The groundhog missed his shadow- SPRING IS ON THE WAY!  Some people see picnics.  Some people see flowers.  And if you’re like me, you see boats and fish and beer and sunblock and any other number of things to do on the water!  But… lets rewind for a minute before we take off cruisin’- is your boat even ready for its glorious reunion with fresh air and wakes?  Read on to find out!

Of course you read our winterizing article so the answer to the above questions is YES (with just a few touchups of course).  What’s that?  You didn’t?!? Well, we hope you enjoy the embarrassment of loading your boat with friends, beer, and toys, while sitting docked and hearing nothing but the sounds of the working boats around you.  Thanks for keeping the waterways a little less crowded.

So, let’s get started because spring only lasts so long…

  1. CLEAN!  Just like when you put your boat away, cleaning is a critical.  Use a mild detergent or a boat cleaner and give her a good scrub down.  While you’re at it, give her a good wax job also.  It’s like applying sunscreen- protect her from UV damage or she’ll look old and used before you even take advantage of her.  If you have teak on the boat, make sure to give it a good coat of oil to keep it from blistering.  And don’t neglect the steel- it’s the perfect mirror for a quick glance at your wind battered hair when looking for next weekend’s best friend.
  2. Always check your batteries!  Is there corrosion?  How are the fluid levels?  Is the battery hooked up correctly?  And is it working?  Have you charged it properly?  If the fluids are fine and there isn’t any corrosion but nothing will turn on now might be a good time to invest in a new battery.  Also, while checking on your battery, make sure to reconnect any electronics you disconnected during the winter.  You may want to use a wire brush to clean the terminals and cable ends.  Ensure that each piece of equipment is working before moving on to the next.
  3. Inspect your fuel system- a half tank means half the fun.   If you drained it in the winter, make sure to check the lines for cracks, brittleness or softness.  Look for leaks and loose connections.  Verify all clamps are properly secured and change your fuel filter.  Lastly, top your tank off to avoid moisture and condensation from forming in your tank.
  4.  Check your belts!  Make sure they didn’t stretch with your waist line during the holidays.  Tighten belts if needed to ensure they fit tightly around pulleys, which prevents slipping.  When fitted properly, you should only be able to push the belt down slightly.  A loose fitting belt will wear faster due to increased risk of slipping.    If the belt is worn, you may notice a black substance/residue near the pulley.  If you notice cracks or swells on the outer jacket of the control cables, you’ll want to take immediate action to repair them, or you could be left up the creek with an…engine?
  5.  Flush the antifreeze out of the motor, fresh water systems, holding tanks, and even the loo!  Check fluid levels and re-lubricate each of these areas and fill what needs to be filled or replaced.  Don’t overlook anything as one missed reservoir is all you need to ruin your boating season.  Extra areas to make sure aren’t overlooked: engine oil, power trim reservoirs, coolant, power steering and drive lubricants.
  6. Spend a little more time on the engine now that the preliminary checks are complete.  Take a look at the spark plugs- would now be a good time to replace them?  Probably.  How about the propeller- is it free of dings and pitts and fitting properly?  A damaged propeller can cause excessive vibration, damaging your drive train.  It’s not a bad idea to keep an extra propeller on hand.   Put engine muffs on and test your engine with a garden hose before taking your boat out for the first time.  Do you see a steady discharge stream?  If not, you may need to replace your water pump impeller, which is typically necessary every 2-3 years.  Lastly, don’t forget to check your filters.  Your fuel filter should already be done but how do your oil and air filters look?

There are a few other things you should look over before launching your boat for the season:

  1. Test the bilge pump to ensure it runs properly.
  2. Test the trim tabs, especially if you intend to run heavy.
  3. Check to make sure all safety equipment is on board and not expired.  This includes flares, safety jackets, fire extinguisher, and distress signals.
  4. Don’t forget to update your fishing and boating permits, and boat registration.
  5. What are the conditions of your dock lines?  Anchor line? Bumpers?
  6. Check lighting fixtures including navigational lights, and ensure you have spare bulbs just in case.
  7. If you aren’t keeping your boat in the water, don’t forget to go over the trailer.  Look at the rollers and pads, lubricate the wheels and winch, test the lights and brakes and check the safety chain.

This list is a great starting place for making sure you are “fun” ready, going into boating season but you should check with your manufacturer for more specific recommendations depending on the boat type, engine type and size of your vessel.  Also important to remember is how the boat will be stored during the season and what extra precautions should be taken.

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