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How do I prepare for a new boat delivery?

2024 July 1

Dear Boat Doctor,

I just bought a used Beneteau First 456. The boat seems like it’s in great condition, and the survey went well. I need to make a 400-mile coastal delivery home and am trying to prioritize what I should worry about. There are places to stop if I have trouble, but I am trying to be reasonably self-sufficient.

Dan Robertson

South Gate, Maryland

Dear Dan,

Congrats on the new boat. I know the First 456 well, and have found it to be a capable, powerful and fast cruiser. I recommend approaching this first passage with a conservative approach. The safety of your crew is paramount, and you want to get the boat where it needs to be.

First, make sure you are equipped with the required safety gear. In the excitement of a new boat, it can be easy to overlook life jackets (including a throwable), flares, sound-making devices and more. 

Next, I inspect and familiarize myself with the critical systems before leaving the dock:

• Identify all the through-hull fittings and locate emergency wooden plugs.

• Inspect the rig and all the fittings.

• Inspect the steering system; a boat that can’t steer is vulnerable.

• Inspect the engine.

With assurance that the basics look good, I want to be prepared for any problems. When boats change hands there is often a period of layup or at least lack of use. This passive time can be hard on fuel and water can build up in the tank leading to organic growth. I carry several spare fuel filters, typically Racor 500 series cartridges. Three or four cartridges are likely enough to get you through or at least give you time to get more if you start to clog filters. 

Be prepared with the tools and skills to bleed your new engine, should you need to. Alternator drive belts can be a problem,  so carry at least one spare belt and the tools to change it.

Getting away from the dock is always tough; there is always one more thing, and there is never enough time. If you can, plan a short leg on the first day, and then take some solid time to rest and prepare for the real passage.

Overall, enjoy yourself. Be mentally prepared for some things not to work, and know in many cases, it is due to user error. Have the previous owner on speed dial for questions. Figuring out the boat is all part of the fun. To quote John Kretschmer, if things don’t work, figure out why you didn’t need them in the first place.