A s spring kicks into gear and we have a new season upon us, it’s time to think about your boat. Well actually, if you’re anything like us you never stopped thinking about your boat in the first place.
You might have shifted the emphasis from fishing to hunting, and in some areas of the state you may have been forced to (shudder) winterize your boat and wrap it up for the season. But even if your corner of the world stays boat-able all year long, spring is still a good time to do some rejuvenating work on Mom’s Mink.
In fact, for those who use their boats through all four seasons, spring is an even more important mile-marker—without a winter “break” it’s all too easy to postpone or even forget about some important yearly check-ups and chores. So wherever you live and however you use your boat, consider this the perfect time to:
INITIATE A STEM-TO-STERN WASHDOWN: It’s deep-clean time, people. You need to blast or scrub all that grit and grime out of the seams between fiberglass parts, hatch gutters, and bilges. This is about more than just making your boat look good, it’s about longevity and even safety. The detritus that collects in these areas can get washed into your scuppers, and clog the drains. The grit gets underfoot, and scratches your gel coat. It can get sucked into your bilge pump, and turn the impeller into pulp. The spring wash-down is an important one.
FOLLOW THE WASH WITH A WAX JOB: We’re not talking about a quick and easy waxing, either. Leave that liquid or spray wax in the garage, and instead reach for a thick paste wax. The liquid stuff is great for making your boat shine, but it doesn’t do much in the protection department. Paste wax, on the other hand, will create a UV-inhibiting coat that protects your boat’s gel coat and helps prevent oxidation.
IF YOU WINTERIZED, DE-WINTERIZE THE BOAT: This means flushing anti-freeze out of any and all systems, running the fogging fluid out of your engine, re-opening seacocks and through-hull fittings, and re-charging the marine sanitation device, if your boat has one.
CHARGE AND CHECK THE BATTERIES: Whether your boat’s been sitting for an extended period or not, it’s a good idea to put on a trickle charge and top the batteries off. This is also an ideal time to inspect cables and connections. Look for corrosion, check for tightness, and give them a shot of protection with a product such as 3M Battery Terminal Coat or CRC Battery Terminal Protector. Note: the number-one most common reason why boaters have to abort their first trip of the spring is a dead battery.
TEST THE BILGE PUMP(S): For the obvious safety reasons, this is one of the most important spring commissioning jobs. Just flipping a switch to make sure the pump runs is insufficient. You probably have learned through the years that insects, especially in the spring, commonly build nests in the nooks and crannies of your boat. Sometimes, they choose to crawl up the bilge pump outlet.
Wasps, especially, are problematic in this regard. Those nests can clog the outlet, and reduce or completely eliminate your bilge pump’s ability to remove water from the boat. The only sure-fire way to test your bilge pump in the spring is to put the drain plug into the transom, jack up the bow, put a hose into the bilge, and physically watch to make sure the pump is actually pushing water out of the outlet.
CHECK ALL HOSES: While you have plumbing front and center in your mind, also take a few minutes to inspect each and every hose on your boat, particularly where they’re clamped to barbs or fittings. If anything’s going to spring a leak it’s better to find out about it now, instead of after shoving off from the dock.
TEST EACH AND EVERY ELECTRICAL ACCESSORY ON THE BOAT: Lights, livewell pumps, windshield wipers—if it has a switch, flip it. Make sure the unit is operative, and the wiring, fuses, and breakers are good to go.
PERFORM A FULL-BLOWN TRAILER INSPECTION: Check the lights, the trailer’s structural condition, brakes and brake fluid if applicable, and of course, the bearings. Although disassembling the bearings is fairly time-consuming, you can do a much faster spot-check by simply jacking up one side of the trailer at a time and spinning the wheels by hand. If the bearings are in good shape the wheels will spin freely and smoothly. If you hear any clacking or banging or feel resistance while trying to spin the wheel, then you’ll need to open those bearings up, make a closer inspection, and fix what needs fixing.
CHECK ALL YOUR SAFETY GEAR: Whether you know it was all in order at the end of last season or have used your boat right along through the winter, a timely safety gear check is a priority. It’s far too easy to forget about the expiration of flares after they’ve sat onboard for three years.
The physical condition of your gear counts, too. Throwable PFDs are a great example of why. Everyone needs at least one aboard. If you get checked by the Coast Guard, they won’t merely look at it, they’ll also grab the straps and pull. If the fabric has dry-rotted or weakened with age and it rips, the coasties won’t consider it a valid PFD, and you could be ticketed. This is also a good time to check your first aid kit—even though it’s not USCG-required gear you do have one aboard, don’t you? Make sure the medications in it aren’t old and expired.
Email Lenny Rudow at
Email Lenny Rudow at [email protected]