Boating: A successful season requires prep work

It’s time to get that boat out of storage and/or unwrapped, and get it shipshape for the coming seas
PHOTOGRAPHER:

It’s time to get that boat out of storage and/or unwrapped, and get it shipshape for the coming season.

Don’t be one of those people who launch their boat in spring without any preparation, assuming it will run as well as it did when it was stored. We’ve all seen those boat owners, drifting around the launch area, or even worse, backed into the water on the ramp and trying to start their craft. All this is taking place while there is a line of

anxious boaters waiting to get in the water. Do your maintenance, and be prepared.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

BATTERY

Even if it’s been stored inside and kept charged throughout the winter, check the battery again. Be sure that the terminals and the connectors are clean. Check the cells’ fluid levels, and top them off with distilled water if needed. If the battery is below full, remove the caps and charge with a low-amp charger. After

charging, let it sit for a day, then check it with a multi­meter to make sure it maintained the charge.

If you have a battery box, it should be cleaned. Make sure it’s securely fastened to the boat. Check each cable when you attach them to the battery. They should be tight to the terminals, then cover the

entire connection area with term­inal grease or petroleum jelly.

BOAT

Next, check the electrical system. Visually inspect all the wiring, including under the dash and any place wires run. You’ll be surprised what squirrels and chipmunks can do to wire coating. Check the running lights, gauges, radio and depth/fish finders. One of the most important electronics on your boat to check is the bilge pump. Make sure it runs and is free of obstructions. Frayed wires, blown bulbs, etc., should all be replaced now.

The boat itself should also be inspected. Clean the hull of fiberglass boats, put on a fresh coat of wax and while doing it, inspect for cracks. Cleaning and polishing the chrome will help prevent tarnishing. If there are upholstered seats and/or canvas, check them for tears, missing snaps, etc., and

repair where needed. And give them a good cleaning with approp­riate substances.

Wood and aluminum boats also should be inspected, cleaned and polished/painted, as needed.

ENGINE

Assuming the boat was winterized before storage, check the impeller, spark plugs and spark plug wires. It’s also a good idea to check the gear lube level and to be sure there’s no water in it. Check the fuel tank, line and primer bulb, and replace if there’s any cracking or splitting in the rubber.

Another important part of the fuel system is the fuel filter/sep­arator, if you have one. And if you don’t, you should. It’s something I prefer to change every year as a very inexpensive way to insure that moisture and contaminants are trapped before getting into the engine and putting the boat in dry dock.

One other suggestion for outboard motor owners: If you had trouble starting the motor last season, try it before putting the boat in the water. You’ll have to buy a pair of outboard motor muffs, also not an expensive investment. Attach your garden hose to the muffs, and

attach them to the lower unit

intakes on your motor. If you are not sure where these are, check the owner’s manual.

Turn on the water to the hose, then start the motor. Never start the motor without the muffs with the water running through them. Doing so will burn out the water pump. If the starting problems continue, take it to a marine dealer and have it diagnosed and fixed before boating season begins.

Inboard owners should change the oil and oil filter, fuel filters, check/change the fluids in the cooling system and transmission. Check the belts, backfire flame arrestor, impeller water strainer and bilge blower. If there are any problems, see a marine dealer.

TRAILER

Many boat owners end it here. But what about the trailer that’s responsible for hauling that expensive vessel to and from the water? Depending upon the type of boat trailer, there are a number of things that should be checked.

Inspect the rollers and bunks. Any damage to either of these can result in damage to your boat’s hull. If the carpeting on the bunk(s) is worn, exposing wood, replace the carpeting and the wood.

Other parts that should always be checked, not only now, but every time that boat leaves the driveway, are: tow ball, coupler and coupler latch, safety chains, tires and wheels, wheel bearings and running lights.

And lastly, check your safety equipment. This includes personal flotation devices, a throwable PFD, fire extinguishers, flares, distress flag, paddle, whistle/horn and

anchor with rope. Check New York state boating regulations for the specific rules that apply to your boat. And don’t forget to renew your boat (if needed) and trailer registration, and have the trailer inspected.

If you want to have more time on the water this season, spend the time now and do the maintenance. If you don’t have the time, take it to a marine dealer and let them do it for you. The boating season here in the Northeast is too short as it is; don’t lose time because of a problem that could have been solved in the spring.

See you on the water.

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