Caribbean Maintenance Essentials

23 October 2018

Top tips from SVG Yacht Services for enjoying a stress-free season cruising in the Caribbean

SVG Yacht Services, based in Bequia, know that the endless list and needs of a boat can be daunting, especially after sailing long distances. Once arriving to the Caribbean, many find that repairs and maintenance jobs take longer than anticipated since hardware stores and available parts are not as accessible as back home. SVG Yacht Services have come up with a list of maintenance essentials and some top tips to help rally participants cruise through a sailor’s paradise - the Caribbean.

  1. Your ground tackle system - Having a trusted anchor can help you rest at night knowing that your boat is securely holding. To get to the best places in the Caribbean, you will be doing a great deal of anchoring. Anchoring allows freedom to discover new places, secluded beaches, and complete privacy. If there is anything worth spending extra money on, it is your anchor and chain. There have been numerous articles written about the best type of anchors to have on board and everyone has different opinions. We recommend an oversized anchor for your type of boat, as well as extra meters of oversized chain. With the extra weight in the bow, you aren’t going to win any races, but you will be thankful when the Christmas winds start blowing through the anchorages in the Caribbean! Having a consistent regimen of rinsing with fresh water and checking your chain can help extend the life of your ground tackle as well as rigging a snubber each time you anchor so that it takes pressure off your expensive windlass and ease the motion. Always have a spare anchor with a long anchor line in case you end up in a busy anchorage during high season or you are in a lovely bay with not a lot of swinging room. 
  2. Prevent Corrosion - Warmer climates make for breezy sundowners and open hatches all day and night, but salt water in the air doesn’t mix well with boat equipment. Have you checked your electrical systems and the condition of your connections? Do you have the tools you need to clean and replace old corroded wires? Are you familiar with your boat’s zinc anodes, where they are located, how to check them and do you have spares? On deck, start a weekly routine of going around with a can of silicone spray to apply to all your turnbuckles, blocks, sheaves or anything that can move to prolong the life of these small but expensive items. 
  3. Keeping A Proper Charge - As you head further south in the Caribbean, you can find cruising grounds for most of the year, but there is a serious lack of marina facilities and dockage. If you are lucky enough to find a marina, the electrical supply at the dock may be unreliable. Many boat batteries get a lot of abuse and trustworthy refrigeration is important since nothing is worse than arriving to your destination with a warm Gin and Tonic and spoiled food! A battery’s life is seriously shortened by constant discharges. Be religious about your charging regime, let your crew know to be vigilant and check the battery’s state of charge to match the levels that are right for your boat and equipment. These days, solar panels and wind generators are now more affordable and durable. We highly recommend investing in renewable energy sources to save money and go green! 
  4. Protecting Gear from the Sun - As Caribbean weather is ideal for watersports and sailing year-round, the constant exposure to harmful UV damage boat parts at a rate unbeknownst to the watchful eyes of the island-hopping cruiser. Sails, inflatable dinghies, lines, electronics in the cockpit, and that beautifully varnished teak can last much longer if properly covered. Consider having a dinghy and outboard cover made to protect from damage. Do a regular deck check focusing on items such as furling line lead blocks and running blocks. Have a good polish on the deck and topsides to protect your gel coat.
  5. Full Set of Tools and spares - Voyaging far from busy yards where you subcontract skilled labor is a great way to save time, but are you able to fix simple leaks you have on board? Do you have the correct allen keys, torque keys or spanners to fit most of your engine fittings? Having a full set of tools and sockets in either standard or metric, usually carry both for most boats. Plenty of extra stainless-steel screws, to prevent replacing broken fixtures with mild steel as well as a selection of stainless hose clamps to replace ones that have rusted over time can save a major headache while cruising. Carrying aboard a good selection of common spare filters, engine water pumps and seals, bilge pumps, fresh water pumps, blocks, and shackles can save you from big bills in remote places. 

With these tips, we hope you have a great time exploring the Caribbean! 

SVG Yacht Services are based Port Elizabeth, Bequia. They can offer a full range of services from routine checks and maintenance of most yacht systems to break down assistance, rig checks and cleaning. They serve as agents for Budget Marine, Outboard Covers and Accessories and have years of experience working on Volvo’s and Yanmars and carry a good selection of spares and can quickly source any parts necessary through their close partners.

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Photos courtesy of Vivian Vuong.