The weather has improved and it's time now to enjoy the light evenings and weekends. Here are our simple pre-launch tips to help get your boat back on the water
Whether racing, cruising, fishing or just using your boat to potter around, it’s worth taking
time now to check out your electronics, safety and communication equipment on board. For many boaters, it can be hard to know how to get started.
Of course, there’s always the local friendly dealer, and it’s recommended that any persistent issues are dealt with professionally. But there are also some simple steps that boat owners can do first which will help save some time and money, and give you the satisfaction of a job well done.
Knowledge is everything!
First of all, know specifically what equipment you have on board – the type, make and model. “Do
an audit of all the products you have, and know where they are located on your boat and how you can get access to it,” advises Fred Letton, Scottish Raymarine Agent. “You’d be surprised how
many people don’t really know what they have – it’s often described as ‘that box over there’, or ‘the thing that beeps at me’!”
Once you’ve found out the basics, look a little deeper and find out where and how the electronics are connected, and where the junction boxes are located.
“Another fundamental,” says Bob Simms, OEM Technical Support Manager for Raymarine UK, “is to really understand what each product is meant to do and how it works. The first step is
to consult your instruction manual!” If you can’t find the manual now look online – most product information can be found on websites and even reading the Q&As and frequently asked
questions may sort out a lot of useful information.
It’s good practice to record serial numbers and keep software calibration records somewhere safe,
either at home or on board. “Do also return completed warranty cards, and file copies of warranty cards and invoices onboard for reference,” says Simms. “Many people think these are just for companies to build up database information, but it’s vital to know where and when a product was bought and installed in order to ensure it has all the correct software upgrades.”
The next step is to look at interfaces with other products on board. It’s useful to check that your
equipment is not only functioning correctly, but it is also interfacing correctly. “You also need to understand what to expect from the interfacing; often you will get more than you expect from a properly interfaced suite of electronics on board,” explains Letton.
Don’t’ leave it all to the last minute! Racers are often notorious for this – the morning of a big
race or start of a long voyage is not the time to find out certain key tactical or safety products are not working correctly.
For any boat – old or new – making sure that electronic equipment is properly installed and mounted is key. Examine the mechanical mountings to ensure they are adequately reinforced and bonded into the structure of the boat. “Look out for loose mountings, loose connections, exposed wires, corrosion or mechanical damage, and external sources of potential damage, such as direct heat or moving machinery,” says Letton. All Raymarine equipment undergoes world class rigorous testing – the company shakes, bakes, freezes and floods products at its Portsmouth-based test facilities, with products spending thousands of hours at sea before being released onto the market.
It’s always worth doing periodic calibration checks on your instruments, advises Letton. “Ensure the compass is linearised correctly, the wind instrument adjusted for angle, and the depth offset entered, and finally ensure the system is calibrated for the size and type of boat.” Also, it’s worth taking a look at the product specification and ensuring the equipment is appropriate for the job. Often issues arise when the wrong specification of product is fitted onboard – if in doubt, always go one size bigger.
Longer term measures
Having gone through all the pre-season checks, how do you then ensure that your equipment stays in peak condition for the remainder of the season? Check the wiring and connections regularly, says Simms. Are they lose, corroded, damaged, unsupported or exposed? Look also the drive unit and fixings. Are they secure and the drives lubricated, dry and operating smoothly? Check the compass position and adjacent interference, and ensure it is away from ferrous objects such as motors, wires, steel ballast.
Always clean salt from the control unit keys and other vulnerable areas by washing well with fresh water. It’s good practice to fully immerse portable items such as hand held VHFs to really clear out any salt.
Battery maintenance is also vital. “It’s key to maintain good voltage levels, so always check the
voltage at unit as well as batteries, avoid cheap inverters and chargers, and supplement power supply with solar power or generators,” advises Letton. Raymarine recommends the best way to avoid power supply problems is by using suppressors or ferrites and never overload batteries – ideally use a separate battery for your electronics and make sure the electronics power supply is stable; avoid supplying bow-thrusters or winches from the same batteries as the electronics if possible.
Carrying out regular checks throughout the season will help to hold problems at bay, but there are
times when things will still go awry despite your best efforts. If this happens to you, don’t panic! There are some simple steps that you can take to identify the problem.
First, check the basics such as loose wires, water damage, batteries and fuses. Try and note the exact symptoms, which will make it easier to look up possible symptoms on websites or to report the issue to a dealer. Ensure you’ve pinpointed the faulty unit so you can use faultfinding application notes from customer support and websites, who may be able to support you if needed with spares or replacement parts.