After a delayed start to this year’s boating season, it’s great to see local berth holders starting to come back to check on their boats and venture out on the water.
For those still unable to travel in line with Welsh Government guidelines, if your boat is in Milford Marina, you can rest assured that our Marina Team continues to carry our regular patrols 24 hours a day and we hope it won’t be too long now until you can all enjoy the Pembrokeshire sun and feel the fresh sea breeze on your skin, around the 22 miles of the picturesque Milford Haven Waterway or even further afield.
Whether you’re a skilled sailor, a keen fisherman or new to boating, it’s important to carry out checks to your boat and equipment before you get out on the water.
We’ve put together 7 handy tips to keep you boating through the season and hopefully avoid you running into trouble whilst you’re out on the water!
#1. Look after your safety equipment, so it can look after you
Having the essential safety equipment on board could be vital in a hazardous situation, so check dates on all fire extinguishers and flares.
If you find yourself in trouble in the water, a lifejacket or buoyancy aid can literally be a life saver, but only if it’s worn, tested and properly working. The RNLI has comprehensive information about lifejacket safety on their website.
Servicing your lifejackets regularly is important and it couldn’t be easier to get it done before you set sail. Quadra Marina Services, Simon Safety and LGS all offer life jacket servicing, carrying out a thorough examination to ensure they fulfil their function.
Inspect your fenders, lines and ropes for chafe or wear. Dirt and salt water can create damp ropes, making the fibres weaker so it’s always safe to have some spare ropes on board just in case one breaks. Properly looking after and cleaning your equipment will maximise their performance and lifespan.
#2. A clean boat stays afloat
Salt water can wreak havoc on your boat’s hull, motor and equipment. Washing off the salt using fresh water and boat soap works best to remove any build up, just make sure to flush the engine after rinsing. Milford Marina offers lift out and lift and hold services, for more information or to book, please get in touch with the Marina Office.
After a wash down, you should buff your boat, not forgetting to wax on and wax off, protecting your boat from any salt and UV damage. Whilst your boat is nice and clean, it’s the perfect time for you to replace any zinc anodes and inspect the hull and propellers for any damage.
Antifouling protects your boat from unwanted organisms attaching themselves to the hull, it helps prolong the life of your vessel and maximises your boats performance. Our on-site marine services, Windjammer Marine and Quadra Marine Services both offer professional antifouling services, providing you with a quality service to give you peace of mind.
#3. An engine check today can keep the Lifeboat at bay
Engine failure is the most common cause to breakdown at sea and although boat engines are quite robust, they all still need TLC with regular inspections and servicing to avoid overheating. Look out for oil levels and oil filters, fuel levels and fuel filters (make sure you carry spares!), cooling water levels, and check the condition of belt drives, replace any worn out water pump impellers and spark plugs (outboard), regularly exercise and grease up seacocks and also check your hose is in good condition.
Whilst you’re checking the engine, check that your kill cord mechanism is fully functional and be sure to test this frequently.
#4. You wouldn’t let the battery on your phone die, so why would you let your boat’s?
It’s easy for your boat’s battery to have gone flat due to a lack of usage over the winter months, meaning it could struggle to hold a charge.
To avoid this, check that your battery is clean and well charged before you head off on any voyages, ensuring that it can continue to hold a charge and replace the battery if necessary. It’s just as important to check any wires and connections for corrosion and fraying and replace if required.
Don’t forget to check your electrical devices too! Make sure all fitted electrical equipment and your VHF radio are properly working. Carry out radio checks, charge if needed and be familiar with local channels you may need to use.
Specialising in marine electronics and based at Milford Marina, Dyfed Electronics can supply and service a range of electrical marine equipment, they’ll be more than happy to help and give friendly, professional advice.
#5. Put the wind in your sails
It’s difficult to beat that feeling when the ocean breeze pulls your sailing boat, effortlessly gliding over the water…but first, you need to make sure your sails are in good condition. You’ll want to check the stitching, batten pockets and look out for UV degradation and chafing, they’ll be your biggest suspects for sail failure and damage!
If you find that your sails aren’t up to scratch, Stephen Ratsey Sailmakers are experts in the trade, their dedicated team are specialists in sail making, sail handling systems, cover making, upholstery and rigging.
#6. The bilge pump, your boat’s very own life jacket
One of the most important elements that keeps you afloat, you wouldn’t give one a second thought, until it fails to operate...
Check that the switch is working, look out for debris in the bilge, make sure the battery is ‘on’, charged and the outlet hose is in working condition.
Although most bilge pumps have an automatic float switch detecting when there is any water in the bilge, but there should also be a switch at the helm which you can use to turn on the pump manually. You can overwhelm the pumps if bilge water is not removed, it’s designed to remove smaller quantities of water, so using the bilge pump to try and keep a boat afloat, from a known leak is strongly not recommended.
#7. Sailors check trailers
There’s no quicker way to ruin a wonderful day out on the water than to be stuck on the side of the road with a broken down trailer.
Just like a car, make sure it displays the same number plate as the towing car and check your tyres are in roadworthy condition and properly inflated. Lubricate the wheel bearings and winch, test your lights and brakes (if equipped). Look over all the safety cabling and ensure your breakaway cable is fitted correctly.
We hope you find these tips helpful but please note this list is not exhaustive, each boat is different so your boat’s features may differ and require additional checks. For more information on boat safety, here are some useful links:
Port of Milford Haven – Safety on the Water
RNLI - Safety
RYA – Safe Boating