After such a severe winter, the signs of spring are a welcomed relief, particularly for boat owners who are keen to get back out on the waters in the warmer weather. Before setting sail it’s important to make sure your boat is safe and ready for the waters.
Captain Stuart J. McLea AMS, Principal Surveyor at MRM Solutions, an experienced marine surveyor providing expert professional marine survey services, has crafted a number of tips to ensure boat owners have a safe and enjoyable boating season.
When getting your boat spring and summer ready, make sure you do a thorough inspection (a really good look around) before you launch for the season. You want to be sure that all your systems onboard, both electrical and mechanical are in good working order and defect-free.
REMOVE YOUR COVER OR SHRINK-WRAPPING AND LET THE BOAT BREATHE
This is your first look around for any visitors that might have been onboard without permission. You should look for any mold that might be growing in the boat. This is a good time to clean and remove mold spores. Remember to use a good disinfectant, gloves and a surgical mask when cleaning.
CHECK OVER THE ENGINE AND LOOK FOR ANY LOOSE WIRES OR PARTS
If it wasn’t changed before the winter, change the engine oil. Check the out-drive oil as well to make sure everything is in good working order. The outdrive bottom plug has a magnet. Check that for any evidence of metal and if you have some you will want to have your outdrive checked by a qualified technician who has been trained by your outdrive manufacturer. Replace your oil filter and gas filter while you are at it. Take the time to test run the engine, but make sure you have ample cooling fluid before you do so. Failure to have ample cooling fluid could cause the engine to operate at a higher temperature and possibly over heat.
CHECK THE BATTERY(S) ON YOUR BOAT
If you have water in your battery, be sure it is filled to the indicated level (distilled please). When it’s dry, it will no longer hold a charge. Use a battery tester to check the amps and volts. If nothing seems to work on it, then you may need a new battery. You might want to remove the battery for charging before the vessel is launched. Remember that a poor operating battery can ruin a good family weekend. If you do charge the battery, make sure you do so in a well-ventilated area. A charging battery will vent off hydrogen gas that is very explosive in certain conditions.
CHECK OVER YOUR COOLING SYSTEM
Test the anti-freeze and top it up. Check belts for excessive wear and tension. Check all the hoses for cracks and wear. Take the time to tighten all the hose clamps. Make sure you are using stainless steel hose clamps; a quick way to tell if they are stainless steel is they will not be rusted. If your vessel is equipped with sea-cocks, disassemble and lubricate the moving parts. Sea-cocks have been known to fail and I would suggest you have wooden plugs available to stop water ingress in the case of an emergency. If you have a sea strainer, open the unit, clean the internal screen and lubricate all moving parts.
YOUR FUEL TANK(S) SHOULD HAVE BEEN STORED FULL SO THAT NO MOISTURE CAN FORM
Make sure the fuel filter has been changed and the fuel lines are not cracked. It is not uncommon to find these lines cracked from the winter temperatures. If they are cracked replace them with marine approved fuel hose.
IF YOUR VESSEL HAS A GASOLINE ENGINE, BE SURE YOU CLEAN OUT THE DISTRIBUTOR AS WINTER MOISTURE AND INACTIVITY CAN CAUSE CORROSION
To do this, you’ll need to take the cap off. Once you check it, be sure the connections are completely hooked back up.
CHECK ALL DRIVE BELTS, NOT ONLY ON THE ENGINE BUT ALSO ON ANY MECHANICAL APPLIANCES ONBOARD
Any belt that is loose should be changed as a loose belt often means that it is worn. To check if a belt is worn out, try pushing it down. It should push down just slightly, not significantly. The alternator belt on your boat can wear out faster than any others. How else can you check if there is a worn belt on your boat? A worn or misaligned belt will have excessive wear and the evidence of this will be a pile of soot under the engine pulley and drive belt.
SAFETY EQUIPMENT IS IMPORTANT TO A HAPPY AND SAFE BOATING SEASON
Visually inspect your life jackets or PFD’s (Personal Floatation Device) for signs of wear. If the jacket is old and faded it should be replaced. Take time to ensure your electric and manual pumps are working; you might want to have a bucket as a backup bailer. If you are required under the ABYC (American Boat & Yacht Counsel) Standards to carry a fire extinguisher, you are also required to have it inspected and tagged annually. Take the time and have a qualified technician inspect your onboard fire extinguishers.
Every boat is different so refer to the manufacture's manual and follow their recommendations.
WHEN WORKING ON YOUR BOAT BE MINDFUL OF ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP
Do not discard any items or fluids that could be hazardous to the environment. Some jurisdictions even recycle shrink wrap and almost all will have a facility for the disposal of liquid pollutants. Check to see if your marina or boat yard has a recycle program and if it does, use it.
Lastly, before your maiden voyage of the season ask yourself one question… Do I feel comfortable having my family on this boat? If the answer is ‘no’ or even ‘maybe’, you have some more work to do before heading out on the water.
Have a safe and enjoyable boating season.
These tips were created in conjunction with Coast Underwriters, a managing agent specializing in marine insurance since 1948. Coast Underwriters are a fully autonomous subsidiary of RSA Canada. Visit the new www.coastunderwriters.ca website for more information on marine insurance.