More Checklists and a Video!

Teresa Carey Words 16 Comments

Sailors love checklists! When we first talked about our Boat Check many of you asked for more details. Well – you asked, and we responded….finally!

“Boat check” is something that the off-going watch does before they are relieved of their duties. It takes about 15-20 min to do a thorough job. Our watch schedule on our sail training expeditions is usually 6 hours on, 6 hours off, but we rotate a person every 3 hours. Therefore, Boat Check happens every 3 hours.

Things can happen quickly on a boat, but many things happen slowly. It is those slow problems like chafe, wear, torque, silent drips, etc. that will lead to large problems. Checking everything every 3 hours will allow you to notice problems early, monitor their progress, and fix them before they become major issues.


So – you can watch our boat check at this link. Please become a Patreon if you enjoy our videos. They take a lot of time and work to make and we would love to be able to do more for the community.

This Boat Check is a working document – so please do add suggestions in the comments below. We would love to hear your ideas!

Boat Check for Offshore Passages:

In Cabin:

  • Bilge level – look in engine room. Has the level changed?
  • Engine room visual and olfactory check. Look for smoke, spills, splatters, loose objects and belts. Sniff for strange smells. Listen for strange knocks and hisses.
  • Check shaft temp in engine room – note in log book.
  • Check battery level – note in log book.
  • Heads: look in at water level, look around for leaks. Make sure they are clean for the next watch.
  • Ship shape – stowed for sea. Remember to check the galley and wash and show dishes!
  • Radio and Systems – radio is on, no extra breakers on. For example, is the radar still on even after the fog cleared?
  • Check to ensure the propane is off.
  • Hatches and ports dogged.
  • Navigation lights are on or off depending on the time of day.
  • Cabin lights are off (unless someone is using it).
  • Dorade vents are stowed at first sign of rough weather.
  • General appearance – do you notice any new drips, possible leaks?


On Deck:

  • Do a “once around.” Check lashings, chafe, cotter pins, anchor lashing, fair leads, ship shape, all lines are coiled and stowed.
  • Look aloft with binoculars. Check mast sheaves, wiring, etc. At night, shine the spotlight at the top of the mast
  • In the cockpit coil and stow all lines. Make sure it is ship shape. Check propane tanks.
  • Are the correct navigation lights on and working after sunset and before sunrise?

Log Entry:

  • Enter all the necessary data in the log including: position, course and speed, barometric pressure, battery level, sail plan changes, weather (wind direction, speed, cloud cover, precip, etc).
  • Add any additional notes in the log. Please include fun stuff as well! What happened on watch – dolphins, cookies, seasickness, etc!
  • Don’t forget to plot a position on the chart using correct notation for an electronic fix, celestial fix, DR, or triangulation.
  • Review the logbook, weather, sail plan, watch details and anything else of consequence with the oncoming watch.

Engine Check:
To be done before running the engine.

  • Oil
  • Coolant (check only when cool)
  • Belt tension
  • Look for drips
  • Bilge level
  • Raw water filter (sea water)
  • Racor (fuel filter)
  • Transmission fluid

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Want to learn more about safety at sea? With one of our sail-training courses you could learn the skills to prepare you for many at-sea emergencies. Setting a drogue, man overboard, fire, abandon ship, heavy weather tactics, heave-to, and more. We’ll help you select the right course for your level. Find out more about Morse Alpha Expeditions.

Comments 16

  1. John Rushworth

    That checklist is not for me ???? No propane onboard. Why would you? Origo Bio-ethanol stove, much safer. Diesel checks? No diesel engine as pure electric propulsion, keeping life simple and quiet….

    John R.

    1. Keith Davie

      Since you asked…
      Propane as much cheaper than alcohol. Propane is readily available throughout the world. With a properly installed system Propane is safer, as you never have to pour a flammable liquid in a pitching rolling boat. propane does not make you more prone to seasickness with its odor. Propane is a higher temperature flame, so you cook faster and use less fuel.
      Does that answer your question?

      1. John Rushworth

        No! I use Bio-ethanol (same thing) but cheaper than methylated spirit. I don’t have a car so the bio-ethanol is lighter and easier to carry than gas (cooking variety) coming in 1l bottles and is easier to store and readily available in Europe. The fire risk is a non issue (compared to a gas explosion) as the Origo has removable canisters and fire from the spirit can be doused with water. Being a self contained, lightweight unit the Origo can be taken in the dinghy and you can cook on the beach. My electric propulsion uses a Lynch brushed motor so any risk of gas in a bilge is a good recipe for explosion. The calorific value of gas v spirit difference is negligible so cooking time is fine. The Bio-ethanol does not have the smell of meths. The cost of supply of Bio-ethanol works out about the same as gas, but meths smells and is twice the price.

        Does that answer your question?

        1. Keith Davie

          Hmm… Well it certainly sounds like you’ve found a system that works well for you, so bravo! I won’t be joining you, as my experiences with fuels has been very different, but it’s good there’s a better option to methylated, for those who wish an alternative to propane. Carry on!

          1. John Rushworth

            Indeed. Those of us that use brushed electric as opposed to brushless motors would be stupid to have bottled gas on board. Carry on you say. What fun – reminds me of my RN days!

        2. dan

          I think that what you’re calling methylated spirits we call denatured alcohol in the US.

          I pay about USD 16.00 per gallon for denatured alcohol, which would be about USD 4.25 per liter.

          So what is bio-ethanol, and what are you paying for it?

          I also have an Origo stove, which I like a lot, but it would be cool to save money on fuel….

  2. Knut Garshol

    Hi Teresa,

    I have a 31 feet sailboat with the normal marine toilet and holding tank, but in Sweden where I live, the regulations are now very strict about NOT pumping anything into the sea. If you are to follow the rules, you have to go to a pump-out station, which is a real annoyance and disrupting your routing big time. It is like having to go for fuel every 2 days or so….
    Do you have any experience or opinion about the Airhead composting toilet? If it really works, I am going to change! Among other advantages, I will get rid of two through-hulls.
    Anybody following Teresa using the composting toilet?

    1. Sophie Cornellier

      Hi Knut,
      We have a composting toilet on our 49 Bavaria sailboat. It’s been almost 2 years now that we use it and we love it. It needs a bit of adjustment not to have any litle flies but it worth it. On top of it, we don’t have anymore bad smell inside or outside! Our head is Nature’s head. We have 2 jugs that we can switch when one is full. We are 4 on board and one jug would last more than 2 days!!!!

      1. Stuart Meisner

        You say FOUR people use your composting head– and without odor? For at least several weeks?

        What are the “adjustments” you make? How long is your vent hose and how many turns? The tanks of airhead an nature’s head are about the same size

        1. Sophie Cornellier

          Yes Stuart, we are 4 and we use our compsting head without any odor! We have 2 jug for the liquids and to avoid flies we put diatomeous earth in the compost. We only use a spray bottle with vinagar or alcool with essential oils to clean the seat. No soap or any kind od detergent to clean the bowl. Usually we can last 1 months before removing some compost. I put the grind coffee in the compost and make sure it is moist enough.

      1. John Rushworth

        Oh! And re gas in thread above. Propane if you prefer that (better for winter) is not readily available in marinas in UK, although ‘Calor Gas’ is. However in Europe there are many different bottled gas suppliers and the bottles don’t always come in your preferred size or indeed with the correct thread fitting for your chosen regulator, so you end up carrying different gas regulators or having to strap a bottle on deck that won’t fit in a gas locker. Meths and its variants are available in any town. I’d rather carry a few 500ml bottles of that in my bag when returning from ashore than lug a gas bottle! I buy bio-ethanol in bulk, usually 1l bottles as that is a nice size for the Origo and they have a nozzle rather than open bottle top. Different solutions work better depending on boat size and your location in the world. Life is much easier and safer now having given up the inconvenience and danger of gas. If I had a diesel engine I’d use a Taylors stove/oven. I also have an Omnia set top oven for the Origo, so can cook fresh bread. Not having a conventional oven also saves space. I rest my case. ????

    2. Post
  3. Stuart Meisner

    Airhead for 3 or 4?
    can the composting keep up with three adults full time? Anyone have experience with this? Any modification of protocol or additives for that to work? I installed one but have not yet tried. The manufacturer says they do not recommend for 3, but I have heard of three using.

    1. Keith Davie

      My experience says 3-4 people full time will require that you empty the solids tank – which will not be completely composted – every 4-6 weeks. It could be more often depending on many things that I won’t try to describe here. :-0 I think that the volume of “material” created by that many people will simply not have time to break down, before the tank is full and has to be emptied.
      One option, though, is to buy a second solids tank/base (not cheap, but…). When the first is full, swap out for the empty one, put a lid on the full one and let it finish breaking down in an out of the way corner. A month later it should have basically finished composting, so you find a convenient place to dump the soil created, and start the process again.
      Alternatively, a cheaper if slightly less pleasant option is to empty the partially composted material into a HEAVY plastic garbage bag, seal it up well but with a little air space, and set it in a safe place to finish – give it a shake now and then if you like to speed the process. This works, if you don’t mind the handling.
      Oh, and DO NOT be tempted to carefully clean and sanitise the tank between uses! The presence of appropriate bacteria in the system is critical to it’s starting to work the moment it’s placed in service – you don’t want to do anything that might slow it down! Unless something has gone badly wrong, what odor there is won’t be particularly unpleasant. Just empty and restart. If there IS a very unpleasant smell, something is wrong with the moisture/airflow/composting media balance, and that needs to be corrected pronto.
      Good luck!

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