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

Drew Frye
Drew Frye, Practical Sailor’s technical editor, has used his background in chemistry and engineering to help guide Practical Sailor toward some of the most important topics covered during the past 10 years. His in-depth reporting on everything from anchors to safety tethers to fuel additives have netted multiple awards from Boating Writers International. With more than three decades of experience as a refinery engineer and a sailor, he has a knack for discovering money-saving “home-brew” products or “hacks” that make boating affordable for almost anyone. He has conducted dozens of tests for Practical Sailor and published over 200 articles on sailing equipment. His rigorous testing has prompted the improvement and introduction of several marine products that might not exist without his input. His book “Rigging Modern Anchors” has won wide praise for introducing the use of modern materials and novel techniques to solve an array of anchoring challenges. 


  1. 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.

  2. I have never experienced this, on several boats and many years. However, there are three proven solutions to the pressure problem:
    * Rebuild the carb, including a new needle valve. The pressure of the tank is less than that of a good fuel pump, and thus the gasoline is easily held back by a good needle valve.
    * Install a ball valve in the fuel line between the tank and the engine. Simple.

    And finally the “official” answer:
    * Add a fuel demand valve. Like a scuba demand regulator, it only releases gasoline when there is a slight suction on the motor side.

    The alternative is to leave the vent open, which over time is a sure bet for moisture absorption into the gasoline, carb corrosion, and plugging problems. Alternatively, you could install a silica jell vent filter, but this is overkill for a portable tank. I would go with the in-line fuel valve if I had this problem.