MSOL Marine Article - written by Capt. Joe Berta
Spring Commissioning - Part 2
The next half of your pre-launch circle check takes place aboard and within the interiors of the vessel. First, check all your throughhull penetrations; Make sure all hoses are installed, appear in good condition and are double clamped at all connection (below waterline). Operate each seacock, testing for ease of closing and opening. If one feels tight or is not able to be closed have the yard address prior to launch.
If you are not already familiar with the physical location of all your below waterline hull penetrations it may take considerable time and effort to locate them all, but you must do so in the name of good seamanship! Ideally, when you bought the boat you had a Pre-Purchase Marine Survey done by a professional who appropriately provided you in his or her report with a purpose function and location designation of all of your below waterline throughhull penetrations. If this is not the case, and you are on a larger vessel, you must make a diagram of your fitting locations yourself.
Proper practice is to have all seacocks closed prior to launch, and in larger vessels with one operator attending to all post-launch diagnostics, that is imperative!
Still prior to launch and after checking all hoses and seaconnections, see to it that all battery switching is in it’s appropriate position and that adequate DC power levels are reading on gauges and power is available from batteries.
Operate all bilgepumping assets in manual mode, making sure that proper operation of each pump is verified. This is an other scenario where you must have exact knowledge of where your pumps are and you must be able to access each pump. After being satisfied that the pumps all work in manual mode, if the pumps are equipped with open access float-switches you can gently pick up on the float and you should note the pump turning on until you lower the float again. (Some pumps’ auto switching are not able to be manipulated.)
Check all fluid levels in all propulsion machinery, generating plants, chillers, thrusters and stabilizing machinery. While we did assume pre-commissioning chores done by the yard to be completed by now, good seamanship dictates that an operator is able to perform such routine maintenance chores and to double check of what a yard did when it is practical to do so, is always considered very prudent.
Some owners like to “burp” engines (usually smaller gasoline fueled), which means that the starter is engaged for a few seconds until some ignition is noted, confirming the engine is ready to start when needed. Different schools of thought exists regarding the viability of this practice, I certainly do not recommend it with any diesel engines…
With batteries up to par and bilgepumps all in working order the launch can take place.
Most straddle lift operators understand the need to check out and ready vessel systems, and allow for a time to be spent in the straps ensuring the vessel is safe to let go.
First thing to do is a visual check on all throughhull fittings below waterline and to systematically open seacocks. It can be helpful to plan this out to your particular needs. You may be in an area where you are at sea once the straps are let go or you may only need to move the boat a few hundred yards to her slip. You may first only need a seacock open for the propulsion machinery, the climate control and maybe for the dayhead. No reason why the rest can not be left closed until the vessel is at her berth or until the components are needed to be brought on line.
While still in the straps, check all shaft logs. Some are checked for dry integrity while others, the dripping type, must be checked and adjusted (and readjusted later) if the need be. Check rudder shaft logs and shafts glands of stabilizer machinery as well.
So far, there should be no water entering the vessel’s bilges, with the exception of the dripping nature of conventional shaft logs.
At this point we can turn attention to fuel systems and propulsion engine cranking.
When your engine first starts it is important to check for seawater coolant to be pumping properly, which in most cases can be done by observing flow of water from exhaust ports. The straps let go, your boat is afloat and if the above points were adhered to, it should all have been an uneventful, Happy Launch Day.....
DISCLAIMER: It is important to note that the above discussion is a general descriptive, observing only the more usual points of what takes place during the launch of a boat. Many more different logistical and technical variables are likely to be present in any one particular case and the above can only be considered a partial guide for an owner to build upon.
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