs to be done for safety? Put those items first. I made a mistake in putting the wiring harness upgrade down the list a bit. When I did the upgrade, I found two things: It was pretty easy to do, and the plug was partially melted and truly was a fire hazard! If you need that upgrade, I suggest you do it immediately. I didn’t need the upgrades for the alternator bracket or the traveler bolts. If I did, I’d do them right away also.
Here is an example of what I found on my boat. This is stuff I felt that I had to do right away. Your list will certainly be different:
1. Put cotter pins on shrouds (my boat was missing one on the starboard side) 2. Change engine oil and transmission fluid. 3. Replace Pencil Zinc in heat exchanger 4. Clean and Paint engine (dirty engines hide problems!) 5. Upgrade anchor system 6. Install new shore power connector (it was heat discolored - bad sign) 7. Wiring Harness Upgrade (next time this goes first) 8. Re-rig topping lift (to cockpit) 9. Grease steering quadrant 10. New water pump impeller
1. Set up Maintenance Schedule. I’m doing that now. I’ll have a section for each outing: visual inspection of rig, engine, and engine oil level. Check that water is coming out the exhaust, feel how free the wheel is, and check for anything that is “off”. I’ll set up the monthly section: check through-hull fittings (open and close them) and hoses, bilge, battery water and charge, closer inspection of rig (standing and running) and engine, check alternator belt, clean any mold in interior, clean topsides, check running lights. Keep up with varnish. For my yearly list I’m heavily borrowing from the Cat380 list. I do my engine each winter, and varnish each spring. We have year-round sailing here in California. 2. Set up a Project List. Here are some of mine: a. Lazy Jacks (done) b. Install a GPS Chart Plotter at the binnacle (done) c. Install an anchor windlass – (done) d. Work my way through all of the remaining Critical Upgrades (I am in the process of doing this: hoses, filters, etc.) e. Replace water pump (Really soon) f. Re-pack the packing gland. (Really soon) g. Cockpit rail seats (this summer?) h. Find a new home for the microwave oven, which is currently on the shelf above the port, hanging locker. (When I get to it) i. Install a diesel cabin heater (manana?) j. The list is sure to grow!
Some cool sites:
Changing Transmission fluid: http://www.c34.org/faq-pages/faq-transmission-oil.html
Packing gland (stuffing box): http://forums.sbo.sailboatowners.com/showthread.php?t=12543
Interior care: http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,6312.0.html
“Burping” cooling system: http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,4518.0.html
How to do … a lot of things (check out the stuffing box procedure!) – thanks “Mainsail”:
Sail lubricant: http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,6227.0.html
Cleaning rub rail: http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,6165.0.html
Anchor fit: http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,5336.0.html
U.S. SAILING (go to training): http://home.ussailing.org/
Animated knots: www.animatedknots.comwww.animatedknots.com
Check the wikis in the maintenance section. They are very good!
A few thoughts:
One of the best ways to make friends with your engine is to wipe it down each month. Use a rag and just rub every inch of your engine, transmission and everything in the engine compartment. You’ll keep it clean, and become aware of changes that can warn you of impending doom – or smaller problems. Check your hoses, clamps, belt, linkages, loose things, etc. If you need to hire a mechanic, work it out so that he/she also teaches you.
It is a good idea to use the inspection doors in the head and aft cabin to view the engine while it is running. Head: Does the fan belt show excessive slack or vibration? Is the alternator overheating? Oil leaking from the filter? Coolant leaks from the engine water pump or hoses? Under the sink is the racor filter bowl free of water/debris? Aft Cabin: Is the raw water pump leaking? Fuel leaks at the filter or injection components? Looking aft, is the packing gland leaking?
For each job or project, check the wiki, notes and forums for procedures and ideas. Ask questions and participate in discussions. I do a lot of background research before I start a task, and it’s really helped me. I’ve taken US Power Squadron and Coast Guard Auxiliary courses. I’ve taken diesel classes and also many tutorials on the Internet (try US Sailing). I do my own maintenance because it’s cheaper, fun (it really is for me) and also because it makes for a safer vessel. When things break down (when, not if…) I will be in a better position to take appropriate actions if I know my boat systems. As captain, safety is my responsibility, and good maintenance is an important step towards good safety! Smooth sailing to you.