Recently an article was sent my way which really outlines and documents the importance of checking the engine room periodically while underway. I suggest that you keep to an hourly engine room check during the day or anytime there are two people in the pilothouse and on shift changes at night, especially when cruising offshore.
You should develop a pre-start checklist to remind you of all the things you should check each time before getting underway. It should be made specifically for your boat but should include at minimum the following:
- Check engine(s) oil, water, belts
- Check transmission(s) fluid
- Check generator oil, water, belts
- Check strainer(s) for debris
- Check through hull fittings and make sure they can be closed
- Check battery levels
- Check fuel levels and water separators
- Visually inspect around the engine(s) and generator, look at all connectors and hose clamps
- Look for debris, drips or anything out-of-order.
- Document what you find so each person who does the check knows what was there previously
Once underway, a thorough visual inspection and documentation should occur. If you notice a drip, document it and keep an eye on it to see if it gets bigger at the next inspection.
The following video documentation is from Jeffrey and Karen Siegel, experienced offshore cruisers, and owners of ActiveCaptain, aboard their DeFever 53 aCappella. They recently made an overnight passage off the North Carolina coast. On one of the engine room checks a tiny leak was noticed. It was monitored over the next couple of checks. The discovery that was made should put the fear of Poseidon in you.
Have a look at this video of the episode.