Not Quite Time for Winter Storage? Consider These Simple Fall Boat Maintenance Tasks
Boating and boat ownership during autumn months can mean different things depending on where you live. In the southern states, it could mean that the summer heat is finally dissipating enough to fully enjoy days spent out on the water. In the north, it may mean the beginning of the end of boating season.
Even if you’re not quite ready to store your boat for the season, there is still regular maintenance you might consider as the season changes. Many people may not realize what the lack of other boaters on the water (thanks to cooler temperatures) could mean for your time on the water. When fall approaches, often the summer traffic that dominated your boating area is reduced and you can be alone with nature. Unfortunately, that may mean no one is available to help you, if needed. Being prepared and up to date on preventative maintenance can become even more important.
Fall Maintenance and Safety Checks
It can be a good idea to check your safety equipment and supplies, including:
- Making sure the batteries in the very high frequency (VHF) radio are charged.
- Signal devices are up to date and working.
- There are plenty of warm clothes on board and they’re stored in a plastic bag to help keep them dry.
- Make sure you leave a float plan telling people where you are going and when you should be returning.
Another thing to keep in mind is your battery bank, a group of batteries used (often exclusively) to start your boat’s engine. A battery that started perfectly fine in summer may not have the power to get you back in colder temperatures, because as the temperature decreases, so does a battery’s capacity, according to Trojan Battery. Check your battery’s cold cranking amps (a battery’s maximum discharge current) against the engine manufacturer’s recommendation to make sure it will get you home after a day on the water. It may be worthwhile to bring your battery to a service center so a technician can load test it and confirm it is in good working order, says Practical Sailor.
Keep the Inside Dry
Cold temperatures can also mean condensation inside the boat, so ventilation becomes very important. When leaving your boat for more than a few days at a time, you may want to take a few extra steps to help make sure your supplies are not damp or susceptible to dirt and grime upon your return. Flipping cushions up on their side can be a good idea, as is allowing fans to run inside your boat on a timer, circulating the air, if you have the option.
Practical Sailor suggests leaving drawers and internal doors open, as well as the bilge compartments (the lowest inner part of a boat, designed to collect excess water) to allow for ventilation throughout the entire boat.
Doing an inspection of all plumbing is a good idea every few months, although particularly heading into fall. The hoses that have expanded all summer due to excess heat could now be contracting in the colder weather, and fittings may no longer be as tight as they should be. As pointed out by Marine Services Florida, a broken water hose on board has the potential to cause major damage or even possibly sink the boat
While it may not be time to prepare your boat for the off season just yet, these tips may help ensure your safety and keep your mind at ease while you enjoy the fall boating season.