When you return to your boat after a period away, John Neal and Amanda Swan Neal have some advice on how to prepare her to sail away again

If you are leaving your boat for a period of time it may work out well to leave a job list with the yard or associated workmen, so inquire about nearby services, including sail repair, rigging, welding and engine repair. Tradesmen will appreciate working on your boat during quiet times, rather than the job becoming a rush upon your return.

A month before return contact the yard to make sure the jobs are being completed.

You’ve decommissioned to leave your boat abroad; now you need to think about recommissioning when you get back.

Before launching Apply a coat or two of antifouling paint and replace the zincs. Wax and polish the topsides (if applicable). Inspect and possibly remove the rudder. Grease the rudder bearing and stern gland, if applicable.

Check cables and gear on the steering system and quadrant, looking for cables that are too loose or have broken strands. Cables that are too tight will make a boat difficult to steer.

Polish the propeller. If you have a feathering or folding prop, grease it. Reinstall the raw water pump impeller. Reconnect and tighten battery cables and connections, and cover them with Lanocote or similar waterproof grease.

Engine Test-run the engine with the intake hose in a bucket.

After launching Check the bilge for leaks, through-hulls and hose clamps.

2. Anchor Windlass 2 servicing

You can do regular windlass maintenance after you return to your yacht

Systems Check anchor windlass operation and inspect the motor and electrical connections if possible. Replace the lubricating oil if necessary, and remove, clean and grease the clutch/brake assembly. Reinstall the log impeller. Flush and fill water tanks.

Rigging Go up the mast again to perform a rig check of all fittings, welds, spreaders, lights, halyards, cotter pins, turnbuckles, sheaves, swages and wires. Lubricate the upper furling swivel, masthead sheaves and mainsail track.

If you are capable, tune the rig, and if not consider hiring a rigger. Check winches. Inspect running rigging and make replacements where needed. Finally, when that is all done, you can bend on sails.

Safety equipment Service fire extinguishers and any MOB gear and personal flotation devices. Have liferaft repacked if needed. Replace any expired flares. Check your EPIRB’s operation and replace the battery. Check your medical kit and grab bags.

Below decks Steam clean all the carpets and cushions. Provision the galley.

Annual engine maintenance

Adjust valves. Tighten head bolts, if required. Align engine only after boat is back in the water and mast is tuned. Check the tension of all belts, particularly on alternators as any slippage causes overheating and burnout.

Service fuel injectors, if your engine exhaust is smoky. Check all charging systems. Purchase a year’s supply of filters, impellers, belts and engine oil.

If you’re not too mechanically inclined, consider hiring a diesel engine mechanic for a few hours to help you with the above list. Find a mechanic that specialises in your make of engine.

Ready to sail away

Before sailing away on your next ocean passage, plan for a short trip away. Once the boat is in the water and shipshape, spend a few days cruising to a quiet local anchorage. This will allow you time to recover from the stress, grime and noises of yard work and to ensure all systems are operational before you continue on your way.

This is an extract from the November 2014 issue of Yachting World