INSIGHTS: Checking the Checklist

There is nothing worse than being miles from anywhere on a boat and realizing you have forgotten something. Especially if it is something simple but critical – such as toilet paper. New Zealand sailor and regular Noonsite contributor Viki Moore passes on her experience in creating that “All-Important Checklist”.

Published 3 years ago, updated 2 months ago

Check, check and check again

I’ve seen boats casting off and motoring away only to find that they still have one crucial line still tied ashore, vessels who’ve run out of fuel at the very start of their voyage, people who have departed only to find they’ve accidentally left one of the crew ashore, dropping the mooring only to find your boat won’t go in to gear, boats sailing along happily but looking terrible with all their fenders out, getting to a lovely anchorage and realizing the dinghy is still in the back of your car, or forgetting to bring something to eat for dinner.

Out here is not the time to realise you’ve forgotten something important!

I’ll admit that I am guilty of some of those faux pas myself, and it is no wonder given there are so many things to remember to do when preparing to go to sea. Be it a simple sail around the harbour or setting off for a long ocean passage. There are always some key things that you should check every time you go out, and others you really only need to check every so often, if you haven’t been on your boat for some time, or if you are considering a long voyage.

I personally hate lying awake at night with all the things I need to do reeling around in my head. Instead, I prefer to make a list in advance, something I know is going to cover all my bases in terms of the things I need to remember, so I can sleep well knowing that everything I need to check off has been thought of and worried about already.

Have you forgotten something important?

All boats and crews are different, so your checklist may look completely different to mine. The key thing is to adapt these considerations and apply them to your own vessel and the kind of sailing that you do. What things do you always forget and later regret? Does it make more sense to do things in a certain order on board your boat? Is there something that has been playing up or recently repaired that needs some extra attention? Your list may change and grow or shrink over time.

Start-up and shut-down Checklist:

Checking through the checklist.

You might have different lists for different things – such as a simple step by step start up and shut down procedure. This can be especially handy should you suddenly require someone to go and check or move your boat in your absence, and if not turning on your seacocks could mean accidentally cooking your engine. Consider laminating these and sticking them somewhere prominent.

Safety Checklist:

Safety briefing checklists can be more fun if you get your crew involved and active too. Get them to find and check the first aid kit, ask them to check the flares and give a quick explanation to the rest of the crew as to how they work.

Make a list somewhere of the expiry dates of things like your EPIRB battery, or when you last serviced your life raft. Ask someone to locate every through-hull on the boat and discuss who would do what if you smelt smoke or discovered the floorboards floating.

Casting-Off Checklist:

Here are some of the things I include on my casting off checklist for a longer voyage. The checklist becomes part of the crew safety briefing and ensures that everyone on board has got confidence that all the critical safety equipment is on board, has been checked and that everyone knows its location and how to use it.

Tick off each item as you check and complete the task. Make a note in the space provided of things like how much fuel you’ve got on board, expiry dates on safety equipment, things that need attention or checking again throughout the voyage.

Watchkeeping Checklist:

For longer voyages, you might also like to include a checklist of things that need to be done on each watch or on a daily basis. Mine looks something like this:

Watchkeeper duties:

  • Maintain a proper lookout at all times using eyes, ears, AIS, GPS, charts, and Radar.
  • Steer the correct course as prescribed in the passage plan.
  • Passage log should be updated hourly noting position as per GPS, secondary means of fix, latitude and longitude, compass & true course, speed, weather conditions etc.
  • Note the presence of other vessels and assess risk of collision and COLREGS
  • Obtain, note and assess weather forecasts.
  • Watch for navigation lights and other possible position fixes.
  • Ensure correct sails are set and or reefed as necessary. Check for chafing of lines and sails.
  • Check bilges and pump if required.
  • If engine is running, check fuel levels, exhaust, belts, battery levels.
  • Ensure correct navigation lights or shapes are displayed.
  • Call skipper if unsure of anything as per standing orders
  • Give verbal handover to next watch.

There is no doubt that when you are tired or distracted it can be easy to forget critical things, so a checklist can help as a handy reminder and another layer of safety in your plan to ensure your voyage runs smoothly.

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About the Author:

Viki Moore is a sailor based in Christchurch, New Zealand. She owns a Young 88 that she enjoys cruising and racing around the South Island. She is the President of The Little Ship Club of Canterbury, founder of Women Who Sail New Zealand and is a Director of Yachting New Zealand. In June 2021 she became the new owner of Island Cruising NZ, which runs rallies all over the South Pacific. She enjoys writing about her sailing adventures on her blog www.astrolabesailing.com.

Read Viki’s other articles for INSIGHTS

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Other INSIGHTS can be found here.

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Noonsite.com or World Cruising Club.

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  1. August 31, 2021 at 7:33 AM
    alisonwatts says:

    I’m searching for Viki Moore’s checklist.
    Where can I find this please?
    Thanks

    1. September 5, 2021 at 11:01 PM
      lyndalim says:

      HI Alison

      You’ll find it here – the link is within the article.

      https://www.noonsite.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/INSIGHTS_Sample-Checklist.pdf