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Learn How to Maintain a Boat

As a boat owner, you no doubt take pride in your vessel. Whether you’re captain of a luxury yacht or an inflatable dinghy, your boat’s care is something to be proud of. And as a good captain, it’s your duty to take care of your watercraft and ensure that it stays seaworthy (or pond-worthy, as the case may be) for years to come. Read on for some simple ways to prolong the life of your boat.

Protect Your Boat with Proper Storage

It doesn’t matter if you’re storing your boat for the winter or just between trips to the lake. Proper boat storage is key. One of the first decisions you’ll make as a boat owner is whether to store your watercraft indoors or outdoors.

Indoor storage offers greater protection from rain, cold, wind, and harmful UV rays that can damage various components of your watercraft. Even if you’re storing your boat in your garage, you should still use a tarp or other watercraft cover. This helps keep moisture, dust, debris, and rodents out of your boat.

Keep your boat away from any sources of heat, like radiators. If you have a small craft like a kayak, consider installing a suspension system so it’s not at risk of falling. If you’re using indoor storage facilities, like a marina or a boatyard, look for one that includes services such as periodic maintenance and cleaning in the price, especially if you’re going to be storing your boat over the winter.

In fair-weather climates where you can get away with outdoor storage, taking the time to protect your boat from the elements is important. Look into a portable storage unit like a lightweight galvanized steel hut. And don’t skimp when it comes to purchasing your watercraft cover. Find a quality, water-resistant or waterproof tarp that’s made to fit your boat. You may even want to consider shrink-wrapping your vessel if it will be outside for long stretches of time.

Perform Simple Routine Boat Maintenance

If you have the maintenance know-how, develop a healthy habit of routine checkups. If you don’t, consider taking a maintenance class. In fact, many boat insurance companies offer discounts if you take certain classes.

Here are a few features on your boat that you should check regularly:

  • Bilge pumps: If your bilge pumps malfunction, you’ll be in a lot of trouble. Examine their electrical components for corrosion, keep their limber holes free of debris, and test the float switches and alarms.
  • Motor: Flush your engine after every trip. Once again, you’re keeping an eye out for rust and corrosion on the engine itself, but also on the engine clamps and the fuel line. Be sure to replace old, worn belts and hoses.
  • Oil: Check your oil levels and top up when necessary. Change the oil if it appears dirty, and make sure your oil filter is functioning properly.
  • Electrical System: Make sure all connections are tightly fastened and in good repair with no corrosion or damage. Use a wire brush to knock off any loose dirt. And just like you’d check your car battery, you should also check your boat battery. Keep it dry, clean, and free of rust.
  • Propeller: Examine your propeller for dents and have it repaired or replaced if you find damage. Make sure your propeller shaft is properly greased and the propeller nut is sufficiently tightened.
  • Hull: Keep an eye on your hull for any signs of cracks or other damage and patch them appropriately if you do find them.

Prevent Buildup by Cleaning Your Boat Regularly

Boat hulls have a few persistent enemies: aquatic pests (think barnacles), algae, marine plants, and rust. All can cause fuel inefficiency, performance loss, and corrosive damage to your hull. You can prevent this by setting up a regular cleaning schedule that takes into account how much time your boat spends in the water. Here are a few things to consider:

  • If boating in saltwater, rinse your boat with fresh water when you return from an excursion, since the salt residue can cause quick corrosion.
  • Use an antifouling paint on your hull if your water and storage conditions require it. Your needs will vary based on where you’re storing your boat. The boats in some bodies of water are far more at risk of fouling than others, based on biological factors. Consult other boat owners from the area about the likelihood of fouling in local waters.
  • Use a cleaning product that’s specially formulated for boat hulls. Other cleaning products may contain bleach or other chemicals that could harm the integrity of your hull. Use a soft sponge and gentle, circular hand motions.
  • Prevent hull corrosion by applying a protective coating of commercial wax intended for your boat’s construction material.
  • Use muratic acid to take care of persistent hull scum, but don’t leave it on for too long—it can actually cause corrosion and paint damage.

Take the Time to Check Your Coverage

Having adequate insurance protection is an important part of taking care of your boat as it gets on in years, so it may be a good idea to check your boat insurance coverage to make sure you’re protected.

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