- It’s been a long cold winter and you’ve been cooped up inside trying to stay warm. Meanwhile, your boat has sat in storage unused for the last several months. Hopefully when the time is right and you’re finally able to make it out to the water for the first time of the season, you’ll have taken the proper steps to ensure that your first trip is an enjoyable one without the dreaded trouble that comes from boat ownership. It has been said that boat is short for Bust Out Another Thousand and while that might be true in some regards, proper preseason care can save you money and keep you on the water.
The first thing that we like to ensure is that the boat is in proper mechanical condition to operate. You don’t have to be a mechanic and only need common household tools and a basic set of skills to check these things. If you do find a problem with something during your checks, know your limitations as to whether you can fix it yourself or if you should take it in to a certified mechanic. Things to check:
If your motor is a 4 stroke, now is a good time to change your oil. It is recommended by most manufacturers to replace the oil every 100 hours or annually whichever comes first. For most recreational boaters, the annual mark will come well before the 100 hour mark. You should also change all of your filters (oil, fuel, fuel/water separator). All of these things are easily done on your own, but you should follow the guidelines set forth in your owner’s manual.
If you did not change your lower unit fluid before storing your boat, you should change it as well. I prefer to change it before winter in case there is any water in the fluid. The water will freeze and can cause damage to your lower unit. While servicing your oil and replacing your filters, you should check for leaks. If you find any fuel or oil leaks you’ll want to investigate the cause and fix the leak before using the boat. If you’ve kept gas in the tank all season, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to drain the tank and add fresh gas. This could potentially save you hundreds of dollars and a lot of trouble. Gasoline today will break down and start gunking up. It will turn to jelly and clog your fuel injectors or carburetor and potentially leave you stranded on the water.
Make sure your batteries are fully charged. Hopefully, you have kept them on a battery maintainer all winter and they have stayed fresh and ready to go. If not and you live in a really cold environment, hopefully you brought your batteries inside out of the cold. Either way, before hitting the water make sure they are charged and if they are serviceable batteries make sure to top them off with water.
Let’s face it, we operate our boats in an environment that is prone to corrosion. Corrosion costs boaters around the world thousands of dollars a year, but with proper preventative measures is easily mitigated. Prior to the start of the season, disconnect all of your electronics and clean the connection with an electrical contact cleaner such as CRC 5103 Quick Dry Electronic Cleaner (http://www.amazon.com/CRC-5103-Quick-Electronic-Cleaner/dp/B000BXOGNI/ref=pd_sim_328_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=411CvV4yAwL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR160%2C160_&refRID=120GY3F0QT3CJMCGRQMR).
Once clean, spray the connection with a di electric grease such as CRC Di-Electric Grease http://www.amazon.com/CRC-02083-Di-Electric-Grease-weight/dp/B0013J62A4/ref=pd_rhf_se_s_cp_1?ie=UTF8&dpID=41q3pDTc0GL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_SL500_SR135%2C135_&refRID=1CCKS5CQP4PK3D0WS0CV.
The grease spray will keep moisture out of your connections and keep them free of corrosion, giving you that piece of mind that when you flip the switch, your equipment is going to turn on.
Light bulbs go bad, they burn out or simply break. Prior to using your boat, verify the integrity of all of your lights. If you find lights that are burnt out, replace the bulbs before hitting the water even if you don’t plan on using your boat before or after sunset, Murphy’s Law always has a way of prevailing and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t forget to give the light housing a squirt with the CRC Electronic Cleaner and then the CRC Di-Electric Grease.
Now that you are in tip top mechanical shape, let’s go over some safety items that you should have with you on the water. There are required items, and there are items that I highly recommend. Always check your local boating laws to verify what you are required to have. Federal and most state laws require every vessel to have:
Personal Flotation Devices for everyone aboard-Ensure that they fit and are serviceable. If the straps or buckles are torn/broken then replace it.
A throw able flotation device- check for serviceability, if there are tears or cuts then replace.
Fire extinguisher-make sure it is not expired and that it is properly charged
Horn or whistle- I encourage you to carry a whistle even if your boat is equipped with a horn. Revert back to Murphy’s Law.
Some laws also require you to carry flares as well as a first aid kit, both of which I highly recommend.
Now that your maintenance is taken care of and you have the proper safety gear, it is now time to hit the water for your maiden voyage. Hopefully you’ve followed this advice and it has lifted the weight of preparing your boat for the season off of your shoulders. Best of luck out there this year and don’t forget to have a great time. Tight lines