Before and After the Cruise Checklists


Last October, PS Editor Darrell Nicholson wrote about the importance of checklists and his inbox was inundated with mail from sailors who shared their own lists. Here are two lists I use when sailing my Corsair F-24: the pre-departure list, and the return to home list. Neither list is meant to be exhaustive-but perhaps it is enough to think about as you craft your own.

Pre-departure List

The intent is to prepare the boat and gear for at least the first hour in order to avoid unnecessary distractions and make sure safety gear is at hand. The singlehander will prepare for a longer time interval.

    • Stow personal gear. Foul weather gear, hats, gloves, and other items that may be needed on short notice are either worn or staged.
    • Confirm that critical repair items from the last trip have been addressed.
    • Remove sail, tiller, and winch covers, and stow.
    • Place and secure seat cushions.
    • Reeve running rigging as needed. Flake tails of lines that will be used soon.
    • Tension standing rigging if required.
    • Check freshwater, holding tank, and fuel tank levels.
    • Check bilge. Is there water where it was previously dry?
    • Open engine sea cocks. Visual inspection of engine and check engine oil. Lower outboard and open portable tank vent if applicable.
    • Battery switches and required breakers on. Instruments on as applicable.
    • Safety equipment-including PFDs, harnesses, and tethers-are worn or staged, depending on the expected conditions. PFDs, harnesses and tethers are assigned to crew.
    • Install tiller extension if applicable.
    • Review safety procedures and sailing practices with any new crewmembers.
    • Initial sailing plan detailed and overall plan sketched out.

Return to dock list

    • All sea cocks closed.
    • Check bilge. Is there water where it was previously dry?
    • Check engine (belts, coolant, oil).
    • Breakers and battery switches off.
    • Shore power connected if applicable.
    • Sail covers on and secure.
    • Dock lines secure.
    • Outboard, rudder, dagger board/centerboard raised and secured if applicable.
    • Portable gas tank vents closed.
    • Propane off.
    • Remove all perishable food. Dump ice.
    • Heaters, air conditioners and dehumidifiers set.
    • All hatches closed and latched.
    • All covers secure. All seat cushions away.
    • Wet gear stored such that it can dry.
    • Dinghy drain open.

Drew Frye is technical editor for Practical Sailor and author of the how-to book on anchoring, Rigging Modern Anchors from Seaworthy Publications. He also blogs at his website

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


  1. One item for the “Return to Dock” list:
    Empty the trash can.
    (I’ve lost count of how many times we thought of this while driving home, and had to go back to the boat…)

  2. I have a n issue with one item in the “return to the dock list” – the “close the portable tank vent”. If the temperature raises with the vent closed, the good chances are that the fuel will be forced out through the carburettor and eventually drip into the water. I have seen this happening. This is especially bad if the outboard motor is a two-stroke – the fuel will evaporate in the hot weather, but the oil won’t.


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