Whether you have a small bass boat, a 20-foot day sailor or a comfy cabin cruiser, when summer rolls around and it’s time to get the boat back on the water, you’re going to want to be sure it’s ready to go. Nobody wants a sputtering engine or a dead battery on that first day in the water. To ensure that everything is smooth sailing when you decide to take your craft out of storage, proper boat maintenance is in order.
Visual Inspection: If your boat is out of the water, check the hull for any cracks, punctures or holes and get them repaired immediately. A leak in the hull can ruin an afternoon fishing trip faster than a bout of seasickness.
Mr. Clean: Wash your boat regularly. If you’re boating in saltwater, then washing after each use is especially important because you want to protect the boat’s finish from the saltwater residue. A boat with a clean hull is going to be more fuel-efficient than a boat that is coated with algae and other sea impurities.
Wax On, Wax Off: If you own a fiberglass boat, then the Department of Ecology also suggests that you wax it at least once a year. Waxing will prevent surface dirt buildup and make the boat easier to clean and rinse after using.
In many respects, regular boat maintenance is a lot like car maintenance. You’re going to want to check and change the oil, replace the spark plugs, and replace any cracked or damaged hoses. All filters and belts should be checked as well.
Safety Precautions: Although some of the upkeep does involve making sure the boat is in good working order, maintaining a boat isn’t just about tuning up the engine. It’s also about making sure the vessel is equipped with the proper safety gear. According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division, operator errors account for 70 percent of boating accidents. In other words, if you’re a novice boater or simply don’t feel completely comfortable behind the wheel, take a boating course.
Furthermore, as the operator of the boat, you’re responsible for making sure your vessel has enough life jackets for everyone on board and that all children are wearing them when required. State regulations vary regarding age a situations when children must wear a life jacket, so consult your local governing body for accurate information. You can also check the Reference Guide for Boating Laws for requirements by state for age and type of life jacket required for young passengers.
The U.S. Coast Guard stresses the fact that carbon monoxide can hurt or kill you both inside and outside the boat. Blocked exhaust outlets, inadequately ventilated enclosures and even exhaust from other boats can all be potentially dangerous. It’s not only important to know which areas of the boat present a risk, but it’s also important to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and what you should do if anyone on board is suffering from it.
A tranquil day on the water begins with proper boat maintenance and the right safety precautions. However, on a warm summer day there will be other boaters on the water besides you, so having the right insurance coverage is good way to protect your boat (and those aboard it) from the unexpected.