As winter fades, many boat owners begin to think about the tasks needed to get their boats ready for spring and summer on the water.
In warmer areas, boats and yachts are often hauled out for bottom cleaning and maintenance on running gear, while owners in colder spots like the Midwest are usually getting ready to paint the boat’s bottom and get a good coat of wax on the hull.
There’s a lot to do to prepare for the new boating season, although some are more important than others. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced boater, pre-launch inspections and maintenance can make the difference between a successful day on the water and an unpleasant surprise.
Some of the most important tasks include:
The list of projects and preparations can be long, but some tasks are critical for a safe and enjoyable time for all. Below are some tips and advice to ensure your boat is in shipshape when it's time to hit the open water.
As the weather warms up, it's time to start thinking about spring cleaning. Whether your usual outings involve a day on the lake or some deep-water fishing trips, starting with a clean boat helps protect the different surfaces and materials from the weather and excessive wear and tear.
Begin with a good washdown to remove dirt or grease from the hull or interior, and remember to clean inside storage spaces and cabinets too! When a boat is not in regular use, critters can find their way into the cabin and can often chew through wiring and cause electrical equipment to stop functioning; therefore, it's crucial to find and eliminate pests before they can cause damage or create an unsafe situation.
Materials like canvas, isinglass, and upholstery can fade and dry out—especially in climates like South Florida, where the sun can be brutal. Treating those materials can increase their lifespan and prevent the need to replace them early.
Before beginning, be sure to use a product specifically made for each material to avoid staining or damaging absorbent materials like canvas tops, side curtains, carpets, and seating. Other harsh chemicals, like acetone, can permanently damage materials like plexiglass or remove the color from others, such as seats. If you need help finding the right product for your boat, your local boating supply store will have experts ready to guide you in the right direction.
Safety equipment required by the U.S. Coast Guard, such as life jackets and flares, are a must and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Never assume safety gear will work when needed, and always double-check U.S. Coast Guard approval status and functionality before each outing.
Below are some of the most important items to check yearly, especially at the start of a new season:
In general, it's beneficial to verify anything that might be needed in an emergency or required by the U.S. Coast Guard is in excellent working condition before leaving the dock.
Many marine electronics can also be critical when there is a problem or breakdown, such as GPS devices, engine monitors, satellite phones, and VHF radios. It’s wise to do regular tune-ups of your devices and ensure you understand how to use them before heading out to sea.
One of the most important electronics to have on a boat is a VHF radio, which is crucial for any boater in a sticky situation. A quality VHF radio allows instant communication between other boaters, the Coast Guard, marinas, and anyone who can help in an emergency. Having a GPS and knowing your coordinates is also imperative so that assistance can locate you quickly. If you need help navigating the proper safety electronics for your boat, do a quick search on the U.S. Coast Guard website or contact local marine patrol.
Finally, not only should you have the proper safety electronics onboard, but you should be aware that marine electronics can be the cause of an emergency as well. For instance, if you have faulty or exposed wiring, you’re more susceptible to fires and power outages. Therefore, verify your equipment is installed and mounted properly, always up to code, tested before each trip, and sealed and shaded when not in use.
It is vital to ensure your vessel is seaworthy and reliable before your first trip of the season takes you any distance from your home port. Engines, running gear, pumps, and lighting should be checked beforehand and regularly for problems to prevent an issue that would ruin a day on the water.
Although many of these tasks should be done at regular intervals throughout the season, it is critical to check and maintain certain things before the start of each season, such as the following:
By performing these simple checks, you can help ensure a smooth, safe, and enjoyable season for you and your boat.
Before putting your boat in the water or officially starting the new season, you may want to have your vessel inspected by a professional. Many insurance companies require a professional survey to get the best rates, but having a qualified expert check an engine, running gear, generators, and other specialized equipment may be the best way to keep things afloat.
If you can perform any of the tasks necessary while ensuring a safe and enjoyable season yourself, you can save on the costs associated with launching or commissioning your boat. However, some of the most critical maintenance or checkups performed by a professional can prevent expensive damage to engines and other equipment and can be a requirement for maintaining a manufacturer's warranty as well.
By taking the time to properly clean and maintain your boat before spring or summer, you can help ensure the new boating season is a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone on board. Verifying that all systems are well-maintained and properly functioning can also give you peace of mind when on your next adventure.
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