Cruising Is Not All Fun & Sun

Cruising Is Not All Fun & Sun

When I mention "cruising yacht" to many people they immediately think of long hot summer days on the water, sailing to exciting new places and having cool drinks in the evening watching a beautiful sunset with friends.

And for a lot of the time, that is almost exactly what it is like!  However there is also the dark underbelly of cruising - the maintenance.

There are many and various jobs on a cruising yacht that need regular attention to ensure the yacht functions well and provides a safe and fun experience.   A lot of this type of work is usually done during the winter layover with only emergency repairs done through the summer months.

Marina Work Restrictions

A worrying trend in Med Marinas is an increasing number of work restrictions being placed on visiting yachts.

Different marinas have different rules so it is essential to be clear about what they will allow and what they forbid before you book your winter berth.

Typical restrictions, we have seen placed on owners, include:

  • No work at all allowed when afloat
  • No work on the exterior of their yachts (hull, deck & rigging) while on the hard.
  • No work on the hull while on the hard
  • No living aboard while the yacht is on the hard.

Of course they are perfectly happy to arrange for their own in-house engineering services to do the work for you, usually at great expense.

They will tell you it is due to insurance regulations but really they are just trying to increase work flow to their own people.

Once you have found a winter marina that will allow you to undertake your own work the next part is to plan what needs to be done and what, if any, improvements you might do at the same time.   As the haul-out will cost a major amount of the budget it is important to get all the underwater & hull jobs done at the same time.


Antifouling is probably the best known of all the maintenance activities.  Cleaning the underwater sections of all old fouling, possible removing the old antifouling paint and then applying one or two coats of new paint.

This is an unpleasant and messy job that I would quite understand anyone wanting to outsource to a 3rd party.

After pressure washing the hull, inspect for damage to the sub-surface and repair properly if needed.  That may mean a gel coat repair or a new epoxy barrier layer.  Patch priming small areas is quite acceptable along as you work back to a good solid substrate.

A big question is whether to scrape all the old paint off before applying new or just add over the top.  There is no simple answer and will depend on whether you have used a hard or a self-polishing type in the past, its condition and what you intend to use now.

If the old antifouling paint is sound there is no reason it can't be sanded smooth and left there for several overcoats before scraping becomes necessary.  If you know there are several layers already in place then maybe it is time to clean it off.  Old antifoul does add weight and if it is not smooth can add drag as well.

If you are using exactly the same brand & type then the new paint can usually be applied straight over the old after cleaning & a gentle sanding to key the surface.

If using a different paint then a bonding coat will be needed to bond the new to the old.

As a general rule, if you are not sure, it is best to clean-off right back to the sub-strate and apply new from there.

Remember not all anti-fouling paints are born equal!   Some work better in some places around the world and worse or not at all in other places.  Take advice from local cruisers in the area about which to choose in the current location.  In addition some yachts require special formulations to suit their materials like steel and aluminium.

Whichever you choose the golden rules are:

  • wear protective clothing, goggles, gloves and face mask.
  • Always sand wet.  i.e. continually wet the surface as you rub.  Dry antifoul contains a number of nasty ingredients that you don't want to breathe in.
  • Collect as much of the waste as you can on a plastic sheet and dispose of it where the marina directs.  This is becoming law in EU.  In practice you can never get it all but get as much as you can.

Rockhopper is a steel ketch.  I use SeaJet Shogun self-polishing 2 year antifouling system.   I apply 2 good coats all over then extra in the high turbulence areas like the keel edge and at the waterline. These 2 coats easily keep the yacht clean for the 2 years, provided I am cruising regularly.  Staying put in one place, certainly in the 2nd year can cause a little growth that needs to be wiped off by hand occasionally.   I can get a 3rd year out of the system, if I can't find a suitable haul out.  In the 3rd year, I clean the underwater hull every month with a Scotchbrite pad,  it takes about 2 hours on my 44' yacht using a SeaBreathe Deck Compressor kit, easy really.

As this paint is self polishing there is very little left when I haul out so I rarely scrape just clean, sand and apply new over the top.

Sacrificial Anodes

The way to counteract galvanic corrosion is to add a third metal into the circuit, one that is quicker than the other two to give up its electrons. This piece of metal is called a sacrificial anode.  There are 3 types commonly used;  zinc for sea water,  magnesium for fresh water and aluminum alloy for special hulls.   If you want a more in-depth article on Sacrificial Anodes check out this excellent .PDF from Performance Metals

On a steel hull you do need to take care not to "over protect" with too much/many anodes.  The most common visual sign is the paint in the local area being lifted off by the protective voltages.  See a specialist if this is happening to you.

While the yacht is out of the water it's a good time to inspect and clean all of your anodes, replacing them where necessary.   I remove them and power wire brush or power sand clean.  Pay special attention to the connection surfaces to ensure they are electrically clean.  I replace new the propeller shaft anode to ensure it will last for the next 2 years and check it every 6 months underwater, changing if necessary in the water.

I always use MGDUFF anodes, mainly 'cos I always have and I trust them.  There are a number of cheaper Chinese anodes on the market that offer questionable protection.  Its too late once the damage has occurred.

If an anode is working correctly it should get some pitting each year as it wastes away.  It is difficult to give a general rule about how much wastage is OK over a 12 month period but over time you will get a feel for your own yacht and and how much to expect each year.

Remember you will also have anodes on the bow thruster leg, in the engine water circuit, in the generator water circuit and on the outboard leg.  They all need checking and cleaning or changing.

Other Common Tasks

Of course there are many more jobs to do.  Here is a list of just some of them which I will be posting articles on in the coming months:

  • Main engine oil change & service
  • Water pump bearing and seals change on both main engine & generator
  • Generator Oil change & service
  • Winch strip and re-grease
  • Windlass strip and re-grease
  • SeaCock check & grease
  • Stern Gland check & grease
  • Steering Gland check & grease
  • Outboard engine flush thru and winterisation
  • Life jacket inspection and test
  • Brightwork varnishing and oiling
  • Running rigging wash through, mast tracks & sliders cleaned


ESSENTIAL KIT - Diesel or Petrol Generator

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