Boat owners rejoice: after a long winter it’s finally time to get back on the water. But before casting off for the first time this spring, experts say it’s vital to make sure your vessel—whether it’s a runabout or 40-foot sailboat—is in tip-top shape.
“Not moving is hard on a boat,” says Michael Vatalaro, the executive editor of BoatU.S. Magazine. Seals dry out, gas goes bad and pests have a nasty habit of squatting on board. “Even if you did your job the season before, you can end up with a rude surprise,” he says.
With that in mind, here are some tips from BoatU.S. on how to prepare for another season on the water:
- If your boat has a stern drive, make sure the rubber bellows that protect the connection between the engine and the drive unit are in good shape. Any cracks and your beloved vessel could sink on launch.
- After sitting for a few months, gas can go bad. If you didn’t put a chemical stabilizer in your tank last fall, pump out the fuel and start fresh.
- Test your battery to make sure it still has life left in it by turning on your ignition key and reading the volt meter at the dash. A reading of 12.6 to 12.8 indicates a full charge.
- Check your running lights. If they’re dim, try polishing the lens or cleaning the connections.
- Disconnect your radio and GPS antennas and spray them with a moisture-displacing lubricant. Reconnect, then fire them up to make sure everything is working.
- Feel your fuel hoses; they should be supple and crack-free. Also, give them a sniff; if they smell like gasoline, you probably have a leak.
- Test your bilge pump, smoke detector, and carbon monoxide alarm, and check the gauge to make sure your fire extinguisher is fully charged.
- Scour all of your boat’s nooks and crannies. They could have become home to pests like rats and wasps.
Also, don’t forget:
– Check the seacocks (the valves on the hull). Their handles should move freely and the attached hoses should be secured with stainless steel clamps.
– Check out your propeller, looking for dings, pitting and distortion. Make sure the cotter pins are secure.
– Replace your fuel filter and clean or replace the air filter.
– Check engine belts for signs of wear.
– Check the level of your coolant, oil and transmission fluid. Top-off anything that is low.
– Replace your raw-water impeller if it’s more than a year old.
– After the boat hits the water, check around the rudder post for leaks.
For a more detailed rundown of what to do in the spring, go through this checklist from BoatU.S. Happy sailing!
And if you’re shopping around for boat insurance, the GEICO Marine Insurance Company can help you get the best coverage for your boat or personal watercraft.
Keep reading: From trailers to navigation, we turn to the Miss GEICO racing team for tips on safe boating.