Shipshape Sailboat

The list is endless to keep a sailboat shipshape. It breaks out into several lists of discrete responsibilities based on timetables. That way, things proceed in an organized way that stops short of overwhelming the skipper. Here is a starter kit for the new sailboat owner. 

It’s easy to become intimidated by such lists, which is why they need to be broken down. It helps to bring one’s skill sets to the challenge as a starting point. For example, let’s say you’re a gearhead who’s good with auto engines and repairs. Then let’s start with the boat engine. Inboards run on diesel and outboards run on gasoline. Each is a unique machine requiring special knowledge. Much of the maintenance and repair can be found on You Tube, and Yanmar offers official two-day schools around the country. People with woodworking skills should start by refinishing the teak surfaces inside and out. Those who fancy themselves as electricians will find plenty to tackle in a compact boat setting. Anyone with utterly no experience or skills should befriend someone on the dock to give advice or otherwise help. They’ll be flattered you asked, as long as you don’t become a pest.

One has to be careful not to over-think maintenance. If there’s water in the bilge, use a trial-and-error method to discover the source and stop it. Chances are near zero that the water is coming from below. There are an unknown number of places inside the boat for water to settle, only to flow to the bilge once you go sailing. Boats also are known to leak from topside, though less frequently after boats built in the 1980s. Check after a rainstorm to see where water collects. Look for water stains in the liner of the cabin or down the interior walls. Face it: boats leak.


  • Check bilge and other low places for leaking water, oil

    Shipshape Sailboat

  • Warm the engine with hairdryer to uncongeal the oil

  • Check the levels of oil but don’t overfill

  • Clean the head and check the linens

  • Think creatively about shipshape sailboat

  • Wash pollen and bird droppings from the deck

  • Refill cooler with bottled water and ice


  • Wax fiberglass in cockpit and on deck

  • Treat the non-skid with special liquid wax

  • Seal blocks and spars with liquid wax

  • Test all five dock lines at low tide as not too tight

  • Check electrical shore cord connections for corrosion


  • Shipshape SailboatExamine both electrical harnesses and batteries for corrosion

  • Review First-of-Month sheet for 16 specified actions

  • Test both batteries for fully charged at 12.7 volts

  • Check running rigging for frayed and twisted

  • Probe standing rigging for snares, twist and rust

  • Check furling for free turning, and grease if needed

  • Recharge portable marine radio monthly

  • Add items to lists of Shipshape Sailboat

EngineCheck the oil level weekly

  • Check oil level weekly, every other day in summer

  • Observe coolant level monthly and fill spill jar halfway

  • Examine both raw water thru-hulls daily for jellyfish

  • Check water pump impeller for continuous flow

  • Tighten hose fittings occasionally as warranted

  • Check transmission oil for clean and full

  • Refer to multi-task Engine sheet for maintenance


Check the quality of the thru-hulls

  • Verify seasick wristbands, Dramamine, ginger mints

  • Check the quality of the thru-hulls for deterioration

  • Check First Aid supplies to be current and fully stocked

  • Review meds such as Alleve and aspirin as current

  • Review Emergency SOP and USCG Emergency drills

  • Check MOB items: 25-foot bag, 50-foot Lifeline, cushions

  • Check thru-hull openings as tight and dry


  • Work through 10-page list starting Nov. 1 to finish Dec. 31

  • Order two fuel filters, O-rings and oil filter for the engine

    Sand and paint the bottom

  • Remove spinnaker, mainsail and genoa sail for cleaning and repairs

  • Remove cushions and all movable stuff from the boat

  • Organize winter storage for easy access and refitting

  • Dismount and repair both winches using Harken kit

  • Sand and paint the bottom, perhaps twice

  • Sand and varnish teak rails and catbird seats

  • Haul the boat for repainting bottom and waxing hull

Let’s Keep a Shipshape Sailboat

Check rates and pick a day for a sailboat charter. See reviews on Trip Advisor. 

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