Getting the boat in excellent working order for a trouble-free season is an annual rite of passage. Readiness, however, is more than making sure the seacocks open and the bilge is clean. On most boats, everyone aboard has to lend a hand in some capacity. The following checklist can help you make sure that your crew is as prepared for a spring cruise as the boat itself.
- Learn the capabilities of your passengers in advance. If you plan a three-day trip with guests and discover your guests have no prior boating experience, you may be in for a long haul. Or they may have medical conditions or just plain seasickness that could limit their abilities. If you’re expecting your passengers to help out on board, make sure they know what is required and are up for it.
- Schedule a training session with your passengers before the trip, particularly if they are new to boating. Let everyone practice their roles while docking and undocking at a marina and fuel dock. Make sure they know where the life jackets and other safety equipment are located on board.
- Stock and stow a medical kit on board. If you already have a safety kit but it hasn’t been used in years, it’s time to crack it open and make sure all the necessary bandages, tape and antiseptics are in order and nothing is out of date.
- Inspect the head(s). Nothing scuttles a trip faster than a marine sanitation system that is not working at 100 percent. Even though you probably checked it before winter layup, it’s a good idea to double-check that it’s still in working order.
- Check that your VHF radio is working. Ensure the antenna is installed properly and then do a radio check. You can perform a Sea Tow Automated Radio Check for free in many areas; visit www.seatow.com/arc to find the right VHF channel for your location, key the mike and request the radio check.
- If you have an iPhone or Android, download the free Sea Tow App for smartphones. It will put GPS, navigation, tides, weather and other information at your fingertips, as well as allowing you to call Sea Tow for help with the swipe of a thumb.
All those winter hours spent reading boating magazines and scouring charts and online sources were not a waste of time. Learning about new places to visit on a spring cruise is not only fun, it’s also a way to find out how realistic it may be to get there. Here is a checklist to help you plan your itinerary.
- Update your charts for the area you plan to cruise in. Having the latest digital charts uploaded in your chartplotter increases safety and makes navigation easy and fun. Having the latest paper charts on board as a backup is also a good idea.
- Know where you can run. No-wake zones can add hours to your trip. Once the updated charts are installed, your chartplotter will factor those slow-speed transits into your route.
- Scour the Web. As you make a list of the places you want to visit on your cruise, research each stop for updates on construction and things to do like local festivals.
- Check the forecast. Find the best weather source for the area you plan to cruise in, and keep checking on it. Springtime can mean rain, potential storms and unpredictable temperatures, so make sure you’re prepared for everything. Ask everyone to pack rain gear, warm clothes and shorts for those rare hot spring days.
Nothing dampens the mood more than pulling into a marina after a long day on the water and finding there is “no room at the inn”. So be sure to find out well in advance if you can make a slip reservation at the marinas where you plan to spend the night, what the fees are, and what the cancelation policies may be. Marinalife is a great resource for making reservations! http://www.marinalife.com/
- Call each marina in advance. Online reservations are fine, but it helps to talk to a live person to get inside information. You can learn about any unexpected problems by asking a few simple questions. Any construction going on? Will you be busy when we plan to arrive? Are the slip fees listed on your website up to date? Are you within walking distance of a grocery store or restaurant?
- After reserving your slips, it’s a good idea to make dinner reservations as well, especially in a busy area like the Chesapeake Bay. If you plan on taking a short exploring trip while you’re in town, it makes sense to book a rental car ahead of time. That also goes for other popular activities like a kayaking outing or hiring a fishing guide to show you the local “hotspots”.
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.