With spring in full swing and summer right around the corner, boat owners should be thinking about getting their boat and boating equipment ready for the boating season. You don’t want to waste any precious boating time taking care of maintenance issues, so inspect and take care of your boating equipment now and you'll have more time to enjoy your boat later! Here are some simple tips on how to care of your boating equipment:
1. Check your navigation equipment
Be sure to inspect your navigation lighting. Do you have replacement bulbs for anchor lights and running lights? Are navigation charts up to date? Do you have an adequate number and type of flares, and are they up to date?
Inspect electronic equipment such as GPS, VHF radios, and radar. What is the status of your PFDs, and do you have the right sizes and number? Are they Coast Guard approved?
Don’t forget to look at the condition of your dock lines, anchor line and running rigging.
2. Inspect All Safety and signaling Equipment
Make sure signal flares are stored where you can get to them quickly. Check expiration dates and replace them if necessary.
Do you have a horn on board that can produce a loud enough noise that it can be heard from a half of a mile away? If you use a portable air horn, be sure to keep a spare can of air on board.
Per Florida law, you must have at least one life jacket per passenger on board, with two life jackets being the bare minimum. Additionally, boats 16 feet or longer must have one USCG-approved “throwable” Type IV PFD which must be readily available at all times.
Boats with built-in fuel tanks or enclosed compartments where gasoline fumes can accumulate are required to have at least one fire extinguisher on board. Double check the mounts for any extinguishers and make sure they are secure. Make sure to check the fire extinguishers themselves and have them recharged if needed. Many local fire departments perform recharges free of charge.
It is also a very good idea to carry a full first aid kit. You don’t necessarily need a deluxe field-surgery kit, but you should at least be equipped to handle mundane injuries.
For more information on Florida boating safety rules and regulations, you may visit the official FWC website.
3. Inspect the Propellers
With an outboard or stern drive boat, you should inspect the propeller. You’ll need a deep-well socket to remove the propeller. Make sure discarded fishing line hasn't become tangled around the shaft of the propeller. If it has, don’t try to remove it yourself. It is better to have your dealer inspect the gear case for leaks.
Inspect the propeller for nicks, dents and other signs of damage. If you find signs of impact, you should send it out for repairs. Even a small dent can cause your boat to lose performance and burn excessive fuel. A damaged prop can vibrate, putting too much stress on bearings and seals and cause more problems.
Put an ample amount of waterproof grease on the propeller shaft to prevent corrosion. Then re-install the propeller, tightening the nut snugly and secure the locking tabs against the nut.
4. Clean and Care For Your Canvas
“Canvas” is the durable fabrics used to cover cockpit and console enclosures, create Bimini tops and boat and sail covers, and line and gear pockets. “Eisenglass” or “Strataglass” are the trade names for clear polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is used to create the see-through panels in marine canvas.
Keeping the canvas clean is an essential first step, but don’t clean your canvas in a household washer or dryer because doing so will destroy the fabric very quickly. Instead, use a light brush, some mild soap like Woolite, Dreft, or Dawn, and fresh water to remove dirt, salt, and other abrasive materials. Hand cleaning helps keep the fabric’s UV and waterproofing components intact and prevents mildew getting into the fabric’s weave. For marine canvas that has lost some of its waterproof qualities, treat it with a product like 303 Fabric Guard, which restores its ability to repel water.
One of the most difficult parts of cleaning marine canvas is dealing with the clear PVC that creates the windows in enclosures, covers, and Bimini tops. Many boat owners use the wrong products to keep them clean, and sometimes ruin them in the process. Never clean them with an ammonia-based product like Windex. The ammonia breaks down the plastic, yellows it, and makes it brittle over time. Instead, use a quality spray polish explicitly designed for cleaning clear PVC, such as 210 Plastic Cleaner and Polish.
The zippers and snaps that hold the canvases together also need regular maintenance. Zippers and snaps should be lubricated with a lubricant specifically designed for them. Lastly, invest in a snap puller. It’s a small, inexpensive tool that helps reduce wear and tear on your marine canvas every time you snap or unsnap it from your boat. Any good marine supply or canvas shop will carry it.
5. Make Sure Your Trailer Is Ready for Hauling if You Use One
If you use a trailer to haul your boat to its launch point, then making sure it is properly maintained and inspected is just as important as servicing your boat.
Check all the tires for leaks and the treads for cracks and wear. Adjust and check the tire pressure and check the spare tire to make sure it’s in good shape. Check the taillights and replace as necessary. Inspect the frame for rust. Sand off any you find and repaint to prevent further degradation. Test the winch, safety chain, bearings, and brakes if your trailer has any equipped. Clean and lubricate the winch and bearings.
Proper care and maintenance of your boating equipment will make your boating season that much more enjoyable. If you feel your boat could use professional maintenance services then please give us as call or fill out this form to schedule a boat maintenance appointment.