W e all make mistakes. Unfortunately, if you’re a boat owner, there’s a set of mistakes that can be both costly and dangerous.
Over the winter I spent many months thinking about the mistakes anglers make on a regular basis, while writing my latest book, Mistakes Anglers Make – Don’t Do This! (Which, incidentally, you can find on Amazon.com). And although I focused on errors that make people catch fewer fish, along the way, a number of boating mistakes came to mind.
While these won’t necessarily reduce your catch, they could be a whole lot worse. So whatever you do, make sure you don’t:
1. Run the boat with a dinged propeller that’s causing vibrations, no matter how minimal they may seem. Even low-key vibrations can lead to serious problems down the road. The problem here is that they never stop; every rotation of the prop—which is probably in the neighborhood of 4,000 times a minute—the vibration travels through your entire boat. Net result? Screws, nuts, and bolts come loose, adhesives fail, cracks grow larger, and your electronics are put through hell.
2. Forget to thoroughly rinse your trailer, especially the brakes, after a saltwater launch. If you rinse it off religiously, you can go years between problems. But if you don’t give it a spray-down after a trip in the brine, you’re not likely to go more than a season or two before problems start popping up.
3. Shift mechanical controls into and back out of gear, while the boat is shut down. This may not seem harmful, but it takes the clutch dog out of position and when you later start then shift the engine, it can stress the parts significantly.
4. Tilt your outboard all the way up as high as possible, when going into the shallows. Yes, you do want to trim up, but always leave yourself an inch or two of extra room. That way, if you do start rubbing bottom you can tilt up the rest of the way and back out of trouble. If your motor is already 100-percent of the way up, you’ll be stuck. The next step most people take is grinding the prop in the mud or sand. Ouch. That can not only damage the propeller, but cause all kinds of grit and grime to get sucked into the cooling system.
5. Fail to add fuel stabilizer/ethanol treatment, because you use your boat often enough that the fuel doesn’t go bad. No matter how regularly you use your boat, you should still add this stuff. The unexpected happens, and whether it’s due to mechanical issues, illness, or just a long stretch of bad weather, you never know when you may have to leave the boat sitting for several weeks in a row. And yes, that’s all it takes sometimes for ethanol to do its dirty work, and mess up your systems.
6. Run fast and hard, through rough seas. Maybe you can take the pounding, but it’ll take a toll on your boat. Banging and slamming against the waves is one of the most common ways to break everything from hatches to latches to T-tops. It creates a huge amount of stress on virtually every part of the boat, and sooner or later will cause significant damage. Slow down, partner. Back off on the throttle when the waves get big, and your boat will thank you.
7. Fail to regularly treat canvass, especially on the T-top or Bimini, with a protectant. UV rays take a serious toll on marine canvass, and sitting in the sun day in and day out, you can only expect canvass tops to last five or six years. Spray them down with a protectant every few months, however, and this lifetime can be doubled. Added bonus: these sprays also enhance the canvass’s waterproofing qualities.
8. Depend on liquid waxes for gel coat protection. Liquid waxes make a great shine, for sure. But they just don’t have the same protective qualities you get from a thick paste wax. As a rule of thumb, apply two coats of paste wax at least twice a season for UV protection. Then, apply a liquid wax as desired to make the boat shiny and good-looking.
9. Tow a boat with the outboard tilted up. This creates a ton of stress on the transom, especially if you’re heading down a bumpy highway. With the powerhead sitting forward of the transom and the lower unit sitting aft, hundreds of pounds rocking back and forth is going to take a toll. You can solve the issue with a “transom saver” bracket. In some cases, however, the boat may sit too far aft on the trailer for a transom saver. In this situation, trailer with the engine in the down position. If this leaves the lower unit too close to the asphalt—as is often the case—take a foot-long two-by-four, tilt the engine up, then tilt it down until the motor mount is snug with the wood. That’ll keep the prop elevated, and cushion any motions as you go down the road.
10. Dry-start the engine—even for a moment. This is a sure-fire way to kill your water pump impeller. It depends on a supply of water not only to cool the powerhead, but also to lubricate the neoprene vanes spinning inside that lower unit. Dry-starting, even for just a second or two, will drastically shorten the impeller’s life if it doesn’t rip it to shreds outright.
Email Lenny Rudow at
Email Lenny Rudow at [email protected]