Skip to main content

A Preliminary Look Through Your Boat to Prepare for the Bahamas (BLOG)

Starting at the bow and working his way to the stern, Joe Chilberg shares his pre-departure wisdom before heading down to the Bahamas for the Spring.

I feel that you are justified in looking into the future with full assurance.
-Albert Einstein

As we begin our series of blogs on our Spring 2014 cruise to the Bahamas, there are several vital points to make initially.

First, do not watch The Perfect Storm.

Second, do not watch Jaws.

Third, do not watch The Money Pit.

Finally, do not watch any other movies that can scare the hell out of you and stop you from going to the Bahamas! Then post Einstein’s quote inside your eyelids, so you read it every time you blink.

Warning: these first three blogs will be ‘boring details.’ The three will be: 1 – “A Preliminary Look Through Your Boat ”; 2 – “Provisioning Your Boat”; 3 – “Final Preparation to Make Us Boat-Ready for the Bahamas.”

Our chariot to the Bahamas, Mud Puddle Rose.

Our chariot to the Bahamas, Mud Puddle Rose.

Preparing your boat is a daunting topic that is never exhausted. We don’t care if you take Chap Chapman, Bob Smith, Jacques Cousteau and Steve D’Antonio with you; there is always something more you could have done. But using every possible tool, publication and expert available is prudent. These first three blogs will hopefully contribute to your own to-do list of preparations. To be honest, we would feel more confident if the four men listed above did cruise with us, but we are not counting on it! A big part of me does not want to write this blog, because … What if we fail? What if we hit something departing our St. Pete slip and sink before we even get out of Tampa Bay? What if we embarrass ourselves in a unique boating mishap? What if the trip’s only picture is of the stern of a Sea Tow boat towing Mud Puddle Rose? Ugh … shame … go walk the plank! Once we have dealt with the shame demon, we can say, “Hell, we don’t care what others think or say … we are going to the Bahamas … bon voyage!”

Then we proceed in earnest. Where I begin is at the bow. I stand at the bow and proceed aft with a notepad and write down every system and piece of equipment on board. If I don’t recognize something or know what it does, I jot it down and make my list of questions for my boatyard. This is no time for pride. On the last trip to the Bahamas, I neglected to check my bow roller and the pin came out and bent the anchor guide. Note to self, bow roller bolts do not float. Also, I ignored a little water around the hot water heater. Don’t ask my wife, Susan, how she liked heating water in an electric teapot for the last three weeks of our 2012 cruise to the Bahamas! The point is, boat equipment does not fix itself and only continues to deteriorate if ignored. Continuing, I open every hatch on every floor board (we have 5 in our master stateroom alone!) One hatch that I opened prior to writing this had several fishing reels the previous owner had stashed there. I am still looking for pieces of eight! I check every thru-hull fitting; I look at every hose to see if it is worn; I check to be assured that there are no rusted clamps and I make sure that all have double clamps where possible.

When were the duckbill valves replaced on the toilets?

I crawl under the flybridge to examine every component and also the entire engine room.

Are all bilge pumps clear of debris?

I will vacuum the entire bilge with my shop-vac and place new oil pads under the engines, all fuel fittings and filters.

How are my batteries?

At night I turn on all interior lights, navigation lights, and the anchor light. Everything that is not working is noted, as well as any spares that must be purchased. This will be dealt with in more detail in our “Provisioning Your Boat” blog, which will follow.

The best passengers you'll ever have. Don't leave them behind.

The best passengers you'll ever have. Don't leave them behind.

I examine our lazarette to note everything we have and make sure it, too, is clean and organized. I must check that all flares, fire extinguishers, life jackets, etc. are in working order and easily available. I don’t want to be searching when I need them! All electronics must be operational, as well as their backups. I also verify that I have all my paper charts. I won’t debate the issue, but Sara and Monte Lewis’ Bahamas Explorer Charts and Steve Dodge’s Abacos Cruising Guide have valuable information. Get them, period! Order them now.

Next, I look at the dinghy, winch, and outboard. I want spare parts and patches, plus all our beachcombing and snorkeling gear, organized and up to date. Note that new and clean, ethanol-free fuel is a must. The bridle must have no wear, and the spare key and extra drain plug must be in a safe place. As I look at my “safe place,” I make sure that my documentation, permits, passports, stickers and dog paperwork are in order. Our last cruise was delayed because our new documentation did not arrive in time … since I renewed it at the last minute.

We have our bottom cleaned monthly, so I confirm with my diver that all zincs, props, struts and the bottom are ready to cruise. If it is time for a bottom job, then this is a great time to have her pulled, so the boatyard can double-check everything. Then just prior to departure, I call my boatyard and have them go over the boat thoroughly to recheck the engine, batteries, mechanical and electrical systems. This costs a few hours of labor, but it is so worth having people who do it for a living look over everything. At this time, all impellers, zincs, filters and fluids are replaced. I also have them check the belts and go over again how to replace them. We review how to bleed the injectors and other key aspects of maintenance. I have them give me a list of spares to purchase at our marine warehouse. I make sure to have more than enough to change the oil, filters, zincs, etc. while we are in the Bahamas. An important note: be in the engine room, etc. as the work is done to refresh yourself with all systems. I like to do as much as I can with them watching me so I really learn it. Yes, it takes longer and costs a little more. BUT, it is so worth it.

I have a trick that I use: I video the diesel mechanic doing as much work as possible and download it onto my computer. I then review it prior to maintenance, when we are in the Bahamas. To watch someone do something and then try to repeat it 100 engine hours later is not a chance that I am willing to take. Now if Bob Smith and Steve D’Antonio are with you, you can skip the video!

Enjoy going over your boat, and feel free to add suggestions to what I have shared. Many reading this blog know more than I do. Again, this is no time for ego. By the way if you see Bob or Steve, feel free to send them over to check on Mud Puddle Rose!

The goal ahead!

The goal ahead!