The Canberra Times

The responsible Skipper's boat maintenance checklist

The responsible Skipper's boat maintenance checklist

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With summer rolling round the corner and lockdown travel restrictions easing across the country, many Aussie boat owners are gearing to get their vessels back out on the open water and head out on some idyllic ocean voyages.

Whether or not your boat has been in hibernation in a shed over the winter months, or it's been gathering dust at your selected anchorage, chances are high that your vessel will need servicing as well as some seasonal upkeep prior to leaving the pier when the weather gets warmer.

Responsible boat owners should take the time to ensure that all boxes are ticked on the boat maintenance checklist outlined below. By doing so, you'll have made sure that your family's summer out on the water will experience minimal disruptions and little to no choppy waters, so to speak.

Develop your own boat safety checklist

A well-rounded boat pre-purchase guide will likely include a preface that outlines the importance of prioritising safety over any other elements when looking for a new vessel.

Just as safety should be of top priority when buying a new boat, an ongoing responsibility for boat owners is to maintain and outline a boat safety checklist that has been designed to cater to any foreseeable incidents that may arise when sailing. Here's a brief overview of the items that should absolutely be included in your boat maintenance checklist:

  • Assessing the condition of lifejackets, buoys, and other lifesaving equipment
  • Assessing the condition and placement of fire extinguishers, and emergency flares
  • Assessing state of charge of marine batteries
  • Replenishing first aid kit (including topping up bottled water and non-perishable food snacks)
  • Inspect railings and external fixtures (assess fall risks)

Your boat safety checklist should also form the foundation of any safety briefings that you conduct with friends, family, and any other potential passengers.

Your boat safety briefing should detail the locations of lifejackets, buoys, first aid kits, emergency flares, and any other lifesaving equipment that will be on board. Your safety briefing should also always be given prior to setting sail rather than during a journey.

Be proactive with your boat maintenance

Your boat maintenance checklist should cover appointments with your boat repair shop, your dedicated boat mechanic, as well as your marine inspector and any other professionals that may play a role in the overall examination and assessment of your boat's seaworthiness.

Naturally, you'll have a variety of elements to discuss with each of these boat maintenance specialists, so coming prepared with a rundown of any visible issues you feel your boat may have is a fantastic preliminary step to ensuring your boat maintenance schedule stays on track.

Here are just a few areas you'll want to cover with your boat maintenance specialists:

  • The condition of your engine (including indication oils and fluid) and outboard motor
  • Assess throttle and gear controls
  • Examining tilt and trim system
  • Examine steering system
  • Inspect lighting and electrical systems
  • Inspect windows, latches, and windscreen (for chips, cracks, or distortion)
  • Inspect boat hull (for signs of physical damage, damage from moisture, and other potential weaknesses)

Alongside these areas, you should also organise an inspection of your boat's trailer as well, to ensure all wheels, brakes, springs and rollers and all other small components are in good condition so that you can transport your boat with minimal fuss throughout your summer holidays.

Be sure to also ask your marine inspector for an updated boat condition report to ensure that any identified issues that are predicted to potentially arise have their own respective contingency plans in place.

The importance of pre-purchase boat inspections

If you're an avid sailor who's looking to become a first-time boat owner over this coming summer and you've been reading through this checklist to get a gauge of the responsibilities that come with boat ownership, we have one little tidbit of advice just for you.

Prior to purchasing any boat, you'll have the opportunity to conduct a pre-purchase boat inspection. This generally involves examining a professional assessment report of the vessel in question that effectively identifies any and all potential concerns with the boat's fittings, fixtures, engine, motor, and general physical condition as it pertains to the vessel's operation.

All pre-purchase boat inspection reports should be looked over thoroughly prior to purchasing. You should also feel encouraged to ask any questions you may have regarding the findings of your pre-purchase boat inspection, as having a clear understanding of the condition of your secondhand boat may aid you in saving money on boat maintenance in the long term.


Whether you're a seasoned sailor or skipper in the making, this coming summer is set to be a fantastic time to set sail and take a break from the monotony of city living.

Be sure to tick off all the items outlined above well before you leave the pier, just to ensure that you and your fellow passengers experience nothing but smooth sailing over this summer holiday period.