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Preparing for Spring

Here's what you need to do before backing your boat down the ramp or turning the ignition key.

Use proper boat cleaners as common liquid household detergents have a high pH and should not be used on boats.

Use proper boat cleaners as common liquid household detergents have a high pH and should not be used on boats.

Capt. Sandy Lindsey

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Warm breezes of spring will be blowing into town soon, making you want to rush to take your boat out. Halt. Wait a minute. Not so fast. There are a couple of things you need to do before you back My Pride And Joy down the ramp or turn the ignition key.

Mechanical Prep

Check the condition of your fluids and hoses. Replace as necessary, especially if you haven’t changed your fluids recently. Check hoses for loose hose clamps. Check fuel filters, air filters, spark plugs and the flame arrestor. Clean or replace as applicable. Check the engine timing and make any necessary adjustments. Lubricate the throttle, steering and shifting.

If you’ve got an inboard, check the engine block and manifold drain petcocks to make sure they close securely and don’t leak. Replace if necessary. They should close securely. Replace if there is any sign of a leak. Check the stuffing box or shaft log for leakage.

If you’ve got an outboard or sterndrive, don’t forget to check the raw-water pump impeller to make sure it’s pumping a healthy amount of water. If it’s been two years since you replaced it, you may want to do it now. Check the sterndrive bellows. Really get in there and look for signs of wear and/or cracking.

All boat owners should check their sacrificial zincs and replace as needed. Zincs are cheap insurance, and they’ll be much harder to change out later if you’re going to leave your boat in the water.

Check and charge your boat batteries, if applicable. Replace them if necessary. Better to do this at the dock than away from shore. An outboard needs at least 13.8 to 14.2 volts to trigger the magneto. Batteries more than three years old should be looked at carefully, especially in hot-weather climates. Go as low as 11 volts, and the engine will spin without starting. Check the battery posts and all other connections for loose connections and/or corrosion.

Rinse the bilge thoroughly of any accumulated debris, or anti-freeze if you winterized last fall. Put a generous amount of marine bilge cleaner in to assure sanitary conditions if water accumulates. Make sure the electric bilge float arm is functioning properly. The bilge should go on when it’s manually raised. Check that all bilge ducts, pipes and hoses are free of obstruction. A plumber’s “snake” will clear most blockages.

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