JM Marine Survey
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~ preparing for sea ~

by Niki Perryman & Jamie Morrison

You’ve just purchased a new boat, and are planning your first voyage offshore.  There’s always so much to organise when you’re preparing for sea, and that sneaky feeling that you’ve forgotten something important is ever-present.  Here’s a basic checklist we’ve put together for our yacht deliveries, to give the grey matter a helping hand.  You may want to add a few items specific to your own boat.  Good voyaging!


  • Anchors are shackled and seized to rode, and there is some means of securing them to bow-roller / deck-chocks (or below deck) once you leave confined waters
  • Bitter end of anchor rode is secured to boat below decks
  • Chain hawsepipe is as watertight as possible
  • Deck storage cans for water and fuel are well-lashed
  • Deck-mounted dinghy is tightly lashed
  • Outboard motor is securely stowed on pushpit, in deck locker or elsewhere on deck where fuel cannot leak into boat (if in doubt, drain the fuel!)
  • Outboard fuel securely stowed on deck or in a sealed deck locker (NOT down below)
  • Rubber gaskets on hatches and opening ports are sound
  • Hatches and ports shut and dogged, hatch-covers fitted as appropriate
  • Deck-filler caps for fuel and water properly done-up and o-rings in good condition
  • Cockpit drains are clear and draining freely
  • Washboards are sound and handy (ready to fit when needed)
  • Lifeline connectors are in good condition and properly done up
  • Lifelines/stanchions are strong enough to support a heavy crewmember’s weight
  • Stanchions are secured with pins or bolts in their bases; bases are bolted securely through deck (not screwed)
  • Sharp knife stowed close to cockpit for emergency rope-cutting


  • all sails inspected for rips, holes and broken stitching on seams
  • batten ends securely fastened and in good condition
  • sail slides in good condition (none worn, broken or sun-damaged)
  • Roller headsails furl freely and top swivel is working properly
  • Headsail hanks working freely
  • Comprehensive sail repair kit on board, plus spare sailcloth and strong adhesive for major ‘instant’ repairs


  • Roller reefing lubricated and handle stowed in appropriate place
  • Slab reefing lines working and chafe-free


  • No metal-fatigue, corrosion or chafe on load-bearing fittings such as mast crane and shroud tangs
  • Spreaders are secure at inboard end and correctly angled
  • Anti-chafe on spreader-ends to prevent damage to sails
  • Wooden spars inspected for shakes or areas of softness around fittings


  • Bosun’s chair is in good condition and stowed somewhere accessible in case of emergency
  • Rigging wire is sound: no broken strands, particularly around terminal fittings
  • Shackle-pins (aloft & on deck) firmly done up and seized
  • All shackles, terminals, turning blocks and mast fittings inspected for fractures, wear and pitting
  • Sheaves turn freely
  • Split-pins/rings in all rigging screws or turnbuckles (aloft & on deck)
  • Exposed split-pins are taped to prevent snagging of sheets, sails or passing legs
  • Rig is correctly tensioned: mast is in column and leaning neither to port or starboard
  • Chainplates inspected for cracks or corrosion
  • Hacksaw plus spare blades on board (for emergency rigging removal), and bull-dog clips for a jury rig


  • Rudder has no excessive play
  • Wheel steering: cables are properly tensioned, lubricated and protected from interference by gear stowed nearby.  Inspect for broken strands.
  • Tiller is sound (no splits or cracks) and firmly secured to rudder stock
  • Self-steering is correctly set up
  • Emergency tiller has been tested and crew know how to find, rig and use it


  • Trysail and storm jib have been hoisted and checked for condition, sheeting angles, tack strops etc
  • Rode, turning blocks and anti-chafe assembled and accessible for sea-anchor/drogue
  • Storm boards accessible for windows and skylights


  • Seacocks are working freely; skin fittings in good condition
  • All through-hulls have tapered softwood bungs attached by lanyard in case of skin-fitting failure
  • Flexible piping is secured to through-hull fittings with double hose-clamps.  Hose clamps in good condition
  • All siphon-breaks and breathers clear and working
  • All movable items are stowed in lockers, fastened or lashed in place
  • Fiddles are in ‘offshore’ position
  • All drawers and locker doors have catches to prevent them flying open at sea
  • Lee cloths/boards for bunks are strong and have adequate fastenings


  • Overheat alarm/light is working
  • Drip tray under engine is oil-free
  • Fuel tanks are full
  • Fuel sumps and filters checked for water and diesel fungus
  • Oil is clean and topped up
  • You have enough spare oil on board for at least one oil-change
  • Cooling water through-hull and strainer are clear of blockages and growth
  • Drive belts inspected for condition and correct tension
  • Stern gland adjusted and lubricated


  • Cooling water is pumping
  • Throttle control and gear-shift are working correctly
  • No excessive vibration
  • Ammeter/voltmeter shows alternator is charging


  • You have sufficient means of generating power to run navigation lights, house lights, instruments and any other appliances you wish to use at sea
  • Batteries are holding a charge
  • Batteries are securely contained in boxes clear of bilge-water
  • Battery terminals are clean, free of corrosion, and cables securely connected
  • Electrolyte level correct in battery cells (if not, top up with distilled water)


  • Galley-strap securely fastened, and strong enough to take a heavy crewmember’s weight
  • Stove has adequate fiddles to retain pans/kettle in rough seas
  • Gas bottles properly stowed; gas alarm working
  • Gas bottles, valves, piping and stove checked for condition
  • Sufficient food and stove-fuel on board for anticipated passage-time plus safety margin
  • All dry stores in waterproof packaging or containers
  • Rough weather provisions (snacks, instant meals etc) easily accessible


  • All water tanks topped-up and caps securely in place
  • Tank plumbing checked for leaks
  • Flexible water bladders protected against chafe
  • Manual fresh water pump working
  • Pressure water pump system turned OFF
  • Toilets tested and free of leaks


  • Extinguishers are in good condition and mounted in places they can be accessed easily during an engine or galley fire
  • Engine fuel shut-off valve located and tested
  • Bucket stowed in cockpit or lazarette for use in engine-room fire or emergency bailing situation
  • Fire blanket is easily accessible (not buried in a locker)


  • You have at least 2 bilge pumps on board, one of them manual
  • Bilges and limber-holes are clear of debris (so will not block pumps)
  • Manual bilge pump hose is fitted with a strainer
  • Manual bilge pump is strongly mounted and working efficiently, with handle easy to access in emergency
  • Electric bilge pump working (including float switch and panel light)
  • Electric bilge pump switched to ‘AUTO’
  • Bilges are dry (to allow monitoring of leaks underway)
  • Rudder tube and gland checked for leaks
  • All areas of bilge are accessible in case you need to inspect at sea
  • Crew are aware that head valves must be closed immediately after use


  • GPS is working and securely mounted
  • GPS waypoints double-checked for co-ordinate accuracy and datum discrepancies
  • Compass is correctly adjusted, with deviation card on board
  • Nothing metal or magnetic (tools, aerosol cans, radio, cameras) stowed near compass
  • Log, depth-sounder etc correctly calibrated and barometer set
  • Sufficient chart coverage of planned and contingency routes, as well as pilotage information
  • Plotting tools (pencils, dividers, parallel rules/protractor etc)
  • Hand-bearing compass and binoculars are secure but accessible
  • Relevant tide tables on board


  • Compass light working
  • Chart table light and galley light screened to avoid blinding watch-keepers
  • Waterproof torches (with fresh batteries!) available for use on deck or in emergency


  • Mast-head lights are working
  • Navigation lights are working (fore and aft); and positioned so they cannot be obscured by sails
  • Back-up navigation lights (battery) in case of electrical system failure
  • Powerful torch or portable spotlight within reach of cockpit (to draw attention to your boat when a collision is possible)
  • Fog horn is working
  • Adequate radar reflectors in place


  • Radios functioning and signal checked
  • all crew are familiar with distress procedure (and/or instructions are taped near radio)
  • you have up-to-date frequencies and times for weather broadcasts


  • A jack-line of adequate breaking strain is securely rigged between cockpit and foredeck both sides (for clipping harness tether onto)
  • Deck is sufficiently non-skid, particularly the coachroof, foredeck and around the mast
  • You have sufficient hand-holds along the side-decks (if not, rig temporary ones using rope or webbing)
  • EPIRB tested, and batteries are in date
  • Liferaft is in date, large enough for the number of crew, and stowed securely in an accessible position
  • Liferaft tie-downs checked for sun-damage and chafe
  • Sufficient harnesses, tethers and lifejackets for the number of crew: all in good condition and located for easy access underway
  • Danbuoy, lifebuoys, upside-down lights etc firmly mounted and ready for deployment
  • A good supply of flares (the necessary number in date) stowed in waterproof containers
  • Waterproof ‘grab kit’ stowed for easy accessibility, containing useful items for liferaft or dinghy survival at sea
  • All crew are familiar with your Man Overboard procedure


  • First aid kit: check adequate and waterproof
  • Offshore medical kit is comprehensive, with drugs in date, and waterproof
  • Do-it-yourself medical handbook onboard
  • Seasick pills, sun-block and painkillers easily accessible
  • Drinking water bottle handy to cockpit
  • Sufficient warm clothing, bedding and foul weather gear for all crew
  • Watch system and galley rota organised


Do you need an offshore cruising survey?
Is this the right boat for your bluewater voyage? Is it safe to take your family to sea in? What’s involved in customising this boat for your personal cruising style?  With 100,000 ocean miles behind us, we offer you this unique service and the benefit of 23 years’ cruising experience.  Talk to marine surveyor Jamie Morrison about design, safety, condition and the equipment required to cruise offshore.


In Australia:

JM Marine Survey 
Phone: 0437 389 320 / +61 437 389 320
ABN 50967492201
P.O. Box 300, Seaforth, NSW 2092, Australia

In Singapore:

JM Marine Surveys Singapore Pte Ltd 
Phone: +65 8540 0835 / +60 196 073 644
Company no. 201404814R
PO Box 711, Harbourfront Post Office, 910934 Singapore