Simple Blue Tape: Eliminate Unexpected Problems Aboard!

When you’re commuter cruisers, like us, leaving the boat for six months at a time, every six months it feels like we start the learning curve all over again.  There are a few very simple things we can do that not only act as reminders for US, but also for our caretaker while we’re gone and even  more importantly, anyone who might be aboard in an emergency trying to help — such as other boat owners on our dock, marina staff or any kind soul after a hurricane or storm.

One of the simplest and most useful is labeling every key thing with blue tape.  Seems so dumb, but keep in mind, it’s not necessarily for us … more for others.   Here are the critical systems that we blue tape label when we leave the boat each spring for hurricane season:Leave Boat

1.  The diesel ignition – before we leave the boat, we fresh water flush our diesel, shut the seacocks and basically shut down the diesel.   Some insist this isn’t good practice, but we’ve had nothing but good results with the diesel firing on the first few tries when we open the seacock and return.  But because the seacock is shut, there’s a piece of blue tape over the ignition in the cockpit warning that the diesel cannot be fired up without first opening the seacock!  This will hopefully prevent anyone from trying to move the boat in an emergency and ruining our diesel!   There’s also a piece of blue tape labeling the teak panel that allows entry to where the diesel seacock lives, reminding us to open it again.

2.  The head.  The head is fresh water flushed after we empty and then completely flush out the holding tank with fresh water and vinegar.  We shut the seacock and dump buckets and buckets of fresh water and vinegar down the head before leaving.  Then I put a piece of blue tape across the toilet seat stretching diagnally across.  In the past, we’ve had caretakers and workmen aboard while we’re gone that thought it would be OK to use the head rather than walk up to the marina.  NOT!  Ever since I’ve stretched the blue tape warning diagonally across the head, I’ve had no problem.     And naturally, when we return, we remember to turn on the seacock and “recommission” the head.


3.  The watermaker.  After we pickle the watermaker, the blue tape warning label stays in place until it’s recommissioned.  No one would ever try to use it in our absence, so this one is basically just a warning for us.  But it works.

4.  Anything else I want to warn myself or others that might be aboard about gets a blue tape label.

5.  Almost forgot … when we disconnect the SSB & other electronics before we leave the boat each spring, we always use blue tape to label the wires in addition to taking a digital photo so hopefully six months later we’ll remember how it goes back together.  After almost 15 years of commuter cruising, you’d think we’d remember, but we’re people who can’t remember how our old VCR was connected and disconnected a day later when moving, so blue tape works wonders!

The advantage of using the blue tape as a label is there’s no sticky mess when we remove the blue tape at the end of six months as we recommission.   And no one has inadvertently used a system that’s not working in the meantime!

Anyone have other recommendations?   Please leave a comment and share!  Cheers!  Jan





  1. Is that a specific brand of blue tape? My first thought was of the residue it would leave behind, but it sounds as though you have found one that is residue-free?
    Good tips, by the way. EVERY year it seems that we forget how to install our dodger (there’s a trick to it that makes it much easier), and how to hook up our chart plotter. I finally wrote directions in our logbook!

    • Hi Gretchen – we always use the 3M blue tape & have never had it leave a residue … not even when I left on the boat while I was adding two coats of varnish, but in the middle we decided the weather was good to sail to the Keys, so it literally was lining our caprail for a couple weeks in the sun and came off just fine. Our “varnish artist” friend told us we were extremely lucky because he’s had trouble getting the blue tape off after just a few days in the sun while varnishing. 🙂 Cheers — Jan

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