Five Handy Tips from Tom Cunliffe to Help Prepare Your Boat
Author: Tom Cunliffe
The days are getting longer and the first daffodils are emerging – it won’t be long before the sailing season is upon us.
Here are five handy tips from Tom Cunliffe to help you prepare your boat - from starting reluctant engines to unusual uses for vinegar.
There are plenty more pearls of wisdom in Yachting Monthly’s 200 Skipper’s Tips - all written by Tom and each one illustrated. Click here to find out more about Yachting Monthly's 200 Skipper Tips.
SHOVE IT IN
The most common reason for a yacht diesel failing to start relates to when it was last shut down. If it has a ‘pull stop’ device (usually a toggle on the end of a ‘push-pull’ cable), it’s easy to forget to shove this all the way back in after pulling it out to stop the motor. If the engine whips over but refuses to fire when you turn the key, this is the first place to look. Make sure it’s all the way home. Engines with electrical stop devices rely on an electrical solenoid to do the job. Find this at the injector pump and identify the wiring while it’s working well. Then, if the engine won’t catch even though the starter’s whipping it over like a spinning top, you’ll know where to start looking.
KNOCK ‘EM IN, NOT OUT!
Are your seacocks the old-fashioned (but still the best) bronze lever-and-cone type such as Blakes’? If so, when you’re servicing them this spring, it’s a safe bet that at least one will be unwilling to come loose after you’ve unbolted the flange. Rather than unhinge your insides trying to wrestle it free in the inevitably impossible position it occupies within the hull, go outside, stick a hefty old screwdriver up the hole until you feel it ‘bottom’, then give it a sharp tap with a useful hammer. As they say, ‘every one a coconut!’ Just make sure anyone in the vicinity of the heads stands well clear.
DON’T OVERDO THE TENSION
An 8-inch screwdriver is sufficient leverage for setting up the bottlescrews on all but the largest of yachts. Over-tightening can do serious damage to the rig, and the 8-inch lever provides a self-limiting check on your own enthusiasm.
RECYCLE THE NEWSPAPER AND TAKE A SNAP
When you’re faced with an intricate job with lots of small parts, circlips and springs, take your time and always lay a sheet of newspaper under the job. It’s one thing stripping something on the bench at home, but on board, the bit you want will fall into the cockpit grating and if your luck’s really out, it’ll go down the drain as well. The paper will catch the lot.
And while you’re at it, take a series of digital photos of what went where, so you know how to put it back together again…
DON’T JUST SAVE IT FOR YOUR CHIPS
A gallon can of malt vinegar costs next to nothing compared with most yacht unctions, yet it has many uses on board. In addition to revitalising a plate of chips rendered beyond salvation by a route march from the local friary, it can also put the shine back into brass that has tarnished far beyond a quick rub up with the magic wadding. If the metalwork is modern rubbish, don’t leave it submerged overnight because it may dissolve altogether. A carefully monitored dip is what’s required. When your gloss varnish below decks is looking dowdy, mix a little vinegar with water and wipe it down. Dry it off carefully with a clean cloth and it’ll come up smiling every time. An egg-cup full down the sink when you leave the boat kills the smells, and the wonderful thing is that although the stuff pongs for a while, it doesn’t linger.
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