It’s almost time! We are ready to move from winter to spring here in the Appalachian Mountains. The snow has melted and the buds are starting to peek out from under the covers after their winter sleep. The robins are hopping around the yard and even though my children and pets remain resistant, the arrival of daylight savings time further supports the observation that spring is just around the corner and that means Midwinters!
We know that our fellow Scot sailors down south have been enjoying their boats and haven’t had to tuck them away to prepare for the winter but for those that are getting their boats out of storage mode and into sailing mode I thought it would be a good time to walk through the process we go through to prepare our boat, trailer, and ourselves for another sailing season.
I take a top-down approach when beginning to check out the boat. Most importantly, I am sure to inspect the mast and stays as once it is up I’m really not keen on wanting to get it back down to replace anything if I can avoid it. I start at the top and check the shrouds where they attach the mast. I am sure to carefully look at the swedges to make sure there are no cracks. I then run down the wires and make sure there are no broken strands or kinks. At the bottom, I check those swedges as well for cracks. I repeat this same process for the forestay. Next step is the halyards. I look over them to make sure there are no broken strands, kinks, or burrs. If I find any evidence of stress or broken strands I replace the stay or halyard. I’d much rather be proactive with the standing rigging and halyards than having to react to a breakdown on the water.
After the wires have been inspected, I move onto the inspection and maintenance of the halyard winch itself. It is very important to keep up with this mechanism as a little bit of maintenance will keep it working really well for the entire life of the boat. Every year when the boat comes out, I run a bead of SuperLube around where the halyard winch spool exits the phenolic and work the halyard back and forth to work the lubrication into the phenolic. I do this for both the main and jib halyard spools. When finished with that I go up and drop a few beads of lubrication onto the jib halyard block and visible main halyard sheave as well to keep everything working smoothly and quietly. If your boat makes what Sandy Douglass called “the mating call of the Flying Scot”, which is a lovely squeaky screeching sound as the sails come down, it is time for lubrication!
The final step on the mast is to check the blocks where the spinnaker halyard and topping lift run through to ensure they are still in good shape. I usually give the shackle another tighten with a shackle key or pliers. This is also a good time to make sure you have located your wind indicator and that it is not broken. Quick tip here – we store our wind indicator in between the flotation logs where they stick out forward of the seats under the foredeck. This way it stays out of the sun, dry, and – most importantly – it cannot get stepped on, sat on, or lost.
With the stays and halyards inspected I move onto the boat itself. I check the jib tack wire and forestay extension to make sure there are no broken strands and that the swedging on the forestay extension is not cracked. I also give each a pull back and forth to make sure that the toggle is moving free under the foredeck. I then double check all of the sheets and lines to make sure they are not frayed or worn and double check all of the blocks to make sure they are running the way they are supposed to and that the ratchets are engaging as they should.
The boom gets an inspection next where I make sure that there are no signs of fatigue around the vang bail. I also tighten the shackles holding the mainsheet blocks with a shackle key or pliers. It is also very important to inspect the gooseneck mechanism for any signs of wear or fatigue. Again, if any piece of that shows weakness I go ahead and replace that component before it has a chance to fail entirely.
I go over the rudder and tighten the shackle holding on the mainsheet block and inspect the gudgeons to make sure they are still tight and in good shape. If you have a rudder lift kit this is a good time to inspect the shock cord and replace it if the sun has begun to work on it.
The final thing I do is double check the safety equipment on the boat. I inflate the bow bag and make sure that it is holding air. Remember if you are heading to warmer climates to not over inflate so the bag does not expand and leak in the warmer temperatures. I also make sure that my transom port can easily open and, if not, I apply some lubrication to make sure that if I ever need it I can get it open. I double check that the paddle is still in the paddle holder and that I have an anchor with line in the anchor bracket.
Once everything is ship shape, I usually give the boat a quick bath. To be honest, since we are normally getting it out to head to Florida, I pack the soap and bucket and brush and wash it in the warmer weather. No sense in being wet and cold! I just use Dawn dish soap and a long-handled brush to do the majority of the cleaning. Tough spots get acetone or Brillo as needed.
The trailer is usually the more easily neglected piece of the puzzle. If you are in the practice of not sinking your bearings when you launch and retrieve your boat then you are usually in pretty good shape. We check the bearings and make sure that the grease is plentiful and greasy. We also inspect the tires for cracking or fatigue. We fill them up to the recommended poundage and if we don’t have a mounted spare, we make sure one is in the car. The lights are tested to make sure the wiring is still in good shape and no bulbs have gone out. Finally, we check the axle and the tongue to make sure there are no cracks or damage. With older Trailex trailers it is good to check the tongue underneath the coupler to make sure it has not torn. This can sometimes happen when a trailer is jack-knifed and can be rectified if caught before it tears completely. Also, with the Trailex trailers you want to check the fenders and make sure that they are still tucked behind the large washers fore and aft of the axle. Sometimes with big potholes the tire can kick up into them and knock them out. You just loosen the nut with a socket wrench enough to slide the bolt back and forth in the groove in the trailer frame, push the fender against the frame, slide the washer back over the fender, and tighten the bolt back down. If left out the fenders wobble back and forth going down the road and can eventually tear away.
Usually when we head to Midwinters the thing that needs the most tuning is us. The boat and trailer are usually good to go but we have to knock off the cobwebs and remember how to do it all again. For us, we try to arrive at the regatta hydrated, rested (hahaha with two toddlers this is a pipe dream), and feeling good. I bring all the gear as I find I am usually freezing cold and terribly hot at least once during the week. This requires a larger tow vehicle to handle my gear bag but wet and cold is just not something I am willing to endure. We try to arrive early enough to rig and tune the boat without rushing and maybe get out for a practice sail. For tuning, we are sure to pack a tape measure, Loos gauge, and red finger nail polish. (If this seems confusing, stay tuned as we will discuss dialing in our rake and how we use the red polish in a later blog.) We dial in the rig and usually walk away and relax. The lucky thing about sailing Flying Scots is that even when you’re not sailing the conversations and company are second to none and we have a blast on the water and off. Cheers to another sailing season! See you in Ft. Walton!
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