WELCOME TO 2020, folks! With a new year rolling in, it’s a good time to look at what we did right on our boats in 2019, what we did wrong, and what we need to try to improve upon in the coming year. Of course, since I didn’t run out to catch specks and reds or spend a morning of waterfowling with most of y’all, I can’t say just what “we” did right or wrong. But I do know what happened on my own boat, and hopefully, looking back and listing out these 2020 new year resolutions will help everyone enjoy their time out on the water in the coming year.
FUELISH BEHAVIOR: Early in the season I was in a rush, I had things on my mind, and mostly I just got lax. Three times in a row I filled up the fuel tank without putting in any additive, each time thinking to myself “oh darn, I left it at home in the shed.” Three times I promised myself I’d get the additive, drive back down to the marina, and put it in the tanks. Three times I failed to do so. And about halfway through the third tank, one of my outboards had trouble starting. Then, it began stalling out. It would be easy to blame ethanol for the issue, but I know darn well that failing to treat modern, ethanol-laced fuel that’s used in an outboard-powered boat is a no-no. And, I paid the price – plus the price of having the fuel system cleaned.
RESOLUTION: Keep plenty of additive on the boat, and make darn sure to add it with each and every fill-up.
BLIND EYE: In a charity auction, a father and his son who didn’t have a boat and didn’t know how to fish “bought” me for a day. Knowing that they were inexperienced, I took my time at the dock showing them how to use the gear and explaining safety aboard. All was well and we were having fun catching one fish after the next when, halfway through the trip, a boat wake hit my boat on the beam and sent us rocking. Unfortunately, the father lost his footing and fell to the deck. It wasn’t tragic, but he did end up with a nasty bruise where his elbow smacked the fiberglass. This was, of course, entirely my fault. I got carried away with the fishing, forgot to keep an eye peeled, and didn’t shout a warning as the wave approached.
RESOLUTION: Remember that when non-boaters are aboard, you have to pay extra attention to the conditions and warn them about things that regular boaters are accustomed to.
JUICELESSNESS: Not once but twice this year, when I turned the key the port engine failed to react. In both cases the battery was deader than a doornail – because I had left the battery switch on after the previous trip. The first time, luckily, I had one of those little jumper packs in my truck and we had the engine running in a minute or two. The second time it happened, however, the jumper pack was at home. We lost 20 minutes of our precious fishing time, as I went to get it.
RESOLUTION: Buy a dedicated jumper pack for the boat, charge it up, and leave it aboard. Check it now and again to be sure it’s fully charged… and don’t forget to turn off the battery switch.
FRESH THINKING: After each and every voyage in saltwater – without exception – I hooked up the hose to my outboard(s) and gave them a full five-minute flush with freshwater. We all know we should do this, but few boaters take the task as seriously as they should. Talk to any outboard mechanic and they’ll tell you that this simple, easy practice is one of the most important things you can do to extend the life of your engine.
RESOLUTION: Keep it up in 2020, and never fail to give the outboards a thorough freshwater flush.
NAUTICAL REHABILITATION: Last winter I hauled my boat into the shop, and had a ton of work done on it: the wiring and switches, bilge and livewell pumps, and VHF radio were all replaced. A decade ago I would have done the work myself. But as my knees have grown creakier and my knuckles appreciate being skinned less and less, through the years I began deferring major maintenance projects. Recognizing that these things simply had to be done, in 2019 I pried open my wallet and accepted the fact that I had to pay someone to work on the boat if I wasn’t going to do it myself. The net result? I’m actually much happier with my boat. While 2018 was riddled with pump-failures and on-the-water quick-and-dirty fixes, this year the all the boat’s systems functioned properly.
RESOLUTION: Create an end-of-season work list. Instead of pretending I’ll eventually get the work done myself, shell out the cash and pay a pro to do it on an annual basis – for 2020 and beyond.
FUN FOR FUNDS: Despite the mishap on that charity trip I mentioned earlier, it was a great day of fishing and fun and both the gent and his son had, overall, a very rewarding experience. In fact, I did three charity trips in 2019 for organizations ranging from the Coastal Conservation Association to the Geaton and JoAnn DeCesaris Cancer Institute. All were excellent trips with excellent people and in total, we raised close to $2,000 for non-profits.
RESOLUTION: In 2020, I’ll make myself available for five not-for-profit days on the water. They’re a win-win, for everyone involved.
Happy 2020, boaters!
Email Lenny Rudow at [email protected]