Spring is here and social media is filled with big trout jumping in the boat–you cannot wait to get out there. Who needs a spring check or make-ready list, you ask. All those bad things only happen to other people, right? Besides, I just used my boat Thanksgiving weekend and everything was fine.
This sounds a bit like all of us at times–anxious for that first big day on the water. But who wants to be the guy holding up traffic at the launch ramp, or the one needing towed back to the dock? Running through the items on this checklist is a good first step to preventing it.
Let's start with the boat trailer:
-When you first walk up to the boat in the storage building, give the whole rig a thorough once-over. Any stains or evidence of fluid leaks on the concrete (fresh or otherwise) you do not recall seeing before?
-Tire inspection before hitting the road is critical to safe towing. Do you see any cracks or dry rot in the rubber? Check tire air pressure, including the spare.
-A shot of wheel bearing lube is recommended, taking time to conduct a visual inspection of the hub seals. Wheel bearing lubricant leakage in any amount needs addressed immediately.
-Connect the trailer lights to your tow vehicle and make sure all are in good working order.
-Trailer brakes are notorious for corroding and sticking after prolonged storage. Check before towing.
-What about a 4-way lug wrench and hydraulic jack? License plate registration current?
Moving on to the boat:
-Open every hatch. Can you detect any fuel odors?
-Inspect fuel water separator for rusty spots, how old is it? A new one is good insurance.
-What about the engine-cranking battery age and charge level? Twenty-four to thirty months is average wet-cell life expectancy. Are there any signs of corrosion at the terminals?
-Turn the steering wheel full-lock both ways. Is it hard to turn or locked up, or maybe sloppy and loose? Any sign of hydraulic cavitation? Any evidence of fluid leakage under the helm or the hydraulic steering cylinder at the transom?
-Turn the battery selector to the on-position and flip the switch for each system. Are the navigation lights bright? Are the lenses clouded? Are the baitwell and bilge pump working? If either pump squeals at start-up it's time for replacement. What about the GPS? How did the jack-plate sound, raising and lowering?
-Pre-starting the boat on the garden hose. Squeeze the primer ball until tight, smell any fuel?
Water running, turn the key and choke if carbureted, if fuel injected how long does it take to start?
-Did the engine only start in neutral? Slip it into gear, forward and reverse. Let it run five minutes and then shut it down and restart on each battery as might be applicable. Pull the kill switch with engine running, did it stop? Operate the tilt and trim, sluggish or noisy?
-Verify that date stamp on signal flares is compliant and fire extinguisher pressure indicator is in the green. Life jacket labels all legible and one for each passenger? Any PFD torn or frayed should be replaced. Ditto, the throw-cushion. Signaling horn and/or whistle on board?
-Dock lines, anchor lines and anchor all in good shape?
-What about boat registration, registration decals and TX numbers?
-Is your Tow Boat U.S. membership current? (Just in case you find that new sandbar that wasn't there last year).
Have a great spring fishing and boating season. Remember you come to the coast to have fun and it is our job to help.