Our Hylas 54 / 56 Runbook!

The Hylas 54 / 56 did not come with an owner’s manual, so over several seasons of operating both models we decided to write our own! The first checklist items in this runbook are intended for new owners who are unfamiliar with the boat and just want reminders of what to do at that moment when you first arrive at the boat and would like to get underway. After a little while much of this will be second nature but as a new owner this checklist will help you get you a jump start on operating your Hylas. The latter portions of the document includes various tips that will help you get up to speed as your Hylas’ new Chief Engineer!

An important caveat to this runbook: our experiences are based on roughly 7,000 passage making miles as owners of Hylas 54 #43 and roughly 3,000 miles as racing crew aboard Hylas 56 #19. Both boats were commissioned in relatively standard fashion when built and neither had extensive modifications to their electrical or mechanical systems. As such owners of yachts with significant modifications will need to modify the runbook accordingly.

Let’s get underway!

Electrical breakers: Identify all of the circuit breakers that must be on to power navigation and communication equipment, etc – in essence all of the breakers you will want on before you get underway. Mark them with small, inexpensive plastic craft jewel markers that attach with adhesive. This way each time you wish to leave the dock you can simply instruct your crew to switch on every breaker that is marked. Other than the main panel, there are breakers in two other locations: under the chart table near your knees, and in the forward cabin on the face of the V-berth. Mark those breakers as well. Verify that the VHF microphone for the helm station is on deck and that it is charged if it is battery powered. 

Fuel: Verify that you have selected the desired fuel tank by examining the diverter valves under the companionway stairs (Hylas 54) or under the galley floor (Hylas 56). Verify that your Racors are clear of water and debris at the same time while the companionway is open. Always be sure to fully latch the companionway steps when closing them again – it can be easy to forget this only to have the stairs swing open while someone is on the stairs and the boat is under sail. 

Raw water Intake: The main engine raw water intake is on the port side of the engine (Hylas 54), which can be accessed from the nav station area. We were not in the habit of closing this seacock but it’s worth checking if you have been away from the boat for a while.

Starting the engine: Turn on the Engine Control switch in the panel in the cockpit. Audible alarms are expected until the engine fires up. If desired these can be bypassed using a switch near the gauges (Hylas 54). Move the engine control lever to the neutral position and mark it with red tape if it is not already marked. This way neutral can be easily verified each time you start up. Fire up the engine by holding Start and releasing when it starts. Verify raw water discharge out of the transom. Optional: on hot days run the engine room blower fan whenever the main engine (or genset) is running to keep the interior cooler.

Auxiliary fuel pump: If you are operating from a tank that is low on fuel, turn on the auxiliary fuel pump when the engine is running. The breaker can be found under the chart table. See the section below on this pump for more information.

Handling while docking – mild conditions: These boats are generally pretty benign when docking. Be prepared for considerable prop walk pulling the transom to port (Hylas 54 same 56?) when reversing, which can be used to the helmsman’s advantage in a variety of situations but can obviously be a complication in others. The propeller is inline with the rudder, which means that the rudder can be used to guide the transom to either side when powering in forward from a dead stop. Here is an example of a practical application of this behavior: imagine trying to leave a slip where you are tied up to the starboard side and the wind is blowing the boat onto the dock. As long as the wind is not too strong, both bow and stern can be pulled to port, away from the dock, by applying the following technique: Turn the helm to starboard (yes, this sounds counter intuitive).  Engage the engine in forward and apply a generous amount of throttle. At the same time, use the bow thruster to thrust to port. Both bow and stern will move to port away from the slip. At some point enough speed will be built up that the rudder will begin to overwhelm the bow thruster and the bow will begin to turn back to starboard. This is where the helm must be immediately centered or turned slightly to port to clear the dock.

Docking in windy conditions or anchoring in deep water: If you are departing a mooring, anchorage or dock with lots of wind or anchoring in deep water you may need to use the bow thruster and / or the windlass a good deal. On the Hylas 54, a single battery is shared between the windlass and the bow thruster while on the 56 each motor got a dedicated battery. To ensure you have a strong bow thruster and can run it as much as needed, we recommend you start the generator and turn on the battery charger(s) in this situation. This will keep the bow thruster and / or the Windlass at full power during heavy use.

Deploy check stays: On models equipped with in-mast furling and a fixed staysail stay, we recommend that at least one check stay (and ideally both) always be deployed when under way, even when motoring. The weight of the mainsail system in the mast will cause the mast to pump in waves. Even in calm conditions, motor boat wakes wll be large enough to cause the mast to pump. The prior owners of our Hylas 54 (#43)  had to replace the staysail stay because the wire was damaged where it attaches to the mast from mast pumping. We recommend the smaller manual winches be used for check stays to prevent the risk of accidentally over-tightening the check stay with the power winches.

Head Sink seacocks when under sail: If you intend to sail in brisk conditions with lots of heal, close the seacocks in both heads to prevent the sink on the leeward side from filling with seawater and spiling seawater into the head. 

Main and jib halyards: Keep these tensioned on the mast winches when sailing in brisk winds. Although we never had it happen on hull  #43, Rover’s crew raced extensively on Hylas 56 #19 and we had several halyards’ covers tear from being overloaded in the clutches at the mast. To avoid this, we always kept the halyards tensioned on the winches and not just the clutches on Hylas 54 #43. 

Sail plan: Both of the Hylas’ we have experience with had the ~125% genoa. We found that these boats have a very tall mast, so they sail very well under jib alone on any point of sail. If the winds are in the upper teens or more and you are sailing close to the wind, we recommend that you deploy only the genoa. On a beam or broad reach, the main will be a big help but it is not needed in brisk, close hauled sailing and the jib is much easier to set and douse than is the main.

Here is another fantastic trick to reef either Hylas. If you are in big breeze on a reach and you want to reduce power, roll up most of the headsail and roll out the staysail. The center of effort is much, much lower than it would be for a partially reefed headsail alone. That results in much lower heel with no loss in speed. See this article for a real life case study where we used the approach: https://svrover.com/2019/12/16/annapolis-to-fort-lauderdale-2019/

In-mast mainsail deployment: This system can be a little finicky. Having the correct boom angle is critical to reliability of the system. With the main deployed, adjust the vang such that the tension on the leech and foot are essentially the same. This will ensure that the sail will roll with even tension from bottom to top, as opposed to be overly tight at the top and too loose on the lower half (for example).

To deploy the sail, head up into the wind with the breeze slightly to the port side of the bow (assuming the main is rolled in with a clockwise rotation as viewed from the top). Keep the breeze slightly to starboard if it was rolled the opposite way) . Pull out the outhaul while the “out” furler button is being pressed. Be sure a moderate tension is maintained on the outhaul and do NOT let it go slack while winding the sail out, or the sail may tangle. You don’t need or want too much tension on the outhaul – just enough to be sure the sail is paying out. In light conditions you can even have a crew member do this by hand without using a winch (if it’s windy the luffing may make this method too physical). When the sail is all the way out, fully tension the outhaul (leave it on the small winch next to the companionway so the clutch won’t slip) before bearing away and loading the sail. To douse the main, head up into the wind, again leaving the breeze slightly to port (if clockwise roll) and roll up the main while maintaining sufficient tension on the outhaul to result in a tight roll. A single wrap on the cabin top winch works well as you let the outhaul pay out and wind up the sail.

Heavy weather harbor entrance or ocean inlet safety checklist: If entering a port or inlet in heavy weather where an engine outage would be dangerous – for example one with a lee shore and / or rocky breakwater, execute this checklist:

Verify that the auxiliary fuel pump is on. The tanks on these boats are deep in the hull and on the 54 the fuel manifolds are higher than the cabin sole, which can cause the injector pump to struggle to get fuel out of the tanks. Turning on the fuel pump is free insurance against an engine stall at a bad moment.

Before entering the inlet, verify that the active Racor is clear of water or debris and that excessive vacuum is not indicated on the vacuum gauge. If more than 5 PSI is shown, fail over to a clean filter prior to entering the inlet.

Verify there are no loose sheet ends or other lines (especially those related to the dinghy) left unsecured near the transom. In the event of a grounding in a rough sea state, these can be washed overboard and foul the prop, eliminating any chance of escaping a lee shore.

Verify that the genoa sheets are run to the winches and the genoa furler line is ready to run so that the genoa can be deployed should you encounter an unexpected engine outage.

Anchoring: To avoid over loading the windlass while setting anchor, we used two snubbers on H54 #43. The first was a small one with a hook, to which we transferred teh chain loads while we set the anchor with the motor, thus unloading the windlass. We had a larger SuperYacht braid snubber made in Annapolis with no hook so that we could use a rolling hitch. Tying the rolling hitch is of course more time consuming, which is why the hook is great for setting the anchor initially. We payed out the primary snubber over the starboard roller feed. We removed that roller because it is a chain roller with a groove that badly chafed the snubber. We experienced no chafe running the snubber over the axle alone. We would like to credit the owners of Stellina for sharing this tip of removing the second roller.

Each time we anchored, we also attached the second snubber with the hook to the loose span of chain between the windlass and the primary snubber as free insurance against failure of the primary snubber.

Anchor alarm: We love the “Anchor Pro” iPhone app. It’s cheap and works great. Keep your phone charged with an external battery pack at night, and leave this baby on and set, then sleep like a kitten. 

General Engineering Notes


Hylas 54 #43 had no solar or wind generation, which would have been a huge improvement living at anchor or when moored. With two of the four of us working on laptops full time during the day, we kept to a schedule of charging twice a day when at anchor or under passage. Under passage the electronics and auto pilot will tend to draw around 20 amps, while at anchor or mooring the refrigerator, freezer and personal electronics will draw 10-5 amps consistently. Charging twice a day will keep the generator well loaded and keep the maximum battery discharge in check. Apart from the twice a day schedule, keep an eye on the volts being put out by the battery in the context of the amp draw. In general, charge when the batteries are putting out low 12 volts of output (ie 12.3ish) given whatever the current amp draw is. Thoroughly discharged batteries would initially accept 150 amps of charge from the two chargers on our 54.

Our charge times given the consumption figures listed above were around 1.5 hours per each charge cycle for us, or three hours a day to thoroughly re charge the batteries.. Shut down the generator when the rate of charge, as measured on the Mastervolt panel, is around 40 amps or less. At this charge rate we believe the generator will be too lightly loaded to keep it free of carbon and the batteries are sufficiently recharged until the next charging cycle.

Hylas 54 #43 had an 8kw generator. In order to keep the generator loaded at around 75% for as long as possible, we turned on the hot water heater around half way through each battery charge cycle. Diesel generators and main engines usually die in marine environments from under-loading and carbon buildup more so then over loading. Using the hot water heater to impose load on the generator is a good way to keep it loaded as the batteries become more fully charged and thus the load on the generator from battery charging is reduced over the course of the charge cycle.


Keep an eye on the combined load imposed on the generator by all of the AC consumers. For our 8kw generator, a combined total of around 65 amps of AC consumption is about the most the genset can supply while still generating 110-115 volts, which is less than a combined total of all AC consumers that could be used at once. For example, running all three AC zones at the same time will  demand more power than the genset will supply, but two is fine. Over time you will get a sense of what combination of AC consumers is ideal.

When heavily running the generator in hot conditions, be sure to run the engine room blower fan. Otherwise voltage regulators can overheat and cause the generator to malfunction and shut down.


When at anchor or moored, turn off the Inverter with the large round switch under the chart table at night. Even with no inverted AC loads running, the inverter will draw 1-2 amps constantly to no benefit, which will unnecessarily extend generator runtimes the next day. We would like to thank the owners of Stellina for this tip!


They Hylas 54/56 tanks are very deep, so when any of them run fairly low we have found that the primary on-engine fuel pump on the 54 can have trouble pulling the fuel up, which can cause the engine to stall. Run the auxiliary fuel pump whenever you are operating the engine on a tank that is running low. Remember to turn it off when the engine is stopped. The breaker for this pump is found where your knees would be if you were sitting at the chart table.


Our experience has been the marine diesel engines consume different amounts of oil – both between makes and models of engines but also the same engine may consume more or less oil depending on loading.  Oil consumption is normal even for healthy diesel engines that show strong compression and show few signs of wear. We find that marine diesels show greatly increased consumption when powering into wind and chop. As such we recommend checking / filling oil every 24 hours when on a passage and motoring for multiple days until you gain enough experience with your engine to be able to predict its consumption more accurately.. This interval can be extended when powering in calm conditions or downwind once your consumption is more accurately predictable. 


On the Hylas 54 with the 125 Yanmar, we budgeted around 2.5 gallons per hour at cruise (2,700 RPM-ish with the prop pitch we had, for a speed of around 8 knots) in calm and light conditions. Expect this figure to go up dramatically when powering into wind and chop on the 54/56! Be ready for it. Important note: there is a wide variation in Hylas’ owners’ preferences for running RPM and consumption. Many owners prefer to run considerably more slowly to conserve fuel. For example, one very experienced owner reports that on long ocean passages they would cruise at between 2,000-2,400 resulting in fuel consumption as low as 1-1.6 gallons per hour while maintaining speeds of 6.5-7.5 knots. On our boat, we tended to keep speeds up due to work commitments outside of our cruising life, which made the higher fuel consumption worth the higher speeds. So chalk this one up to preferences, but these speed / consumption estimates can help new owners make their own decision.

An important note: to prevent carbon buildup, it is recommended that marine diesel engines be run at full throttle for a minute or two every few hours. If running as low as 2,000 RPM for long periods of time this procedure becomes even more important, as carbon accumulation can be expected to higher.


There are four steel water tanks with the following capacities in gallons on the standard 54, with the 56 being similar:

Aft Cabin under berth    50

Port fwd: under floor of the third cabin    48

port mid in salon under floor 91

stbd mid in salon under floor  91

Total capacity ~ 280 gallons

New owners of brokerage Hylas yachts should inspect the inside of the tanks for dirt and physically clean them if any is seen.

We fill our tanks from the deck filling fittings, but we have another crew down below remove the filling opening on the top of the tank being filled. This is to prevent a buildup of pressure in the tank if it is filled until the water over flows out of the deck fitting. The intention is to prolong the life of the tanks by not over pressuring them. As a side benefit, this also results in getting the tanks 100% full. We do this with all tanks with the exception of the aft 50 gallon tank which would be a nightmare to access each time, so that one we just fill until it overflows from the deck fitting. 

To keep water fresh, we recommend using an inexpensive vacuum pump to fully drain the last of the water out of each tank once they have “run dry” if you do not plan to re fill the tank in the near future (for example during extended marina stays or storage). We have “run dry” in quotes because the pickup tubes for these tanks are not at the very bottom, which means even an “empty” tank will have 1-5 gallons left depending on which tank. The port forward tank in the port cabin still has almost 5 gallons when it is “empty,” for example. Vacuuming out the tanks prevents these last quantities of water from going bad and also allows debris to be pulled out of the tanks periodically. For more information on this practice, see our blog article at: https://svrover.com/2020/01/17/keeping-water-tanks-clean-part-iii/


On the standard 54, here are four steel fuel tanks in the following locations and capacities. Most 56s were similar:

Tank  – location –   Label Capacity (Gallons)

Port aft – under the floor under the nav station chair – 38

Port fwd  -under the salon floor, the next tank forward from the nav station –  95

stbd aft   – under the galley floor right by the garbage can – 49

stbd fwd  – under the salon floor, the next tank forward from the galley tank – 94

Total Capacity 276

If you are the new owner of a brokerage Hylas, we recommend that you physically clean all of the fuel tanks before getting underway on your first extended cruise. Although you cannot generally gain access to clean the tanks behind the baffles, by cleaning the part of the tanks we could access we have done very well with fuel filters staying clean.

Filling procedures are the same as for water – filled via the deck fittings but with the tank top fill fitting open to prevent over pressuring the tanks, if you have the people.

There are two Racor pre filters located behind the companionway stairs. We use the left hand 30 Micron filter to run the engine, which holds the right side Racor in reserve for a clog / water contamination of the left. We also use the right to polish the fuel. We polish the fuel every 45 days for any tanks that have not recently been used to run the genset or the main engine.


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