Frank's Corner: Chapter 9 - Boat and Sail Care and Maintenance

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    Chapter 9 Boat and Sail Care and Maintenance

    When a boat is acquired, money is put on the table with some owners thinking a boat takes care of itself. How many "boats for sale" have you seen advertised where the ad states "needs a little TLC?"

    I have in the past bought a number of boats that were sitting in an owner’s backyard for a fraction of their original cost because care/maintenance was neglected. I then applied a little elbow grease, sailed/enjoyed them, and sold these boats for enough extra to end up with another boat I wanted. A boat should not be looked at as an investment but an owner can recoup most of the money used to purchased it by maintaining it during ownership.

    The work required may include: cleaning the boat and sails, putting away the sails dry, keeping the inside dry, having the standing rigging tuned as required, replacing the running rigging when needed, repairing or having repaired the sails before small tears become large, waxing the boat at least once a year, etc. None of these items are hard but if not done, the job can become overwhelming.

    I once bought a day sailor for about half its listed value because it was full of leaves and dirty. It took me about a week to get it cleaned up; fortunately the sails were stored inside and put away dry. I sailed this boat for about a year and sold it above average retail. This doesn’t happen often but enough so I could buy a nice 18 footer.

    My boat is on the water and even when I don't sail for awhile I clean it about once a week. I bring it home during the winter months to take care of the things that need to be done out of the water, e.g. cleaning the bottom. During the winter I clean the auxiliary, replace the lower unit gear oil, change the engine oil, and check the plugs/replace if needed. Go over the standing rigging, checking any that may be broken, needs tuning, or replacing. The same for running rigging, which is subjected to UV rays.

    Another neglected item is the winch. Some boats may have a number of these and some do not get used much. This is even a better reason to take them apart, clean all parts, grease all moving parts and oil pawls, and replace bearing and drums if needed. Then reassemble, following the reverse direction of disassemble. The reason for cleaning is the lubrication on the inside. It collects dirt and becomes hardened. I have performed these steps and it is like having a new winch. Winch manufactures publish maintenance guides.

    I recently helped someone sell their boat between $500 and 1000; it was a fixed keel 22. What brought the price down was the lack of maintenance. The sails were coming apart and torn, the cleats were loose and had worn larger screw holes, all the wood was weathered with some broken or missing. The standing rigging was ok but the running needed to be replaced. One turnbuckle, the fore stay, was bent and all the standing rigging needed to be tuned. The jib sheet was a paper/fiber core line showing wear. The positives were a good auxiliary and the hull was sound. Had this boat been maintained the selling price would have been $3000 to $4000.

    Another neglected area is a boat's trailer. A trailer is easy to maintain: repack the bearings every year, replace the support boards as needed, keep the hitch lubricated, and have good tires at the correct pressure.

    I went sailing with some friends and as we were leaving the dock area I noticed one of the spreaders was broken, so no sailing that day. This was the first day of sailing after a hard winter and the boat sat on a lift with no care.

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    If you would like to add your thoughts on this or on any sailing topics, please Email Alison at and I will post your sailing experiences on this website.

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