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THE saildrive or stern drive unit is probably the bit of your boat that’s going to cost you the most money! Servicing them is of paramount importance or you will be faced with costly bills. Same goes for the leg of your outboard. Change the oil in your drive leg according to manufacturer’s service schedule and check the level as often as you can. Look for emulsification which could indicate that water has got into the oil through leaking seals. Doing this on a Volvo leg is easy as you have a nice big dipstick on top of the leg but you will need to buy a wide screw driver attachment for a socket wrench, as shown in the pictures. The rubber ‘bellows’ hoses on a stern drive prevent water from getting inside the drive shaft assembly and will cause a great deal of damage if they leak. The ‘bellows’ hoses should be replaced at least every second year but should be checked as often as you can. Prod them with your finger; they should be flexible and subtle and should not be cracked, stiff, perished


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To do list...


It’s very important to service your lifejackets. If you’re not sure how to do this take them into your local chandlery shop and ask for advice and a service kit. It’s important to replace the gas bottle and automatic firing sensor, plus check the automatic light. Fire extinguishers should be replaced when they are five years old and checked periodically as they can leak. You should have an automatic fire extinguisher in the engine compartment and a fire extinguisher in the cockpit and cabin near to the main hatch. Make sure that the VHF radio works by calling your local marina on channel 80 or the Coastguard on channel 67. Get yourself a horseshoe lifebuoy, foghorn, pack of distress flares and a first aid kit. Finally, check your anchor for corrosion and check that your anchor windlass works before you need to use it.

or covered in barnacles. Also check the rubber seals over the leg trim rams and check the ram seals for leakage too. You might see pink hydraulic oil seeping out. Sacrificial anodes protect your stern gear from dezincification. The zinc anodes give up electrons easily and erode quickly so as to protect the sensitive alloys of your aluminium, bronze and stainless steel stern drive or outboard leg. Without sacrificial anodes your precious propeller might well decay and you will quickly notice pitting to the aluminium gear box casing and corrosion on your stainless steel trim tabs.

Removing the dip stick.

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Check lifejackets; local chandlers can help.

Check guardrails have not worked loose.

Cleaning. Getting all that green crud and winter slime off everything. This includes gently cleaning the teak in your cockpit or on the deck. Then give your boat a nice polish.

Refit your covers such as bimini, sail cover and sprayhood etc.

Check the battery electrolyte levels.

Work all seacocks and check them for corrosion. Make sure that all flexible hoses are sound as they can split if water trapped in the hoses has frozen over the winter.

Check the horn, navigation lights and all electrical gear such as the VHF radio and conduct a radio check with a fellow boater or your local marina dockmaster;

Clean the fridge and ditch any old food inside lockers. Then empty and refill your water tank.

Check the condition of flexible gas hoses and replace them if they are perished or if more than five years old.

Check the condition of fire extinguishers and replace them too if more than five years old.

Periodically check the condition of your mooring cleats, stanchion bases and chainplates. Make sure that they have not worked loose over the winter.

Antifoul the hull before re-launch.

Replace sacrificial anodes if necessary.

Check gas hoses for wear and age.

Ensure your safety equipment is functional and in-date.

Nick checking the chainplates for corrosion.


A fouled bottom will waste a great deal of fuel, add a lot of strain to the engine and slow down the boat. The best way to reduce fouling is to keep the boat out of the water for as much time as you can. A boatpark such as Parkstone Bay Marina in Poole is a godsend as your boat would be kept on a yard trailer, allowing you to clean it yourself but then it would be launched at short notice by a forklift. Dry stacks work in the same way but you can’t get to your boat so easily if it is four boats up in the air. Keeping your sportsboat or RIB on its own trailer at home saves on storage and protects from fouling in the same way. Keeping your stern drive out of the water with the boat ashore is also a great idea and saves on anodes and cleaning.

The best way to reduce fouling is to keep the boat out of the water for as much time as you can.



This past horrible long winter has played havoc with fresh water systems; even if you had the good sense to drain down your water tank your boat might well have suffered from split hoses. Sod’s law dictates that water leaks occur in hoses above the boats electrics. Gingerly fill up your tank and check for leaks before using the boat, as your calorifier water heater could be damaged if run dry. Turn off your 230-volt water heater until you are sure that your boat is free from leaks.

Checking dates on distress flares.

Check fluid levels.

A new propshaft anode.

Get your trailer serviced. Take it to a caravan centre or do it yourself but make sure that the wheel hubs and brakes are properly serviced and that the tyres are free from cracks and damage.

Don’t forget to put the bung in!

All At Sea  

All At Sea

All At Sea  

All At Sea