Spring Boat Prep

By Kim Pandapas

There is never nothing to do on a Rhodes 19, so if you have a hard time prioritizing boat prep, don’t expect great results.

I know I probably spend more time thinking about prep than most. In fact, a lot of people call me anal, and think I’ve gone around the bend when I drone on about things like preparation, rig tuning and stupid speed. And while I may very well be headed around that bend, I’m still right about this. Everything in sailboat racing matters – the lines, sails, hardware, rigging, weight, bottom – everything. Optimizing just one or two of those doesn’t accomplish diddly. Half measures avail you of nothing. You have to do it all, and when you do, everything works, the boat is easy to sail, things don’t break, you’re not distracted during races, and who knows, you might even have that little speed edge off the line. Preparing your boat matters.

I keep a standing work list during the season and add items in the fall when I pull the boat apart. Making that list in the fall is one key to a successful spring. The goal is to have a work plan, and to identify problems and the parts you’ll need in advance so you can get at it as soon as the weather breaks.

A good Spring prep effort starts with consulting your calendar and carving out adequate time. I start by circling the date of my first sail, which is typically the Spring Series, and then work backwards from there. The boat goes to the club the weekend before the first sail, so I need to be done for that. It’s also good to factor in a weekend day or two of bad weather and other commitments like Mother’s Day, so if you think you’ll need two days, give yourself four.

I start with the mast and boom. I take my mast apart every fall and replace the halyards with messengers, so in the spring I start with a bare pole. First I clean it using aluminum cleaner. Then I lubricate all of the sheaves (no squeaky main hoists on my boat), and re-check each of the halyards for wear. If they’re good, I put them in. Rarely does a halyard stay on my boat for more than three seasons. Replacing them ensures they won’t break, and also gives you the chance to try the next, even stronger, lower stretch and lighter line. Next I attach the spreaders and standing rigging, checking each shroud for wear and meat hooks. There is no reason anyone should ever break a stay. My approach is to replace standing rigging every 5-6 years, whether it needs it or not. Next is the boom. While I don’t take the boom apart every year, I do check it for wear, check the control lines and always check the gooseneck and replace it if necessary. If something is going to fail on your boom, it’s likely going to be that gooseneck.

Once that’s done, I move on to the boat. I start by scrubbing the bilge – grubby work, I know, but dirt and grime add weight. It’s also affords you an opportunity to check the ribs, the mast step, and so on. While you’re down there, check that the hiking straps are still secure. Next is to give the hull a good washing. My typical spring usually involves a once-over the bottom with Teflon glaze, which cleans off the crap and leaves the bottom baby smooth. I give the rudder a once-over too.

Next is hardware. There is always a block that doesn’t turn or cleat that doesn’t hold. You also might have some piece of 20 year old hardware that, for some inexplicable reason you’re attached to. Replace it! Like I said, if you make a list in the fall, you can order the parts online in advance so you’re ready to go when the cover comes off. It’s a good idea to get the fasteners in advance too. Finally, pull out all the control lines, check them and replace if necessary. (This is actually a Fall thing, but better late than never.) By the way, I keep a database of my line lengths and the last line type I bought and when. That makes it easier to be systematic about replacing them and easier to order online.

After all of this is done, I put the mast on the boat and prepare it to travel. By the way, as you’re doing all of this, adopt the mindset of always being on a weight witch hunt. If a halyard is heavy relative to a lighter weight option, get the lighter one. If the new blocks are lighter, get them. Joe Duplin used to say that if you pay attention to the ounces, the pounds take care of themselves, and that’s great advice.

See you at Spring Series.