Preparing Your Boat for the Season
“You bought a boat last year. It has been in storage since September, and you now want to take it out of storage in preparation for the summer. However, being in storage, you want to make sure that your boat will function well, so you are giving yourself enough time to adequately prepare your boat for the season.
Does this sound familiar?
Many boaters experience this every year as they start to prepare their boats for the season. Like any recreational vehicle, a lot of preparation goes into getting boats ready for the season, especially for those who want to keep their boats in excellent condition.
Boats are a major purchase and it is important that you take all of the necessary steps to keep your boat in the best condition possible. Whether this be through simple maintenance tips like keeping it clean, to major restorative work like fixing cracks and splits.
If you are new to boating, or even an experienced boater who wants to learn something new or reinforce their knowledge, this article is for you.
Many seasoned boat owners take meticulous care when preparing their boat for the boating season. That season, the summer, is soon coming up, so you should take care of your boat as well. Preparing your boat may seem like a tedious task, or an overwhelming obstacle for the new or first-time boat owner, but it is a vital process to discover maintenance issues, cosmetic issues, and more, prior to launching your boat. If not, your boat’s performance may suffer.
In this article, we will discuss the best ways that you can prepare your boat for the season. The more work and effort you put in now, the more enjoyable your boating experiences will be. Let’s get started!
Why Boat Preparation Matters (At Any Time of the Year)
Preparing your boat for the season is relatable to the process of purchasing a boat in the first place. When purchasing a boat, you can either purchase one new, or one used. The used boat will be cheaper, but there may be additional work that needs to be done before it can be seaworthy. The new boat is more expensive but it is ready to be launched “as is.”
Instead of a commitment of money (although boat prep may cost money depending on the status of your boat), consider the commitment of time. It takes time to prepare a boat, no matter how long you have had it. A boat is like any other vehicle.
If your boat requires a lot of preparation, expect to spend a significant amount of time preparing it for the upcoming boating season. If not, expect to spend significantly less time. The amount of time you spend is correlated to the amount of work you need to put in, just like how the amount of money you spend is correlated inversely to the amount of work after purchasing your boat.
Make a List
Seasoned boaters have a second sense when it comes to knowing what to focus on during boat preparation. As a new boat owner, or a novice one, you will learn what your boat needs in time. However, right now, you should make a list. The longer the list, the better. Sure, longer lists mean more preparation and maintenance. That being stated, as we previously discussed, the more work and effort you put into your boat, the more enjoyable your boating experiences will be.
Some of the most important things to include on your list are:
- General cleaning tasks (hull, deck, topsides)
- Check all drains for blockages
- Wash your boat and add a coat of wax to protect the paint
- Clean your wood finishes and oil them
- Clean fixtures like windows, hatches, blinds, and any other parts
- Replace things like your wiper blades if they are worn
- Check for general damage like scratches, blisters
- Inspect your ladder, trim, rails, rudder, and fittings
- Inspect your stanchion, pulpits, lines fenders, and other items on the deck
- Check your port lights to make sure they are functioning. Change any bulbs that are burnt or damaged
- Check your seacocks, make sure they are working and lubricated
- Inspect your hoses and clamps
- Look at your waterline hoses
- Check your bilge pumps, make sure both their automatic and manual functions work
- Inspect your electrical systems, look to see if your battery is still good, if it needs to be recharged, or replaced
- Look at any major contact points for corrosion and other wear
- Inspect all visible wiring to see if it is frayed (also check for potential damage from animals chewing the wires)
- Make sure all your gauges are working
- Check and replace damaged fuses
- If you have lights and other recreational devices, make sure they are working and that they didn’t kill your battery over the winter
- Inspect your antennas, make sure they are properly transmitting a signal
- Check all of your safety equipment (more on this below)
- Have your engine inspected or serviced by a certified mechanic
- Other things to check include fuel filters, cooling system fluids, belts, transmission fluid, your water strainer, and the bilge blower.
- If your boat uses sails, check their general condition, make sure they are functional, and ensure all ropes are in working order and not frayed
While that was a massive list of things to consider, not every boat will have to worry about each of those things. That list is meant to show you how extensive of a process it can be to prepare your boat and why it is important to check everything that you can.
Don’t treat your boat like most people treat their cars. Take the time to check all of its parts to make sure it is working properly because getting stranded out at sea is a terrifying experience that can easily be avoided through regular maintenance.
Break Down Your List
You can break down your list any way you want to. Usually boat owners make their lists based on specific areas of their boats, specific issues, specific onboard components, and more. You can make a list covering just electrical issues that need to be resolved, you can make a list covering exterior boat preparation, and you can make a list based on the quickest preparation task to the most time-consuming. The choice is yours. Everyone has a method that works best for them.
Check Your List Twice
If you want your boat to last until Christmas, check your list and check it twice. Make sure that every possible issue regarding your boat is resolved. For example, if you forget to address a rusting issue with your boat, it is likely that the rust will spread, potentially damaging the working condition of your boat.
Tackle any big ticket items as quickly as possible. Typically, the more expensive a process is, the more necessary it is.
The Inspection Process
Start From the Inside
Start working on preparing your boat from the inside-out. Generally, the most interior parts of boats are the most important, in terms of functionality. A cracked hull is important to fix, but so is a busted engine. Both issues are important to fix, but one is more important than the other. A cracked hull can be patched much more easily than fixing, or even replacing an engine.
Make Notice of Any Systems That Look Damaged
You should inspect any system that looks damaged. A damaged system needs to be fixed as soon as possible. While a system that looks damaged may only have cosmetic damage, the damage can spread if you do not fix it as soon as possible. You should assume that a system that looks damaged, is damaged, and inspect its internals very carefully.
Check Systems That Do Not Look Damaged
Sometimes, a system may be damaged, even if it does not look damaged. When performing boat preparation, inspect all systems that you can, starting with the most vital ones. You may discover an issue internally with a system that other boat owners gloss over, simply because the overall system does not look damaged at all!
Make sure your boat’s navigation lights are working. You do not want to risk getting a nasty fine or having a day of leisure ruined because your boat’s systems aren’t functioning properly.
Inspect the Exterior of the Boat
Once the inside has been inspected, and all systems are functioning well, check the outside of your boat for any damage, or areas that need repair. Even tackling a boat preparation job as simple as rust-proofing any metal parts will help during boating season. The best preparation is that which is preventative. You want to avoid situations where you have to deal with a boat prep issue after the season has started.
The most important things to look for are any major cracks, punctures, or holes in the hull. These will have to be repaired before you can launch your boat in the water.
Wash and Wax
Washing and waxing a large boat is time consuming, but it’s one of the easiest ways to make your boat look new again. Whether you do it yourself, or hire someone to do it, a washed and waxed boat will shine in the sun and capture the attention of other boaters.
On a side note, it’s a lot easier to notice damaged areas when your boat is clean and shiny. Scratches, dings, and other damage will be easier to spot.
Check Your Safety Equipment
It doesn’t matter where you are from, your boat needs to have proper safety equipment. While some of these choices are optional, many of them are not. Every boat needs to have things like life jackets, visual distress signals, fire extinguishers, ventilation, backfire flame control systems, sound producing devices, navigation lights, meet pollution regulations, and satisfactory marine sanitation devices.
Start by checking the condition of your life jackets. Make sure they are functional and aren’t fraying. Make sure your fire extinguisher isn’t expired and that it still works. You never want to find out your fire extinguisher isn’t working when you have an actual fire to deal with.
Other useful items to bring on your boat include extra water, a functional radio, a flare gun (depending on where you are boating), a first aid kit, and anything that increases your chances of survival during an emergency.
Preparing for Transport
If you are planning on transporting your boat over long distances, you’ll want to make sure it is ready for the journey. Besides the steps we mentioned above, you’ll want to make sure your gas tank is drained, that all loose items are removed or secured, that your boat is the proper dimensions for transport, and you’ll need to get into contact with a reputable shipping company that has experience shipping boats and other large recreational vehicles.
For boat trailers, you’ll want to check your brake lights, tires, if there are any axle problems, and the overall integrity of the trailer.
The Most Important Tip of All – Get a Qualified Second Opinion
If you are new to boating, you may not know what to look for, or you may not be able to determine if a job is finished or not. One of the best things that you can do when preparing your boat is to get a qualified second opinion. Ask a staff member or a friend at the marina to look over your boat, call up a boating mechanic, and do some research on similar preparation other boat owners have performed and posted about on the Internet. Make sure that your preparation is successfully completed, not just that it looks completed.
Watch the Experts
Like anything, it takes a lot of practice to learn how to properly prepare your boat for the season. While time teaches us a lot of useful tricks, you can also watch YouTube videos to better familiarize yourself with basic and more advanced boat maintenance.
We are big fans of the Tips from a Shipwright channel and believe boaters of all levels can learn a thing or two from the veteran shipwright Louis Sauzedde.
Final Things to Consider
You now know most of the important things that you need to think about when preparing your boat for the season. It may seem like a lot, but it is important that you take care of your boat if you want it to run properly and last a long time.
If you have any questions at all about preparing your boat, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or get into touch with us.
The article was written by the guest writer Chris Ward representing the A- Auto Transport, Inc. – one of the largest U.S.-based worldwide auto shippers in the industry. Thanks Chris for this comprehensive article on the boat preparations for the season! Hope all the readers will find here something interesting and useful to make their upcoming boating season safe, pleasurable as well as unforgettable.
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