Taking into consideration the ancient Greek saying «Prevention is better than Cure», it would be appropriate to check our RIB and our engine every time we get out of the sea. It won’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes, while it may save us from troubles and costs and will certainly ensure our safer ribbing.
Therefore, for our protection, we really need to check carefully a particular list of items after each use of our RIB:
Flush out the cooling system of the engine with fresh water
We all know that the saltwater can corrode the metal parts of the engine. If we don’t take care of its removal, over the time, the salt concentrates inside the passages of the cooling system and prevents the sufficient flow of water which is required or needed to cool the engine, leading to overheating and corrosion.
Therefore the most important of all is to start the engine and run at idle speed in neutral providing fresh water after each use of our boat so as to remove all the saltwater from its cooling system. This can be done using either a large tank of fresh water or by using the known «ear muffs» attached to the engine water intakes located on both sides of its lower unit.
Trim the engine in a vertical position, turn the fresh water on, start the engine and run at idle speed in neutral for about 10 minutes.
To make sure that the cooling system is operating well, watch the water indicator i.e. the stream of the water that exits from the small tube which is usually located on the right side of the engine, below its head cover.
If the water comes out from the nozzle of the small tube smoothly, in great volume and with enough pressure then we have the best sign indicating that the cooling system is free from salt deposits and that the water pump impeller is working properly and it raises easily the appropriate amount of water to the engine. Apart from this, to be absolutely sure of the proper function of the engine cooling system we’d better put our hand carefully through the stream of the water exiting the engine. In any case the water should not be hot!
Otherwise, i.e. if we find that water exits at a small quantity, with low pressure or spray form then we should first check the water intakes of lower unit and the nozzle of the small tube-water indicator, from where the water exits. Usually the nozzle clogs with salts and debris that block the water outlet. In this case insert a small wire in the nozzle and moving it inside out clean the pipe. If the flow of water still doesn’t improve then you should definitely check the impeller.
Inspect the propeller and gearbox
Inspecting the propeller we check:
- if the cotter pin or the lock washer tabs that secure the propeller nut are in their position which ensure us that the propeller nut is adequately tightened
- each blade carefully to make sure that there are no signs of damage or bents, particularly at its leading edge and at its tip, indications that the propeller has hit something. Even a small deformation can reduce the boat performance and increase the fuel consumption while it is certain that sooner or later the gearbox will be damaged. A bent propeller has lost its balance and causes vibrations in each rotation putting too much stress on the shaft seals and bearings
- if its hub is spun. Having the ignition switched off and the kill-cord out, we put the engine in gear and, putting enough power, we try to rotate the prop with our hands watching at the same time at its rubber hub. If we manage to rotate the prop, that means that its rubber hub has detached and is certain that when it will be under a load, the prop will slip and will let us adrift.
Inspecting the gearbox we check:
- the entire area of the lower unit for signs of leakage
- if any noise is heard within the gearbox. Having the ignition switched off and the throttle lever in neutral position we rotate the propeller with our hand to make sure that no noise is heard through the gearbox. Otherwise we should reach our engineer to check the bearings, seals and integrity of the gears.
- the area between the propeller and gearbox. We check especially whether there is any fishing line wrapped around the propeller shaft. In this case removing it is not only enough, instead we should also control the integrity of the outer seal of the propeller shaft which is possibly been affected by the local increase of temperature, leading to both inflow of water into the gearbox and gearcase lubricant leakage.
Inspect the entire outer surface of the transom
With no doubt, the transom is the most important part of any boat, since it receives the greatest stress both on land, when we transfer our boat on the trailer having the engine tilted in the up position and at the sea too, whenever we accelerate hardly pushing the throttle lever forward.
Therefore, we should check very carefully the transom for stress cracks and signs of wearing especially in that points where the engine, the power lift or our bracket is mounted. We also review whether their supporting bolts on the transom are still securely tightened and check their integrity.
Check the external anodes
The anodes protect the mechanical parts of our engine from galvanic corrosion ensuring its longevity. Therefore, it is very important to inspect them each time, at least those that are located at the bottom of the engine’s power trim bracket and on its lower unit. If the anodes are filled with salt deposits should be cleaned with a wire brush or sandpaper in order to have the greatest possible surface of their metal exposed to the environment. If the 1/3 of their mass is already eaten away then we have to replace them with new ones.
Check the oil level both in the hydraulic steering system and in the engine too
- We check the fluid level of our hydraulic steering system so as to be sure that there is no leakage. It takes less than a minute to unscrew the cap at the helm, where the oil reservoir is located and check its level. If the level is low, we need to bring it back to normal levels by filling from the spare oil bottle that it is we are supposed always to carry on board. After that, we replace the cap in the helm pump, attempting small turns of the helm, right and left, watching if the engine response is immediate without noticeable lag in its movement.
- We check the engine oil level trimming the outboard engine in a vertical position. We all know that if the engine does not running with the necessary amount of oil can cause to a huge damage. So, remove the engine cover and check if the oil level is at the desirable limit mark. If it isn’t, add the appropriate amount of the recommended oil. For two-stroke engines check the oil level in the oil tank and make sure you know the oil consumption compared to the fuel one. We should always carry a spare 4liter oil tank.
Check the boat’s water-separating fuel filter
A very common cause which can lead to engine failure but also to serious damage in its certain components is the presence of water in the fuel. The first line of defence against water that coming from the boat’s fuel tank is the water-separating fuel filter. We should therefore constantly to inspect it. Besides, it is a very quick check, especially if the fuel filter we use is transparent allowing a direct optical control.
Inspect the hull and RΙΒ’s tubes
Inspect carefully the gel coat of the hull for cracks, scratches or abrasions especially along the keel, the spray rails and chines.Examine the tubes and their attachments to the hull, especially at the back part of the hull which receives the greatest stresses. Pay special attention to fabric strips that cover the seams, as well as the strips that connect the tubes to the hull. If you find detachment points, repair them even temporarily, otherwise the hypalon strips will totally detach due to the intense and constant friction.
There is nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of the sea during our ride or our trip.
What mentioned above are not only about properly maintaining our boat and engine but primarily about protecting our life at sea.
An experienced eye does not need more than 15 minutes for a complete visual inspection of the boat. If you belong to the category of those who are not yet familiar with the appropriate points which should be checked every time we take the boat out, you can print on a paper the following briefly mentioned steps, having them always with you.
So, in summary, we should inspect:
- The engine cooling system
- The propeller and gearbox
- The total surface of the transom
- The anodes
- The engine oil level and the fluid level of the hydraulic steering system
- The water-separating fuel filter
- The hull and tubes
Having carried out the above checks, disconnect the batteries, wash the boat, cover it and farewell it satisfied, knowing that everything is ready for the next ride