Boat owners - shipshape tips for New Year

Published: 25/01/2022

New Year’s Resolutions. They’re everywhere at the moment – from pledges of fitness and weight loss to taking up new hobbies or re-establishing old ones.

If you’re a boat owner, here’s some suggestions of how to get your New Year off to the best shipshape start from our marine surveyors. The best resolution? Start now and be prepared for when the season gets under way properly.

They inspect and check everything that carries passengers and freight on the water from small boats that do harbour trips right up to the biggest ocean-going liners and cargo ships. And they’re offering these tips to help you now rather than leaving it until the last minute.

  • Cracks and damage: If the boat is out of the water, check the hull for cracks or damage. If there’s a keel make sure the bolts are secure and it’s correctly sealed. Have a good look at the deck join and make sure there are no gaps and look at the hull anodes to see if they need replacing. A wooden hull? Give it the poke test - a flat head screwdriver pressed against the wood across the grain - to check the wood isn’t rotten.
  • Sea valves: should visibly open and close – so don’t just turn the handle. Seeing is believing.
  • Propeller: Check your propeller, give it a wiggle – a proper one – to make sure the cutlass bearings are ok. Look for pitting and corrosion.
  • Rudders: Bearings on the rudder – check them and all your steering connectors.
  • Life-saving equipment. Let’s hope you never need it but treat it as though the next time you’re out, you will. On your lifejacket or buoyancy aid, check that it is in date. If it is out of date, get it serviced. Check the light if you have one, if you don’t we recommend that you fit one. Check that the seams are intact on the inflatable parts and check the stitching on the straps.
  • Check the gas: You need to check that the gas bottle is free from rust and screwed in and if you are using a foam lifejacket or personal floatation device, also check that it is dry and free from rot. We also want to remind you that when you wear it, make sure it is correctly fitted and always use a crotch strap if your lifejacket has one fitted.
  • Radio: Make sure your VHF/DSC radio is working and – more importantly – everyone on board will know how to use it. Test it now with another boat or marina. Train everyone now. Register your EPIRB or personal locator beacon now – the link is here: Register a UK 406 MHz beacon - GOV.UK (
  • Where’s your liferaft? If you don’t know now, what will you do if you need it in a hurry? Check now. Test it now. Train now. It might seem strange to think of yourself as part of the safety equipment, but your skill at sea is what will keep you alive. We recommend you get trained before you set out.

HM Coastguard will always respond to all those in difficulty. Just make sure you’ve done everything you can to reduce the risk of needing to do so.

MCA surveyor Robert Hunter testing a drencher on a passenger ferry. Image credit Christopher Lonie

MCA surveyor Robert Hunter testing a drencher on a passenger ferry. Image credit: Christopher Lonie