Before splashing after refit, check on documents, spares

May 12, 2015 by Rich Merhige

As a yard period comes to a close, everyone is eager to wrap up and splash. But before leaving, there are crucial items that should be considered that will give captains and engineers peace of mind by verifying all the work done, and confirming due diligence with maintenance.

  1. Documentation and inspections. Thoroughly document everything that was done on the vessel. Take photos before, during and after any service work being done. Take photos of original parts, and then the new parts that were installed in their place. Record serial and model numbers as well as cure dates for any rubber elements being used.

In particular, check the following:

  • Appendages, rudder posts, rudders, skegs, bilge keels, stabilizers, etc. Report condition of seals and bearing clearances taken.
  • Hull voids that are inaccessible when the yacht is not drydocked: Check that all hull opening blanks and plugs are removed. Check that sea chests are bolted in place and watertight.
  • Zincs anodes: Indicate the number and location of zincs renewed. Make sure they are free of paint.
  • Sonar and fathom transducers: Make sure they are uncovered, free of paint, and watertight.
  • Running gear: Check propellers, shaft couplings, struts fairwaters, rope guards, and line cutters (if installed). Check tightness, condition and work accomplished. Check shaft seals or stuffing boxes for tightness and proper settings, report shaft bearing design clearances and readings taken. Check shaft coating and zincs for tightness and free of paint.
  • Sea valves: Check for tightness and record which valves were repaired or renewed.

Initial reports such as those provided with prop and shaft reconditioning should be matched with finals for a quick comparative for future reference. Keep track of who the subcontractors are, the work they did, and the servicemen involved – same goes for project managers or yard personnel. Know what is being paid for, what was received, and what warranties are involved.

If the vessel is classed, double check with the surveyor to make sure all paperwork is in order, and any relevant documentation was submitted correctly. It is always wise to have all of this documentation in both a digital format and hard copy.

  1. Spares. No one ever wants to be left hanging. This is especially true when an emergency comes up — like needing a seal serviced — just as a charter is looming and a service kit is not easily available. Use drydock time wisely to procure extra parts to have as spares. Always have access to extra seals, service kits with parts, and if applicable, any hard-to-come-by tools.
  2. Schedule an experienced technician to be onboard when the vessel splashes to help do final checks to confirm there are no leaks and all is in order per the most recently completed repairs. Special attention should be paid to sea chest, sea valves and shaft seals. Shaft seals typically need to be vented to release any air. And make sure there is plenty of water injection for the seal and stern tube bearings.
  3. Have a post-haul vibration analysis done. Although it may seem a bit redundant, especially if there was a major vibration issue before the haul out and it seems to be completely gone after service work is completed, a post-haul vibration analysis can still provide vital information that will serve as a reference point for future maintenance. A post-works survey will pinpoint exactly what was achieved during the yard period when compared to a pre-haul survey report.

The post-works survey can offer peace of mind, clarifying that important issues were addressed and giving the vessel “a clean bill of health.” It can also give recommendations for mechanical areas that should be monitored to avoid any unexpected surprises that could lead to outages or down time.

Most importantly, it serves as documentation that you did your job by bringing the vessel to its proper mechanical standards during the yard period or point out deficiencies that weren’t correctly addressed or remedied by the service companies.

After following these steps, captains and engineers can proceed to sea with confidence. Always do a dynamic pre-trip maintenance inspection that includes running all systems to test their proficiency. This includes electrical and hydraulic systems, and even bilge pumps. Always monitor seals to ensure they are being properly cooled, and perform the recommended maintenance checks on engines.

With all this under your belt, you are well on your way to smooth sailing.

Rich Merhige is the owner of Advanced Mechanical Enterprises and Advanced Maintenance Engineering in Ft. Lauderdale, which specializes in rotating and reciprocating machinery. This column is co-written by Teresa Drugatz, marketing manager at AME. Contact them through or +1 954-764-2678. Comments on this column are welcome at