I know it is unusual to do it outside of a sale or insurance situation, but I suggest it nonetheless.
One thing you might consider this year is to hire a professional surveyor to perform a thorough marine survey on your boat when it is hauled to paint the bottom. While almost always associated with the sale/purchase process, a marine survey takes a trained professional through your boat with careful attention to the general condition of the boat and its systems.
While it is unusual to have a survey done “just for the heck of it,” if you have owned your boat for any length of time, it may be the best present you can give yourself.
Especially for owners of older boats, an evaluation of your boat’s condition will alert you to any developing problems, as well as provide a high degree of confidence that your boat only has a short list of issues that you can address before your cruising season starts.
Even though it is not common practice, if you have owned your boat for more than a few years, I believe it is money well spent. I suppose you might ask the surveyor to dispense with certain ship’s systems, such as a watermaker or anchor windlass that you know work, and concentrate more on the things you typically overlook. Blisters or delamination in a fiberglass hull, deck, or cabin side, water intrusion behind or beneath exterior teak, propellers out of alignment, a worn cutless bearing, rigging or mast fittings at the end of a useful life, steering system leaks or frayed cable, a swim ladder coming loose, play in the rudder bearings…there are many pieces to the puzzle. Which is why it is a good idea to occasionally have it checked by someone who is trained to find this stuff.
I would think you might actually have fun spending the time and money for an objective exam by a professional surveyor.
Not only will it identify most issues, but it is a great safeguard before you head off to do the Loop, go up the coast, or wherever your plans take you. Age can cause brittle fuel lines, loose packing nuts, and cracks in exhaust hoses. Bilge pump switches can go bad, and manual bilge pumps may not work from lack of use. A surveyor familiar with your kind of boat will point these items out and then you can take care of them.
Spend half a day with a surveyor on your boat will bring you peace of mind, I promise. Sail or power, makes no difference. It is a great idea. Like having your annual physical, but without the prostrate exam.
Have a great week, everyone.