Yacht Maintenance for Owners: How to Strike the Right Balance

Yacht maintenance: In conversation with Matt Rosewarne, Customer Service Manager

Yachts are complex pieces of equipment, exposed to a wildly abusive environment in which heat, humidity, salt, vibration and impact are par for the course. In order to ensure that your investment is protected; that your boat performs at its best; and that your recreation is as safe, pleasant and reliable as possible, it’s important for the yacht owner to know how best to maintain his yacht and at what point to stop and call in the professionals. To get a better idea of exactly how to strike that ideal balance, we talked to Matt Rosewarne, Customer Service Manager at Argo Yachting Mallorca…

What’s the most important yacht maintenance job a yacht owner can do?

Keeping your boat clean, dry and tidy is a fundamental part of yacht ownership. Wash it down to get the saltwater off and then give it a dry. It’s something that you certainly ought to do every time you use the boat and if you don’t use it for long spells or you leave it entirely unused during the winter, it’s still something that needs to be carried out every two to four weeks. I know it seems quite lowbrow but it really does matter.

Cleaning is particularly vital when your yacht is kept in the water. Exposure to wind, rain, glaring sunshine and harsh, salty seawater will quickly take its toll. Plus, over here in Mallorca, you get a lot of red rain, which contains dust from the deserts of North Africa; and with a climate that gives us around 300 sunny days every year, you also get a lot of UV deterioration. In short, you do need to stay right on top of the upkeep, but it doesn’t need to be intimidating. We’re not talking about hanging upside down in the bilges. We’re just talking about taking control of the exterior hull, superstructure and decks.

What else can a yacht owner do to keep things in prime condition?

One of the most important things you can do, for yacht maintenance as well as personal enjoyment, is to use your boat regularly. Part of our winter service involves taking the boat out on a sea trial once a month. Running it on the mooring doesn’t really get the engines up to proper temperature but if you take it out to sea and put it through the full range of tests, every mechanical component gets used as it should be. Taking it out once a month will do wonders for your yacht – and if you can’t find the time to do that, then we recommend that you appoint a professional to give it a regular monthly sea trial on your behalf.

Is it possible for the fastidious yacht owner to do too much?

We certainly encourage preventative checks and the general topping up of levels, but if an owner starts changing fluids and filters, they have to be careful because they can easily start nibbling into the terms of the manufacturer’s warranty for that component. The fact of the matter is that 90% of boaters are amateurs, so we would recommend that they really don’t touch too much. Engines, generators, stabilisers and seacocks might seem to operate according to a set of basic fundamental principles but they are also of very great importance to the boat, so we would urge people to let us take care of those.

Are there any other areas where you’d urge caution?

There’s certainly a balance to be struck with your cleaning. On the one hand, failing to do enough can cause a lot of trouble and expense because if you need to a simple job like taking a stainless steel fitting off the deck and it’s too badly corroded, you can end up with a world of problems way out of proportion to the original job. But on the other hand, you do need to know when to stop. For instance, keeping the teak clean is important but if you wash it too much with a cleaning product, you can damage it and incur a big bill for replacement decking. To stay on the safe side, it’s best to leave the cleaning products well alone and only ever wash your teak with saltwater.

What about cleaning the hull?

If your boat is kept in relatively warm water, like we get out here in Mallorca, it should certainly be lifted out once a year for pressure washing. We recommend polishing the props and rudders too. Some people go as far as to antifoul them (and even the shafts) which is not something we’d recommend. But whether you want to antifoul or not, make sure you lift the boat out just before the season begins so you can give it a quick wash off. It will really help minimise drag, particularly on a fast planing craft. Your boat will then run fast, clean and efficient and, even when you get to mid-season, you should still find that you’re getting really positive returns on your fuel.

Are there any smart apps you would recommend?

The yacht management app we like most is a simple plug-in with a SIM card that tells you when the boat is disconnected from the hook-up. It’s really useful because if everything’s powered by electricity and it gets unplugged, that obviously kills the batteries. As soon as a client gets in touch to alert us to a situation like that, we can get down there and reactivate everything straight away. We can even have our own number put directly on the system so that we get the message at the same instant as the owner, so that’s a really practical and cost-effective investment.

So exactly how far do you think people should go?

In terms of the proactive steps owners can take to keep their boats in good condition, it’s very simple. Use it regularly; clean and dry it after each use; tidy up your hull, props and rudders at the start of each season; keep your fluids topped up; get a smart monitoring app; and make sure all the key components are serviced exactly in line with manufacturer schedules. If owners attend to these six things, then they can be pretty sure that when they turn up for their next trip, all they will have to do is add fuel and go. That’s the lifestyle they invested in and that’s exactly the kind of low-fuss, high-value leisure time we want people to enjoy.

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