The weather’s finally starting to warm up, and the waves are calming down. If you’re like me, as soon as you smelled that first whiff of spring air, you felt the urge to take your boat out on the water. Whether you’re out to fish, travel, or just enjoy some leisure time on the water, boating season is here—but before you start living it up, you’ll need to take some precautions to keep your boat in good working condition. I’ve made my share of mistakes my first few years of boating, and it cost me later in expensive repairs.
Learn from my mistakes and the following precautions:
Notice That Rust?
If you live anywhere short of paradise, you’ll store your boat for the winter (like I do). On the surface, your boat may look the same as when you originally stored it. But depending on when and where you stored it, winter can have an immense impact on the health of your aquatic vehicle.
For starters, boats are made to be in the water; when they’re trapped on land, they don’t get the regular movement they need to keep their parts running smoothly. It’s easy for rust to develop, especially in humid areas, and mechanical parts of your boat may experience corrosion and wear. Though some of these effects may be cosmetic, others can be deadly, interfering with the reliability of your boat, or interfering with your engine enough to . I always keep the batteries changed on my carbon monoxide detector, and I advise you to do the same.
Before I take my boat in the water, I always follow the same, 6-step process. Hopefully, it helps you get your boat in shape too:
- Start with a once-over. Start with a visual assessment; it doesn’t have to be especially thorough, but it should help you understand how harsh this winter has been, and enable you to identify key areas that need attention. You may also want to inspect your trailer, to ensure you can move the boat safely when it’s time to drop into the water. I usually take about 10 minutes for this step.
- Inspect and replace any deteriorated parts. Next, you’ll need to inspect your boat’s most important parts individually. For example, you’ll want to ; if your propellers fail and you’re far away from land, you could end up stranded. Similarly, you’ll want to check your engine and exhaust system to make sure it isn’t blocked or corroded in any way.
- Give it a good wash. Dust and dirt have likely accumulated on your boat, so give it a thorough wash before you take it out. Your boat will look cleaner, but more importantly, you’ll prevent that debris from accumulating more and possibly interfering with your boat’s performance. Of course, I also like to flaunt having a new-looking boat once it’s in the water.
- Apply a wax coat. You’ll also want to before you take it out. A thin layer of wax will protect your boat from the elements, including the sun and any harsh weather conditions you encounter. It will also give your boat an attractive sheen and will help keep it cleaner over the next few months.
- Take the proper safety precautions. Before you head out, as well. Because you don’t use it often, it’s easy to neglect. Check your anchor (and the rope tied to it), and inspect all of your life jackets multiple times for any tears, holes, or other signs of damage. If you have children, you should take this time to check their sizes, and make an upgrade if necessary. You should also check the contents of your first aid kit, and make any replacements or upgrades necessary there—you’d be surprised how quickly your supplies can degrade. The last thing you want is for your safety equipment to fail when you really need it.
- Look into special licensing. Depending on where you live and what you’ll be using the boat for, you may need to . Your boating license, registration, and decals should all be up-to-date. If you plan on fishing, you may need a separate fishing license (for anyone fishing on your boat) as well.
With those steps in place and your boat looking as good as it was when you stored it for winter, you’ll be ready to hit the waves along with me. After that inaugural journey of spring, I’ll be sure to regularly maintain my boat with cleanings, inspections, and as-needed repairs, so it remains in peak condition for the remainder of the summer—and I encourage you to do the same!