How to Get Your Boat Ready for Spring Season

Luxury motor yachts at shipyard waiting for maintenance and repair
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With spring here after a long winter, you may be ready to take your boat on the water. However, before you can start, you need to dewinterize your boat and have it ready to ride in. If you didn’t take care of your boat during the fall, you will have to be especially careful before taking your boat out.

Spring Boating Checklist

Even the best-maintained boats can run into problems from time to time. Therefore, you can save yourself from trouble by preparing for the boating season beforehand. Here are a few things that you should be especially careful of.

Check the Necessary Safety Precautions

Before you start checking the major components of your vessel, you should instead check if you have all the necessary safety equipment such as flares and life jackets - some of the most important things that every boat should have. 

Flares are especially important to check since they can expire in just 42 months of their original manufacturing date. Federal requirements dictate that boats larger than 16’ will need three red flares of combination day/night for smaller lakes and six for coastlines or the ocean.  

If your boat also features room for accommodation and a stove, test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarm. Change its batteries and use its testing feature to send a dummy distress signal which can let you see if it is working.

Check If You Have the Right Fire Extinguishers

There are multiple types of fire extinguishers, each of which you have to use when putting out different types of fire, of course. If your boat already has a fire extinguisher, you should check to see if it is not expiring soon. All fire extinguishers manufactured in the past 20 years come with a date stamp at the cylinder’s bottom. 

According to official US Coast Guard regulations, boats under 26 feet in length can have a single 5-B or 20-B fire extinguisher. Boats under 40 feet need to be equipped with two fire extinguishers, whereas vessels under 65 feet need three. Furthermore, remember two 5-B extinguishers do not equal one 10-B. Despite having more extinguishing agents, a 10-B extinguisher still counts as one 5-B extinguisher. 

From April 20th, 2022, new US Coast Guard fire extinguishing equipment regulations for recreational vessels that are propelled or controlled by propulsion machinery have come into force:

  • Recreational vessels with a 2018 model year or newer need to carry date-stamped 5-B or 10-B extinguishers,
  • Extinguishers are considered obsolete and thus need to be replaced if they are labeled with old B-I or B-II designations or are 12 years past the manufacturing date,
  • Boats models of 2018 or older may carry either 5-B or 20-B rated fire extinguishers that aren’t date-stamped more than 12 years old or B-I or B-II rated fire extinguishers if they remain in good and serviceable condition. 

To make sure you always comply, as a rule of thumb, we recommend you to replace all fire extinguishers with at least 13 years old.

Check the Cutlass Bearing 

If you have an inboard engine, your cutlass bearing might not be up to the mark. Hold onto the prop shaft and give it a good shake. Vigorously moving the shaft up and down or side to side should only make it move slightly. If the prop shaft moves around loosely, you need to replace the bearing inside. 

Worn cutlass bearings can damage your prop shaft or cause annoying vibrations. You should also know that it is impossible to replace or check these bearings while already on the water. Be sure to check them before launching or embarking on the water.

Empty the Cockpit Drains

The long winter means that there is plenty of time for crud and junk to gather in your cockpit drains. If these drains clog, it could make a boat sink. This can be especially dangerous for older boats. You can clear out whatever is blocking the drain by simply sending a high-pressure burst through the drain. 

Cleaning out the drains will also give you a good opportunity to check the plastic drainpipes. The pipes used to connect the drains are plastic, which can often become brittle and break, leading to water flowing back into the boat.

Check the Throttle, Shift, and Steering Cables

The cables for the steering, shift, and throttle all go into one sheath. While this sheath keeps them safe from all kinds of damage, it also makes it harder for you to check if something is wrong with these cables. You can usually tell if the cables inside are rusty, however, by grabbing and twisting them. If you hear a strange crunching sound, your cables could be rusty. 

Other than being rusty, the cables could also just be stiff, which you can lubricate very easily.

Check Your Electrical Connections

If you’re not careful, bad electrical connections can have you calling out for rescue on your first day out. Hence, a good way to prepare your boat for spring is to check for corrosion on the terminals and ensure that the cables are securely connected. You should also check the acid levels in the battery and if it has enough juice to get you through the trip without stopping.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Start a Boat in Spring?

Start by checking the fuel tank and see if it has enough gas to start. Then, proceed to lower the leg and start the engine in neutral. Seeing how the engine has been pretty dry for a long time, the engine may stall. Use the gear shift to control the throttle pin directly and try to rev the engine while starting it. This process brings oil into the engine, so you should have the engine running by your second or third try. Prepare your boat for spring by trying to start your engine before heading into the water.

How Do You Get Your Boat Ready for the Season?

You can prepare your boat for spring by checking the engine and oil levels. Most engines also come with a measurement bottle for the lubricant, which you just need to top up until a specific line. Check for available safety equipment like life vests, flares, and fire extinguishers to keep everyone on the boat safe. When you unload your vessel into a lake, try to start the engine and test the steering to see if it is working properly. Finally, check for water leaks in an inboard-outboard boat, which can lead to serious problems later.

How Do You Dewinterize a Boat?

You can dewinterize a boat by checking the fuel system and your battery. Make sure to especially check the battery to prepare your boat for spring, as the terminals tend to corrode. Check your cables to see if they need replacing or lubricating and your hoses for any cracks. 

Check the engine and oil levels as you prepare to set out on the water, but be sure to check the lubricant. You can tick these things off your list to properly dewinterize your boat and be ready to enjoy spring on the lake.

As the ice thaws around you, it’s the perfect time to take your boat out for a spin. Make sure you prepare your boat for spring by accurately following the instructions above. The last thing you want is to be out in the middle of a lake because you didn’t prepare your boat for the new season.

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