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MCUS News: Springtime Boat Safety Checklist

With spring around the corner, you may be eager to get your boat out of storage and head to the water. But to avoid unnecessary problems, de-winterizing is an annual ritual. While some boat owners have their marina take care of the details, there’s no reason you can’t do many of the tasks yourself.

Areas to cover:

  1. Fuel System
  2. Belts, Cables and Hoses
  3. Electric Systems
  4. Fluid Levels
  5. Hulls and Propellers
  6. Safety Gear

Fuel System â€“ inspect your fuel system for leaks or damage. Check hose connections and tank surfaces. If you see any signs of softness or cracking, replace the damaged components. Ensure all fittings and clamps are secured. Confirm that your engine exhaust and ventilation systems are in functioning order. Service your seawater pumps every other year. If in doubt, then do it now. Finally, check your owner’s manual for any specific instructions on starting your engine after winter storage.

Belts, Cables and Hoses: Examine cables and hoses as they can become brittle and crack during winter storage. Verify that the belts fit tightly around pulleys and are not worn. Swells and cracks on the outer jacket of the throttle, shift and steering control cables could indicate internal corrosion. Replace as necessary.

Electrical Systems: Inspect for tight corrosion free connections. Clean corroded terminals with a wire brush as well as cable ends. Charge the battery and test it to make sure it maintains a charge. Use a stainless-steel lock nut to prevent cables from loosening up. Test helm and cabin switches. Make sure the automatic bilge pump float switch works correctly. Finally, replace any burnt out light or console bulbs.

Fluid Levels: Check all your fluid levels, including power steering, power trim reservoirs, coolant and engine oil. If you didn’t change the engine oil during the winterization process, you’ll want to do that now. Examine the bilge area for fluid leaks. Check lines for cracking and replace damaged parts. If you used anti-freeze in your fresh water tank, be sure to flush it out and disinfect the system before connecting the pump to the water lines.

Hulls and Propellers: While inspecting the hull, look for blisters distortions and cracks. Clean the hull, deck and topsides using an environmentally safe cleaning solution. Touch up any areas where the paint is looking worn. Wax the hull to preserve the paint – it can extend the life of your paint by two or three seasons. Clean windows, canvas, Bimini and dodger. If mold or mildew have snuck under your cover, scrub accordingly. You’ll want to use protective gear to avoid getting spores on your skin.

Safety Gear: Check your jackets – make sure they are in good condition and that you have enough and the right sizes for all potential passengers. Examine your fire extinguishers, are they full charged? Make sure you have the correct class and quantity for your vessel. If you have an enclosed area, install a working carbon monoxide detector. If you have an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) run it through your regular testing and maintenance. If you don’t have one, consider acquiring one to alert search and rescue in the event of an emergency. Finally, take advantage of safety inspections offered by the US Coast Guard (USCG) or your favorite marina.

If you run into any problems or tasks you may find outside your comfort zone, bring in a professional who can safely address them. You can also download and print a checklist from the American Boat and Yacht Council. The Unites States Coast Guard also has a mobile app available that allows you to request a vessel safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and can determine what safety equipment you are required to carry by law.