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Winterizing a Yacht: Preventative Maintenance

A sailing yacht employed in the chartering business, other than the merits it offers as a pleasure boat, it is also a business asset. It is a piece of equipment than undergoes a lot of stress on a daily basis, whether it is the strong northerlies of the Aegean, the corrosive salt, or the normal wear associated with its usage as a compact home for the crew. Yet, it has to be functional at all times.

The goal is to be able to provide the best possible service to the crews that visit Greece during the chartering season.

The most critical factor in order to be successful in achieving this goal, is preventative maintenance, and the best time period to do it is the winter. We call it winterizing the boat.


In my past life, I used to work in a printing and packaging factory in the US. At some point, I was the team leader of production, and as such I was responsible for the most efficient operation of machinery worth millions of dollars. I remember very well how much value we were putting in maintenance. It was a clear sacrifice to take one machine off production for the maintenance crew to jump in and give it some Tender Love and Care ('TLC' as we called it), but we had to do it. If not, the machine would at some point fail to deliver what it was expected of it. And it will fail to do so, in the worst possible moment.

Skipper Dimitri in the printroom

What we found out was that the most efficient maintenance, and indeed, the least costly, was preventative maintenance. We had to understand and study each piece of machinery very well, so that we could determine the frequency that we had to maintain its various parts. This way we avoided the worst. If we didn't do this sacrifice in production time and resources, the parts would fail during actual production time, resulting in customer complaints, expensive product defects and even more expensive delays.

The same holds true for a sailing yacht. During the chartering season, a yacht has usually only a few hours every week -from Saturday 9:00 am till Saturday 17:00 pm- to be repaired, cleaned, and organized before the next crew arrives. Any part that failed during the previous week has to be repaired in only a few hours... and hopefully, the failure wasn't already detrimental to the previous crew.

The higher the investment in resources done as part of the preventative maintenance, the less likely it is for the yacht to present problems during the season.


Preventative maintenance

The winter is the time to perform all the preventative maintenance tasks needed to assure the safe operation of the yacht during the sailing season.

PLACEBO on the dry

Typically, the yacht is being taken on the dry so that the hull can spend some type outside of the corrosive saltwater. We take this opportunity to remove the old coating and paint it fresh. We also inspect the hull and rudder for any minor damages.

The engine goes through its yearly service. This includes an overall inspection, oiling, replacement of belts and filters, as well as service of the propeller mechanism.

The electrical parts of the yacht are also serviced. The power supply and the starter of the engine, as well as the anchor winch are removed and given to an electrician for the necessary work. We also check the life of the batteries and the connections and functioning of the navigational equipment and lighting.

All the parts of the deck are likewise inspected. The sails are removed, washed with clean water and inspected for possible wear. We check the hatches for possible leaks, the tension of the rigging, the chain and the anchor. The winches must be opened, cleaned, oiled and greased. Similarly, the steering mechanism and the breaks for all the lines are inspected and lubed. Finally, the deck has to be closely inspected for any scratches that occurred during the season, which also need to be repaired.

A few weeks before the start of the season, we polish the boat, both the stainless steel parts and the plastic of the hull and the deck. We also clean and varnish the wooden parts.

taking PLACEBO on the dry

A yacht has to always look and feel clean and fresh, so there is also a lot of work that needs to be done in the interior.

A very important task that makes the boat smell nice is to replace all the pipes that carry water or waste in and out of the boat. We also take out the covers of the cushions and mattresses to wash them and keep them away from moisture during the winter months. The kitchen is also removed and cleaned and the gas pipes is inspected for leaks.

This are the major yearly inspections. Going through all of these elements usually leads to the discovery of new, unidentified defects that just hadn't yet appeared.


Winterizing for 2018

Before I started my life as a sailor and boat owner, I am not so sure I knew whether a screw goes in if you turn it clockwise or anti-clockwise! Over the last couple of years, I have learned that, and a lot more.

To own a yacht and be actively involved in all of its aspects, means that I needed to acquire basic skills as a mechanic, an electrician and an electrologist. I had to learn which glue works with wood, and which glue works with plastic. I had to learn how to connect pipes to stop them from leaking, what is the difference between volts and amps, and the different types of primer I had to use for the different types plastic. It goes without saying, that a lot of these I learned the hard way...

I have also learned which jobs I can perform successfully by myself, and which ones I have to rely on someone else's expertise to get them right.

For 2018, other than the preventative maintenance works I have set out to perform, I need to focus on the electrical parts of PLACEBO. I would like to reinstall all the wiring. I bought the extra cables, the connections, and the necessary tools for the job, and I'll start on it the week of Christmas. I am excited for committing into this! I will learn a lot, and this will also revitalize my whole yacht!

The other items I need to work on are mostly cosmetic. I have already ordered new cushions for the salon, and as soon as I get some sunny weather, I will work on varnishing the cockpit table. I believe these will give a fresh look to PLACEBO.

So this is what I'll be doing for the next three months! I will be keeping you up to date!



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