Boaters who enjoy year-round use of their vessels in warmer southern climates may be the envy of the recreational boaters further north. However, that nonstop fun could be detrimental to the safety and performance of their boats. It’s advisable to take a break for repairs at some point each year, and March and April are perfect months to haul-out for annual maintenance. Taking a break to fix what is broken and to evaluate the overall health of your electrical, mechanical and structural systems can save money and time later on.
Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or hire a service yard or dealer to do the work, the nonprofit Sea Tow Foundation for boating safety and Sea Tow Services International, Inc. offer the following tips on what to inspect during Spring Haul-Out.
- Heads-Up On the Head
- No one notices the head unless there’s a problem—and if there’s a problem, it’s usually a big one.
- Inspecting sanitation lines, valves and vented loops helps to ensure the system is working properly. Over time, the vent valve can get stuck and an air pocket can get trapped, which may cause the head not to work.
- Inspect discharge line vented loops to make sure the valves are functioning correctly. Teflon-based grease lubricates the valves best. Increase the ventilation within your holding tank to 1-inch line if possible. Finally, flush and drain the holding tank.
- Improve the Bottom Line
- When you haul the boat out, power-wash the hull and remove any loose paint, dirt, grease, barnacles or other marine growth. Do the same for the lower unit or prop shaft, trim tabs and propellers.
- Mask off the waterline and paint the bottom, lower unit, and trim tabs using either hard- or ablative antifouling paint. Remove and replace all zincs, and inspect all through-hull fittings, grates, and engine-water intakes to ensure they are clear of barnacles and debris.
- If you leave your boat in the water instead of hauling it out, hire a qualified marine service dive technician to clean and inspect the bottom and running gear.
- Topside Tune-up
- Inspect the hull and gelcoat for cracks, blisters, or other damage. You can repair minor dings and scrapes yourself, but for any major items like gelcoat blisters, it’s best to hire a fiberglass pro to do the job right.
- Test the navigation lights (masthead, sidelights, stern light) for proper operation and make sure the lenses are watertight. They should be bright enough to be seen from at least a half-mile away.
- Clean the windows, seats and other surfaces. Replace cushions that are worn, and wash, compound, and wax the topsides. Strip and re-varnish any brightwork.
- Inspect ground tackle, including all connections. Replace worn line, splices, or rusty shackles. Secure the clevis pin to the shackle with mousing (safety) wire. Trim excess for handling safety, and test the anchor windlass for proper operation. Secure the anchor.
- Clean all deck surfaces and hardware. Inspect all hatches and ports for watertight seals.
- Pristine Propulsion
- Check the bilge and remove all debris and water. Next, the check bilge pump to make sure it is working, especially the automatic float switch. Make sure the strainer is clear of debris and hoses are in good shape.
- Remove the battery and clean the terminals. Check battery water levels, charge the battery, spray terminals with corrosion inhibitor, and reinstall the battery. If it’s applicable, change the oil and fuel filters on the engine(s) and generator. Refill with fresh oil and fuel. Change or top off lower unit or outdrive gear oil.
- Other items to pay attention to on an annual basis include pumping grease into zerk fittings on engine and bearings, and draining antifreeze from engine cooling and fresh water systems and replacing with fresh water.
- Check spark plugs, fuel pump, electrical system, fuel lines, hoses, clamps, and engine drive belts for signs of wear and damage. Repair/replace as needed.
- After re-launching the boat, check for possible leaks. If you see water coming in, determine the source of the leak, and then re-haul the boat and repair/re-check.
- Safety Equipment Survey
- Verify that your emergency flares and fire extinguisher(s) are not past their expiration dates and are still in good condition.
- Avoid groundings by updating your paper and electronic charts. The charts will let you know where it is safe to boat and which places to avoid.
- Ensure all life jackets and the throwable cushion/ring are undamaged and ready for use. Make sure you have life jackets that will fit all of your family members and friends who may go out with you on the boat. Remember that children may have outgrown their old life jackets over the winter months, so you might need to buy them new ones.
- If you have an iPhone or Android, download the free Sea Tow App for smartphones at www.seatow.com/app. It will put GPS, navigation, tides, weather and other information at your fingertips, as well as allowing you to call for help with the swipe of a thumb.
- When you re-launch the boat, make use of Sea Tow’s Automated Radio Check system to ensure your VHF is working properly. Visit www.seatow.com/arc to find the Automated Radio Check VHF Channel in your boating area.
About the Sea Tow Foundation
In 2007, Sea Tow Founder and CEO Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer created the Sea Tow Foundation – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization – to promote safe boating practices. The Foundation’s goal is to reduce accidents, fatalities and property damage related to recreational boating. For more information, please visit boatingsafety.com.
About Sea Tow
Sea Tow Services International Inc. is the nation's leading on-water assistance provider for boaters. Established in 1983 by Founder & CEO Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer, Sea Tow serves members inland to the coast throughout the United States, Europe, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. For a full list of membership benefits, how to become a Sea Tow member or to inquire about becoming a Sea Tow franchise owner, please visit seatow.com. Sea Tow also offers free boating safety information including the Sea Tow App for smartphones, Sea Tow's Automated Radio Check Service, and the nonprofit Sea Tow Foundation's Life Jacket Loaner Station program. For more information, visit seatow.com and boatingsafety.com.