Prevention is Better, Cheaper and Safer than the Cure

Creating and managing the checklists of your yacht.

By Mawgan Grace

Foreword by Dick Beaumont

At Kraken Yachts we go to great lengths to ensure full access to all elements of the yacht’s equipment, systems and fittings. We know if a filter, strainer, sea chest, or even worse, the generator or engine, is hidden away behind a bunk or panel that requires half the yacht to be dismantled before the owner can check it, it won’t get checked. So, read Mawgan’s article and think about how you will maintain and monitor all the vital elements of your yacht. Then do it meticulously, especially when you’re on passage.

Creating and Managing the Checklists of your Yacht

By Mawgan Grace

As a commercial airline pilot, I’m used to operating complex aircraft using simple ‘Standard Operating Procedures,’ normal and emergency checklists and a guide for reporting and dealing with maintenance issues. Aviation rules and regulations, relatively new when compared with the maritime world, is therefore based upon seafaring. As such the ‘rules of the road,’ lighting system, navigation and even a lot of the radio phraseology are identical. The reason the airline industry teaches pilots to operate via ‘policy, procedures and philosophy’ is for safe, simple and efficient operation. Standard Operating Procedures provide just this – a framework of common procedures that supports pilots operating commercial aircraft safely and consistently.

Depending on your operation, whether sailing with your friends and family, or you’re performing commercial charters, you should have an operating structure to deal with the normal/abnormal emergency procedures and maintenance reporting. To achieve this I have devised a simple system that works for me. It consists of two sleeved folders, one green and one red.

The Green Folder

The first page of my green folder is a laminated A4 card with every piece of equipment that has an expiry date and operating time restriction. This includes the next service date of lifejackets, fire extinguishers, EPIRB batteries and flares to engine oil change requirement, impellers, zincs and vessel licence and insurance renewal dates. Because the sheet is laminated it can be updated and viewed before each outing to get an immediate picture of the state of equipment from a safety, legal and maintenance perspective.

You can also have a similar card in your first aid kit, with the expiry dates of the medicine and ointments contained. 

Inside the green folder are the boat checklists. These are the Standard Operating Procedures which you can write yourself; from the moment you step on board your vessel and open the seacocks until the moment you put the covers back on and disembark. 

TIP – The human brain is designed for problem-solving not storing information, so having a checklist will ensure you don’t forget anything!

The Red Folder

The first page of the red folder contains a picture of the vessel’s hull with locations of the skin fittings, fire extinguishers, first aid kit and other safety equipment. 

The red folder contains all the emergency and non-normal checklists and maintenance documentation. 

In this folder are clear simple one-page emergency checklists covering emergency contact numbers, MAYDAY and PAN radio call examples, MOB drill and recovery technique, fire drills, severe weather preparation, vessel taking on water and abandonment drills for example. Under the non-normal section there are procedures covering towing, offshore watch systems, gas safety, helicopter high-line instructions and severe weather preparation. 

The huge advantage of having these drills written down is that when time is of the essence with crew who may not be familiar with the vessel, the captain can delegate a crew member to get the red folder and follow an instruction step by step without lengthy instruction.

At the back of the red folder, I have my list of current defective equipment. In the aircraft, we have a ’Tech Log’ which records the defective equipment. We also have bright orange stickers to place on, or next to, faulty or unserviceable equipment. I use these stickers on the boat to warn crew not to turn on or operate equipment with an ‘unserviceable’ sticker on it. You can purchase bright orange round stickers from any stationary shop.


Operating a vessel should be done as safely and efficiently as possible and I find this basic two folder philosophy provides a simple framework for you and your crew, or even someone unfamiliar with the environment, to easily follow. You can devise your own operating system but the important point is that we should all have a system.

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