James Stevens explains which skills are best to perfect while you have plenty of time to do so. This week: locating and cleaning the strumbox

Locating and cleaning the strumbox

James Stevens

James Stevens, author of the Yachtmaster Handbook, spent 10 of his 23 years at the RYA as Training Manager and Yachtmaster Chief Examiner

About 10 years ago I joined a group of friends to deliver a newly-purchased 30ft yacht from Amsterdam to Falmouth. The trip across the Dover Strait was wind against tide in a fresh breeze with a lively sea and continuous spray. We were all clipped on deck, concentrating pretty hard on the surrounding ships, when a glance below revealed that the sole boards were awash. The bilge pump was quickly manned but no flow emerged. ‘The strum box must be blocked!’

It took us several minutes to locate and unblock it. It was a simple job if you knew where to look but I wish I’d checked boat a bit more carefully before we set off. It’s worth getting to know your boat so that relatively simple jobs can be mastered in port before they become ten times harder at sea.

Part of practising on a mooring or alongside is knowing which spanner you need. A wet, sloping saloon sole is no place to lay out your tool kit to find the right one. Practise first and you greatly reduce the possibility of tools, nuts, washers and patience disappearing into the bilge.

On deck, setting storm sails or working out how the safety kit works is not something to do for the first time in a gale. Even if you have read the instruction book, there is no substitute for actually finding out how it’s done on your boat in the serenity of port.

Owners who have done their winter maintenance stand a better chance of solving these problems because they’ve scratched their heads wondering about them when the yacht is laid up. There are some skills, such as what to do in an emergency, which can’t be practised but there is plenty of prep you can do before slipping the lines. It’s no different to passage planning at home so you’re ready to go to sea.



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