It’s that time of year. Days are getting longer, warmer and attentions are turning to life on the water.
Whether your boat is in high-and-dry storage, or on a trailer in your driveway, it’s now time to start thinking about getting her ready for this season. There are some easy, inexpensive things that can save a lot of headache and turmoil in the use of your boat.
The first thing that needs attention before you splash is the electrical system, starting with the batteries.
Boat batteries are exposed to harsher conditions of use, in addition to not being used and charged for the winter months.
- Remove cables and lugs, clean them and the battery posts to ensure good contact and make sure, when they are reattached, that they are tight.
- Fill with distilled water to the level mark. You want to use distilled water because the minerals in tap water run the risk of hurting the efficiency in the storage of energy and cause corrosion inside of the battery.
- Check the voltage, preferably with a load tester. Trickle charge if needed to raise the voltage to an acceptable level.
- Never store batteries in direct contact with the ground. Some say that the grounding effect could weaken the charge. I recommend doing this to allow air circulation and prevent spills that will further damage the battery casing should something happen.
- Spray some anti-corrosive spray on the posts and lugs before putting the battery box cover on. The battery box helps to keep water out of the box and keep them in place, minimizing movement that could lead to loose connections or a bouncing battery.
- Once the battery is in good operational order, you can start the engine.
Before you start up the engine, check all the fluids, oil, trim tab reservoir, cooling system, clean flame arrestor/air intake and check the bilge blower for operation. In addition, do a visual check for leaks in ALL hoses, fuel lines, cables and belts. (Ideally, for safety and reliability, these things should be done before use every time)
When checking the fuel system:
- Check fuel filters for leaks and any housing that they attach to. Usually the filter seal cannot be easily seen as the filter screws into the manifold in a way that the contact surface is difficult to see.
- You want to make sure that there is no corrosion that could lead to leaks, as a leak will ruin your day in many ways.
- Once everything is up to standard, open your water intake and start her up!
- Once started, look for leaks in the raw water system as well as the antifreeze side while you keep tabs on your temperature ensuring that the engine is running cool and not overheating.
If applicable, open seacocks for the toilet to allow water in, making sure that the “y” valve is wire-tied to the holding tank discharge position. This is one of the first thing DNR will look for when they board, in addition to safety items like PFD’s, flares, etc.
Your fresh water system is the easiest to commission:
- Ensure that all connections to/from the pump and water heater are connected so that you fill your water tank and not the boat.
- Fill the tank and flush enough water to get any pink color from the antifreeze out and then add a tablespoon of bleach when you fill it and flush it out.
This is a great start to getting your boating season underway, although it’s not comprehensive to all boats it should serve as a good guide.
If you have any doubts, call a reputable marine company to do it — if anything, just for your own comfort level.