Get your boat ready for Spring

Apr 1, 2020 | Marine

For boaters in the Northwest, Spring is a pretty exciting time. The fish begin to run and the cold weather begins to break, with temperatures rising to the 70’s on some days. You never know when the sun will break, so preparing early is a sure way to take full advantage. If you’re new to boating, getting your boat ready could feel a little overwhelming. If you have seasoned sea legs, or spend as much time outdoors as inside, prepping your boat is exciting too – it’s a reminder of fond memories and that big one you caught last – and you begin to plot new adventures that await.  

The ease and speed of commissioning a boat in the spring depends on how well it was winterized in the fall. Here’s a checklist of time-honored basic commissioning tips. You’ll have a few too, so please share. We want to hear what’s worked for you and pass this on to our boating community. 

BOAT PREPARATION

A good place to begin is with the exterior.  Washing, cleaning and waxing – if it hasn’t been done in a year, this is a good time to give it a new shine. If you are going to use wax, a quality marine-paste wax is best. It will produce a better shine and last longer than all-in-one products. An electric buffer does a fine job at buffing too, just make sure the pad is clean and debris free. Note: Don’t wax non-skid areas. Just wash them and you’re done! 

Inspect the body for missing paint – Need a gel-coat touch-up? We’re glad to help

Replace hull zincs

Stick that drain plug in before launch! Many a boat has headed directly to a Davy Jones rendezvous after this little detail was skipped

Mechanicals

For outboard engines, review full commissioning notes

Open outboard cowlings and look for problems of rot or condensation over the winter

Check all hoseclamps and fittings. Tighten as necessary. Check hoses for cracking and chafe

Check your wiring. Electrical connections suffer in the winter from temperature changes and humidity. Clean your terminals, change them if necessary, and spray with a corrosion inhibitor

Check throttle and shift cables, lubricate with marine-grade Teflon or grease

Both inboard- and outboard-powered boats require sacrificial anodes. Make sure to replace your zincs at the start of the season

Check your seacocks for free movement and lubricate as needed. Open those that need to be open for launch (raw-water intake!) and close those any that need to be closed

Make sure your strainers are clean and clear

Check steering cables or hydraulics for proper tightness, wear, leaks, smooth movement of engine or rudder

Double-check fluid levels — lube oil, transmission oil, lower unit oil, coolant, etc. (You changed these in the fall or left them in good shape)

Check heat exchangers for deposits and obstructions; clean as needed

Check cooling water impellers, replace if necessary

Check belts for wear and proper tension

If your engine needs new spark plugs, wait to change them until after you’ve burned off last fall’s engine fogger residue

Check engine zincs, replace if necessary

On stern-drive boats, carefully inspect outdrive bellows for cracks and deterioration from winter weather

Trailer

Spray all connections with contact cleaner; test brake and signal lights

Test your brakes, if your trailer is equipped with them

Grease wheel bearings (if you didn’t grease them in the fall), lubricate hitch mechanism, overhaul winch cable or strap and check for wear/weakness

Carefully check your tires (you blocked the trailer up in the fall to prevent settling, right?), including treads and sidewalls, and inflate to proper pressure. Do the same for your spare

Make sure your flares are up-to-date. You can keep your expired flares for back-up, but stow them away from the fresh ones to prevent confusion in an emergency
Safety

Make sure flares, fire-extinguishers, and other required equipment is up-to-date

Check PFDs and restow in an easy-to-access place

Test bilge blowers and bilge pumps

Overhaul your anchoring gear and restow it so that you can deploy the anchor quickly

Miscellaneous

Registration renewed and sticker on?

Boating license on board or in your wallet?

Sunscreen, bug repellent, toilet paper — all personal conveniences topped up and handy?

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