The sun is out, the thermometer has crept into double-digits day and night, and you’re itching to take the boat for a spin. But, as you pull the tarp back for the first time in months, you’re met with a musty odour … and then you spot a little rust here and there, a spider crawls out from under the seats, and something looking suspiciously like possum poo is scattered around the cockpit.
“Mmmm, nothing a quick blast around the bay won’t fix …”
There’s even a little petrol left in the tank – bonus!
Of course, most experienced boaties realise that it’s essential to give any boat a thorough going-over after they’ve been idle for a while.
Boats and trailers require regular servicing, especially when it comes to engines and electrical and fuel systems. And if they’ve spent the winter idle, they’ll need to be prepared for action before hitting the water this spring.
MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE …
While some maintenance tasks can be undertaken by the capable DIYer, others will require servicing by a professional marine centre. Here’s a rundown of what should be on every boat owner’s seasonal checklist when their pride and joy comes out of hibernation.
Hull and general check
- Check the hull for any damage, including rudder trim and seals, running gear, trim tabs
- Check the sacrificial anodes
- If the boat spent the winter on the water, it’ll need to be cleaned of biofouling
- Check lines, cleats, handrails etc for integrity
- Inspect the anchor chain and line, winch, and other anchoring parts – ensure it is correctly attached to the boat
- Run the bilge pumps, clean any debris around the pump inlets, and check and replace the bung seals if necessary
- Grease and lubricants can dry out over time, so check all moving parts that might need a refresher, including less obvious spots such as antenna lowering brackets, zips and snaps on clears and covers, and the swimladder
- Switch the lights on … if the globes need replacing, consider switching to LEDs
- Check all electronics for proper operation
Engine & fuel
- Have the engine(s) serviced by a qualified service centre if they’re due
- Fuel can become stale if the tank is not sealed and evaporation occurs
- Discard old fuel, as it can damage the engine and might not burn properly
- Check the fuel lines, looking for loose or leaking fittings, cracked or hardened lines and even the smallest signs of wear and tear
- If not already fitted, now is a good time to consider installing blowers or other components to extract fumes, as well as flame arrestors and backfire traps
- Do you have everything that’s required, including enough lifejackets of the applicable type and size for you and your passengers?
- Lifejackets – do they comply with current regulations? Check whether inflatable models are due for inspection or servicing. Ensure straps aren’t frayed, buckles close properly and mould or decay hasn’t taken hold
- Check expiry dates on flares and EBIRBs
- Check the radio is in working order and do a test call before leaving the launch area for the first time
- Replace batteries on battery-powered equipment, including torches and EPIRBs
- Inspect the fire extinguisher according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- Replenish the first-aid kit
- Now is also a good time to review your emergency plans
- Flat batteries are a far too common cause of rescue operations. Check them – if in doubt, take them to a marine service centre
- If they aren’t already, replace batteries with dedicated marine models
- Check battery cases for damage or leaks, and test they’re secured properly
- Check leads are secured
- Check mechanical steering arms for full and free movement – lubricate if needed
- Hydraulic steering – turn the wheel hard over, top up the fluid if there’s further movement
- Check the propellers for damage or marine growth/fouling
Head system and wet areas
- Check the head works as it should and replenish treatment chemicals if necessary
- Check all valves, hoses and clamps
- Flush the water tank, check water system, pumps and hoses for leaks
- Check for any signs of deterioration, including wiring
- Check the brakes and lights for proper operation
- Refresh grease or lubricant where required
- Inspect the winch and winch strap/cable, towing hitch and safety chains
- Walk around the trailer and check obvious parts such as tyres (including tread wear and inflation), rollers and pads, mudflaps, guide posts, straps, steps …
- Check the registration
- Inspect the sails, looking for wear and chafing
- Check the battens and batten pockets, and all sail attachments
- Check mast and spreaders, rivets and screws
- Clean the sail track
- Check the entire standing and running rigging
This list is by no means exhaustive, and it’s worth compiling your own checklist and adding to it every time you complete a maintenance task. It’s also a good idea to keep a service logbook, just as you would for a car.
Meanwhile, your boat might not be the only thing that got a little rusty over winter – refresh your memory of boating rules and safety procedures by reading up on them in the most recent boating safety handbook. You’ll find all you need to know on your state’s maritime authority website.
And have a look at the latest weather tools for boaters – such as the Bureau of Meteorology’s website and app (bom.gov.au), and the Club Marine App’s weather functions. You’ll also find several checklists on our app that you can adjust to suit your needs.
While you’re at it, check that you’ve registered your member details on the Club Marine App so you’ll receive severe weather alerts and can make full use of the emergency functions.