Sizing Up the Autumn List

Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:12PM - Comments: (1)

Steering linkages should be checked for wear, corrosion, and excessive play.

If you live in a place where the leaves change color each autumn, then September is your dessert—that last sweet taste to savor before it’s time to put the boat to bed. Some of the best sailing I ever had was September on Narragansett Bay, pretty close to heaven in my mind. But before we let a long September reach carry us away—and hopefully carry us through winter—it’s a good time to take out a pen and pad, and start to build the winter work list.

It’s a bit of drudgery that might spoil the magic, so save it for the last hours of the day, after you’ve had your fill of September. These are only the things you want to check while your boat is underway; a dockside inspection can cover the other items that might need addressing—such as gelcoat repairs, varnish, running lights, etc.

  • Chafe – Check running rigging and sails for excessive chafe. Are leads fair? Furling-line leads are commonly misaligned, causing an uneven wrap around the drum. Ideally, the line should exit perpendicular from the furling drum. Check for spreader chafe on the sail. Are your chafe patches doing their job?
  • Steering – If yours is a tiller-steered boat, is there too much play in the rudder bearing? Wheel-steered systems—cable and sheave, push-pull cable, or hydraulic—should be thoroughly checked while underway to avoid any surprises in the spring.
  • Rigging – You should have done final adjustments on rig tension in the spring. Now’s the time to double-check the tension and note the turnbuckle or tensioner settings for next season. Selden offers a helpful guide to rig tuning.
  • Blocks, vangs, and travelers – If you’ve added any new deck gear, take a close look at how it is performing. Check the bearings for friction, any UHMW plastic components for cracks, and stainless steel bits for corrosion.
  • Belowdecks – Go below while beating on each tack. Listen at the mast step for creaks and groans. Is everything below staying put? Drawers and cabinets latching securely? Are their any improvements or modifications that might improve comfort and storage below while underway? 
  • Electronics – Are all the sensors working correctly underway? Is the depthsounder transducer working on either tack? How about the masthead instruments?

If you approach your September sailing hours as a way to inform your winter projects, the checkpoints usually become self-evident. Each boat will have additional things worth inspecting. If you have some other checkpoints to add to our list, please post your comments below.


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