Ensuring your electronics work
A general check on the condition of the wiring is never a bad idea. Be honest, is your wiring an entwined mess or is it tidy, labelled and organised? The latter is certainly more desirable when it comes to fault finding, it will reduce the time it takes to fault find without the risk of creating additional faults.
Key things to look for include:
- Are terminals corroded?
- Are connections secure?
- Do connections have a waterproof protection, ideally head shrink but insulation tape would suffice.
- Do you have any crimped joins in the system? If so consider soldering connections together if you are able to as the connection will be much more reliable.
- Check connections into the back of your displays - are they good, corrosion free and none of them seized?
When you power up, are you able to check what current is drawn in your system to ensure there are no anomalous figures that might cause problems to your battery powering later in the season.
If you are using a chartplotter, have you updated your electronic charts? Some parts of the coast, depths, wrecks, wind farms and exclusion zones are continually changing and it is essential you stay up to date to avoid any nasty surprises. Always have a set of paper charts on board for your cruising area and destination, just in case you suffer a loss of power.
Have you calibrated your log? Your autopilot? Your depth offset? If you haven’t and it is a beautiful, clear windless day, consider doing so to ensure you are enjoying the maximum from your instruments.
Consider upgrading equipment
AIS is a fairly new technology, yet available to the everyday boater. As a minimum, you would be silly not to take advantage of the AIS receiver which gives you visual positions of all transponding traffic, course and speeds, and also highlights those that are a collision risk.
If you have the Raymarine AIS650 Class B AIS Transceiver you will also be able to transmit your own details to other traffic, significantly reducing the risk of unexpected contact with other vessels.
My Raymarine AIS certainly made sleeping a more pleasant experience for me mid Atlantic during the OSTAR as I could set a 10 mile radius around my position which would set off an alarm if a vessel encroached on my “zone”.
If you are sailing shorthanded, with inexperienced crew or with young children onboard you should also consider the Raymarine LifeTag. Its wireless Man Overboard Monitoring System will alert you, loudly, if you have lost any of your crew overboard as well as providing potentially lifesaving information to get back to your man overboard. I will definitely be using it in the 2012 TwoSTAR Trans-Atlantic when I compete with my co-Skipper Matthew Lingley.
New technology such as AIS and LifeTag systems can greatly enhance safety on your vessel.
Before you leave on your first trip
Make a checklist of all the things you should tick off before the first trip of the season. This should cover:
- Checking lifejackets and flares are in date. 10 seconds before use is too late to discover your equipment is out of date!
- Checking guard wires are secured at each end and are in good general condition. The same goes for lifelines - it’s always good to stay on the boat and not have to put your LifeTag system to use!
- Consider mousing out your halyards to soak them in fresh water. This will give you an opportunity to check their condition, identify any wear, and wash the salt out of them. They will also be much kinder to your hands as a result! Do the same for sheets and maybe even your mooring lines.
- Update any non slip paint or matts you may have around the vessel.
- Remember a gas check/service for your onboard gas systems and ensure you have working gas alarms and bilge alarms.
- If you can, service your winches. They will last much longer if you look after them.
And finally just before you leave the dock...
Arrange a radio check with a fellow boater or your marina. Try not to ask the Coast Guard for a radio check unless there is no one else available.
Always make sure your handheld VHF is fully charged. I have been caught out here before - during an engine fire, I lost all power and hadn’t realised my handheld didn't hold full charge, luckily I had just enough to talk to the port authorities to arrange a tow, but it was worryingly close!
If you’d like to follow Katie as she prepares for the 2012 TwoSTAR Trans-Atlantic race - it has a scheduled start date of 3 June - visit: www.katiemillerracing.com