How to Prepare Your Boat for the Start of the Season
Posted by:GJW Direct | Mar 27, 2019
After a long winter, it can be all too tempting to simply pull off the covers and launch your boat straight into the water. But it’s essential that you properly prepare your boat before the start of the season – failure to do so could result in costly repair bills in the future. Regular maintenance can hugely prolong the life of your boat and ensure it runs as good as it looks.
There are certain tasks that need to be carried out at a specific time of year – the spring season being one of the most significant, with important commissioning of all the systems to ensure your first run of the season is as seamless as possible. Here’s a breakdown of the key things you need to work on…
The big reveal: Hopefully, if you prepped your boat for the winter, you left it with a cover on. So the first step is to remove this cover and visually assess the situation. If you have a canvas cover, you should carefully scrub it clean and allow to fully dry before putting it away for next season.
Ideally, you need to move your boat to a well-lit and thoroughly ventilated location – if it’s a sunny, dry day, the driveway would be perfect or come bad weather the garage (with a window or door open) is a viable alternative. Obviously if the boat is a motor cruiser or yacht this will be done in the marina or yard where you laid up for the Winter.
Scrub away winter: You’re then going to want to scrub your boat from top to bottom with a spit-shine and you should also use this time to check if the anti-fouling needs a fresh coat. Follow up with a wax, which will protect your boat for the year ahead and leave it looking good as new.
Remove the engine cover and check if there seems to be anything amiss – cracks in the hull or obvious issues in the engine compartment. Remove any rags or covers used during the winterisation process and also make sure that the exhaust outlet and other nooks and crannies are clear of any debris.
Service your engine: Inspect every element of the engine, including the air filters and impeller. Change the oil in the engine and gearbox and check the battery charge level, topping off the water levels in the cells with distilled water if required. Clean and grease the terminals with a mix of baking soda and water.
Flush the systems: Again, if you’ve properly winterised your boat, you’ll need to flush the freshwater systems of any antifreeze with clean, fresh water. This will potentially include the plumbing systems, engine cooling circuits, bilge and shower pumps or anywhere else you ran antifreeze. Some vessels and engine types can require different techniques, so always check your owner’s manual to see if any specifics are required.
Inspect the anondes: Sacrificial anodes, also known as zincs, are found on props, shafts, rudders, struts and underwater appendages as well as on the engine, generator blocks and outboard lower units. These can errode over time so may need replacing and it’s also worth checking that they are correctly bonded into the boat’s circuits. Don’t wait to replace these – they can be a costly thing to overhaul once past the end of their lifespan.
Grease and tighten the fittings: Check your owners manual to assess which fittings need to be greased, being careful not to force it as too much grease could damage the seals. Take a screwdriver and spanners and check every bolt and screw, being sure to tighten any that feel loose, including any outside the main engine compartment.
Before running an inboard engine: Open the seacocks and through-hull fittings, as these could cause engine damage or burn the impellers. The first time you run the outboard, check that there’s cooling water flowing through them. You should also check your hoses and clips, as these can corrode or perish over time. Ideally, clips on the seacocks need to be domestic steel to avoid rust.
Calibrate all the electrics: Bring all electrics on board and do a thorough test to make sure they are all working properly and properly calibrated. Test your GPS, log impeller, radio, compass, depth finder and any other electronic marine accessories you might have.
Refill the water tanks: At the end of the last season, you should have drained the tanks, switched off the water pump and kept the taps in an open position. This process now needs to be reversed – turn the taps off, switch the water pump on and then go to each tap and run water through it, starting with those closest to the pump.
Check the bilge: Add water to the bilge pumps to check if they are in good working order. You can check that it is clear of any obstructions by flushing each line of the disconnected breather fitting hoses. The engine compartment will fill up a bit during this process, so you should remove the drain plugs and, if you have an electric bilge pump, turn it on. Otherwise you’ll have to wait for the water to drain out manually – but always remember to reattach the drain plugs once finished.
Inspect equipment: Check all of the safety equipment on board as a priority, including flares, personal floatation devices, first-aid kits and fire extinguishers. If you’re not sure when they’re due an upgrade or inspection, the free digital online organiser MyBoat can help you keep on track with timely reminders. You should also check the rest of your gear is in good condition – everything from your kill cord to your wetsuit, now is the perfect time to replace anything looking a little tired.
Set sail: Once you’ve thoroughly carried out all the necessary checks and inspections, you can finally get out onto the water. We’d recommend keeping the first trip out relatively short and stick close to shore – trial some passes and pay attention to how your vessel handles them. After about ten to fifteen minutes, return back to shore and check your engine compartment for any leaks or loose connections you may have missed.
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