SPRING RECOMMISSIONING – PART 1
Before you head off to West Marine with credit card in hand, carefully consider the tasks that you need to do. Before you ask, the answer is no, I don't get paid to promote West Marine, simply that store along with Bass Pro are my favorite stores in the whole of the country. Closely followed by Lowes and a few good fast food chains.
The winter lay-up period can and does take a heavy toll on many sailing boat electrical and electronics systems. The insidious damp and moisture infiltrate literally everything, even the supposedly waterproof things.
In most cases it is not until you start switching equipment on that things start to go awry. This is of course even further aggravated by the corrosive effects that moisture and condensation have on equipment. A few months sitting idle with a coating of moisture and everything starts to seize up as corrosion advances.
Where do you start? How do you prioritize on starting up and commissioning things? It is always best to start the re-commissioning on a system by system basis. This logically is based around the most important equipment and systems first. Ideally one should adopt a full liveaboard role for the process.
First thing is to hide your West Marine catalog, it colors your judgment when looking at systems, and distracts with all sorts of reasons why something isn’t quite right. Don’t get me wrong, I love my West Marine catalog, and I often wondered why its not on the NY Times Best Seller, maybe it would if, it wasn’t free that is.
My old girlfriend claimed to a red-faced West Marine store person that I gave the catalog more ooohs! and ahhhs! than her! I called it the Thinking Yachtsman’s Playboy! I digress! On with how to get your equipment back after a long and cold winter, you personally can wait.
The best methodology is to switch everything on and leave it running over an extended period. In other words stress the systems to normal operating levels. The first aim is to dry things out, and in most cases with electrical systems it requires the power to be on and the generation of heat.
The worst enemy is moisture finding its way into windings of alternators, starters and motors, although windings insulation in equipment these days is good, it’s worthwhile going through the exercise anyway of expelling moisture. Leave nothing to chance and be thorough.
The first major effect is the ingress of moisture and water causes the lowering of electrical resistance. When combined with salt residues this drop in resistance level can be considerable, with tracking usually occurring between the terminals on connector and terminal strips. Gradual breakdowns can cause and lead to short circuit conditions between those terminals.
The second major effect is that of insidious corrosion that seems to start everywhere. It causes mechanical components to seize, such as bearings, shafts, brush gear etc. It also can cause with salt the breakdown of exposed copper conductors, that characteristic blackening of the copper we are all so familiar with. Motorized equipment, in particular water pumps and bilge pumps will fail to run and will trip the circuit breaker after several seconds, the main cause is seized bearings or shafts. Your sail boat cruise starts with West Marine
The last major effect is simply the accumulation of water in a fitting, causing corrosion and in most cases a short circuits immediately power is applied In general the most common cause of electrical failures on yachts is due to connection failures. Therefore inspection and ensuring that they are in good electrical condition is essential to reliability during the remainder of the sailing season. Indiscriminate spraying of WD40 or other similar water displacement fluids is not a substitute for proper cleaning and checking. As engine starting problems are also a major cause of vessel problems, and it forms the basis of reliable charging also, then it is best to start at this point.
Electrical and electronics systems require servicing just like any other system or equipment. The post lay-up inspections are essential to starting off the spring without problems or faults. It may save you a lot of expense, and it may even save your boat. Adopt a system by system approach, and be thorough with inspections. When you have worked out what does and does not work then pull out your West Marine Catalog, or go to the West Marine website and start shopping. If you did your winterization properly, then I guess West marine will get very little business.
Your season and first safe and successful sail boat cruise starts here! Click on the link and then read Part 2 for all you need to know about spring commissioning of your engine starting, battery charging systems, and sail boat lighting systems PART 2 and all you need to know. DO YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Be sure to purchase a discount price copy of my books from Amazon, or West Marine with all you need to know about this and all other boat systems is there, your perfect and practical onboard reference manual. West marine for the New Boating season