Spring Boat Preparation Without the Frustration

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By Andy Nixon, STN Reporter

The boating season is almost upon us, here are a few useful tips on prepping for summer fun

Spring boating prep: Whether powerboat or sailboat, can be joyous or downright frustrating. Although I primarily sail, many of the same tasks carry over from one boating type to the other. To start, it’s time for the boat to come out of the storage yard or marina. Remember to look out for wasps or other creatures that made the boat, cover, or trailer their home.

After the boat comes out of storage: Clean the hull and deck. For this, I like to use powdered bleach such as Comet, a brush, a sponge, and a hose. Believe it or not, you don’t need premium (expensive) cleaners to make your boat look great. After wetting the hull and deck, shake the powder directly onto the fiberglass. Work in sections around the boat to keep things from drying up. After scrubbing around the deck fittings and crevices, be sure to rinse the fiberglass thoroughly. Getting down and dirty with each boat section also provides a great opportunity to spot any fiberglass cracks or deep scratches that may need attention.

On the sailboat side of things: Focus on making sure the lines (ropes) are in good shape by visually inspecting each one. A “line” is used for raising or trimming the sail or sails. They should be inspected and maintained on a yearly basis. Depending on where the boat is stored, the lines may be stiff or green from algae. Don’t throw them away, they can be salvaged. Run a bucket of warm, soapy water and drop the lines in the bucket. This method works wonders on the rope by restoring flexibility and removing unwanted grime. For extreme grime, scrub the lines with a brush.

This brings us to the engine: Having a solid and consistent winterizing process makes the first start much less time-consuming. I have a total of nine engines to maintain, but my technique remains the same. A visual inspection of intake and exhaust areas is a must. Over the winter, mice are notorious for building nests that could be sucked into the engine. No matter what type of fuel I may have sloshing in the tank at the end of the season, I drain it. Fuel loses potency over time, especially low octane. As a pilot, I use 100LL Avgas to store most engines. With a shelf life of five years, and being ethanol-free, this fuel will not wreak havoc on rubber seals and hoses during storage. Although Avgas is around the same price as recreation fuel, it’s not a replacement outside of storage season. Most engines do not require 100 octane fuel, which over time will create a build-up of carbon.

Next: Check over fittings and hardware on deck. I prefer doing this on dry land to avoid tools, nuts, or bolts falling into the lake. Check for tightness, corrosion, and ease of movement. When prepping a sailboat, I make sure to spray the mast and boom groove with silicone to allow easy travel for the sail. Prep work will ensure your boat is operational during the warm summer months. Using a proactive approach to maintenance will save money on expensive repairs by catching problems early.

Always: Give the boat a few shakedown cruises before loading up your friends or family. This habit will minimize embarrassment on that first big outing. Keep paper or your phone handy to write down any adjustments needed before the next trip. Finally, I always recommend watching Captain Ron to learn proper etiquette for the boating season. Remember to be respectful of all boaters on the lake, respect the no-wake zones, and secure your trash against blowing into the natural resources we all share, enjoy, and respect.

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