The words “spring maintenance” can strike fear into the hearts of boaters, but they do not have to. Getting your vessel out of boat storage and ready for another boating season does not need to be daunting if you hire qualified professionals to do the hard work and follow our simple plan for the rest.
The key is to make sure you have all the proper maintenance performed, the right safety gear, and essential convenience items on board prior to your first trip. Here is what needs to be done to get to the good stuff:
It is a lot easier if you let the professionals service your engine. But that does not mean you can switch off. You are the person who is going to out on the water, not them, so you should know everything that has been done. And, by the way, this makes a handy guideline when interviewing mechanics or shops.
- Check all fluids
- Start the engine and change spark plugs
- Check the steering and shifting
- Test bilge pump
- Check navigational lights and horn
- Check the battery charge, terminals, and wire connections
- Check and adjusts idle
- Check the ignition time and adjust the carburetor if necessary
- Verify fuel pressure
- Reinstall the propeller
- Replace zincs
- Check hoses
- Check the trim and tilt
- Check coolant levels
- Check operating temperature and oil pressure
- Check for water flow
- Inspect belts and hoses
- Inspect thru-hull fittings
- Check seacocks
- Replace water pump impeller
You may want to go as far as having the mechanic do a test drive for boats older than three years to check temperatures, pressures and engine-related systems in real time. Electronics should also be checked for operation at this time.
In The Cabin
Even the best-winterized boat cabin can get a bit stale during winter storage, so the first step is to open it up and air it out. Then move on to the following.
- Bring back all the bedding, linens, towels, and so forth that you took off the boat for winter storage
- Put the kids' toys back on board, and do not forget the spare bathing suits and other clothing you like to keep aboard for guests
- Reprovision the galley
- If you have a freshwater system aboard, drain the storage antifreeze before using it or ask your shop to do it while they are doing the engine work
- Check all cabin switches and appliances
- Check faucets and the showers for good water flow, including on-deck ones
Some all-inclusive mechanics or marinas will take care of the issue of safety gear as well, but it is just as easy to do the quick checks yourself and replace needed items, even if you ultimately need a shop to make necessary repairs.
- Check expiration dates on flares
- Inspect fire extinguishers and replace if over 12 years old
- Inspect lifejackets, making sure you have the right sizes for the current year
- Check inflatable life jacket cylinders
- Test smoke, carbon monoxide, fume and bilge alarms
- Test running lights and get some spare bulbs
- Check horn
- Make sure your charts are back on board
- Update chart plotter software
- Replace any items in the first-aid kit used last year
- Inspect dock and anchor line, anchors and shackles
- Check your fenders and fender lines
Still concerned? You can get a free vessel safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadron.
Deck And Hull
With good winterizing, a snug boat cover and a little bit of luck, you may only need to use a general-purpose cleaner to liven up the boat before it hits the water. But most boat detailers recommend taking the time at the beginning of the season to apply a more heavy-duty, polymer-based polish that lasts a full season. This is another point where you have a choice of going the DIY route or hiring a professional. Either way, the wash/wax/detail process goes like this.
- Use specialty cleaners to remove rust stains, tree sap, mildew stains on fiberglass, then follow with an all-purpose boat wash
- Clean deck vinyl and apply a vinyl protectant with UV protectants
- Clean the boat bottom
- Check canvas support structure/tubing, repair or replace as needed
- Reinstall boat canvas
- Lubricate snaps and zippers
Remember, this is not work, it is your hobby. OK, it is work, but it is also your ticket to a summer of fun on the water. So, grab your kids and best boating buddies and have them help you get through the spring maintenance checklist while the excitement level is high.
Did we miss anything? Let us know what you do to get your boat ready for summer, especially any tips that will save time effort and get us all enjoying the water sooner.