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.
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
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
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
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
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?