Spring is here, and you’re ready to get out on the water. But is your boat ready?
Even if you’ve kept it properly stored for the winter and protected from the elements, there are still a number of things you need to do before hitting the local lakes and rivers.
While much of your focus will be on the boat itself, don’t forget other important things, such as your trailer, safety equipment, vessel registration and, of course, your insurance coverage. As far as the boat and trailer, check out these tips from Discover Boating, which provides boating information and public outreach on behalf of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
Engine and Electric
Your boat’s been sitting for a few months, so it’s not ready to zip across the water just yet. Here are a few things to check before firing up the ignition:
- Make sure fuel hoses are not soft, brittle or cracked and check the system for leaks or damage. Also verify that fittings and clamps are secure.
- Check all other belts, hoses and cables as well. Replace if needed.
- Inspect electrical connections for corrosion and verify your battery is holding a charge.
- Check all fluid levels and change or top off as needed.
- Test for proper ventilation.
Propellers and Hulls
Damage to your propeller or hull can make for an unpleasant day on the water. Here are some things to look for:
- Propellers that have dings or distortion. This can lead to not only an unpleasant ride due to vibration but can also damage your drive train. While securing your propeller, check that the bearings are not worn out.
- Hulls with blisters or cracks. Cleaning the hull (use an environmentally safe solution) gives you a good opportunity to check for damage. While you’re at in, clean above deck, too.
You should treat your trailer with as much care as your boat. After all, you can’t go boating if you can’t get your boat to the water.
- Inspect the grease fittings on the hubs and reapply grease as needed.
- Test the lights on your trailer each time before you get out on the road.
- Rinse thoroughly after exposure to salt water.
- Ensure your car jack will work to lift the trailer and that you will be able to loosen and tighten the lug nuts. You don’t want to be surprised when you’re on the side of the road.
- Look over the trailer bunks once your boat is in the water to ensure the padding isn’t worn.
No matter how well your boat runs, you should never run it without the proper safety equipment. So take inventory of what’s on board to be sure you have:
- Enough life jackets for all potential passengers. Make sure they’re in good condition, too.
- Fire extinguisher. Be sure it’s the correct classification for your boat and is in working order.
- Emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) so you can be found if you get lost.
- Carbon-monoxide detector if there’s an enclosed area on your boat.
- Working navigation lights.
Proper preparation can mean the difference between a great day on the boat and a disastrous one. So take a little time to make this boating season a happy and safe one. Hope to see you out on the water!