De-winterizing Your Boat & Pre-launch Checklist

sailboat ready for boat seasonWhen the sun comes out and spring is officially here, most boaters start to feel the pull of the water. However, it’s very important to check your boat for damage that may have occurred over the winter.

If it is stored outside in a cold climate harsh winter weather can take their toll on watercraft, so now is the time to check for corrosion, engine damage or deterioration of any exposed canvas or vinyl. If you followed a boat winterizing protocol, chances are you’ll only have to do minimal work to get your boat ready. However, if you neglected this step, our pre-launch spring checklist will walk you through the process.

  • Check your owner’s manual for the list of fluids that should be replaced. Most manuals are also available online or through your local boat dealership. To make things easier, gather all the fluids you’ll need before you start working on your boat.
  • Examine and replace the wipers.  Most boaters remove and store wipers away from the elements over winter to preserve them. Now is the time to get them out and examine their condition. Wipers are inexpensive to replace, but if you don’t want to go that route, you can also preserver them with a rubber lubricant. And remember to keep an extra set on board for easy repairs during the season.
  • Do a full boat inspection. Look your boat over carefully, both inside and out. Pay special attention to the canvas, vinyl and upholstery that may have been damaged over the winter. Look for dirt or mildew and clean or repair the spots now before they have time to spread. When you examine the hull, look for blisters, chips, cracks or a chalky appearance.

If your boat was stored indoors and was not winterized ensure that the water in the block did not freeze during a power outage in the building. Damage caused by freezing is generally not covered by boat insurance. If this is a future concern of yours check to see if your boat insurance company offers “freeze coverage” to insure against these types of damages. Make repairs as necessary.

  • Give the engine some TLC. Unless you changed the oil and other fluids in the fall, plan to replace them all now. This is also a good time to replace the oil filter. Make sure all fluid levels are correct and test or replace the boat’s batteries. Once you’ve done your maintenance, fire up the engine and make sure everything is humming the way it should.
  • Give the hull the good cleaning. The hull will need a good exterior cleaning with your favorite marine cleaner and then a fresh wax.
  • Swab the deck. Give every surface a wipe down and a polish so that your boat looks like new. Pay attention to your bright work (the metal and teak) and polish as required to keep everything shining. Don’t let these elements get tarnished or neglected because long-term damage could require significant repair work. Take a preventative approach and use quality polishes for the metals and sand and re-varnish the fine woods as needed.
  • Test the gadgets. Before you head out on the water, make sure all your electronics are running properly. Don’t just turn them on; test everything thoroughly so your safety isn’t compromised. Test all of it – radio, compass, GPS, depth finder and all other marine electronics.
  • Inspect your life jackets and other safety equipment. Check that all of your life jackets are in good shape, and that you have enough for anticipated passengers. Replace safety equipment that is not up to par.
  • Review your boat insurance coverage. Review your boat insurance coverage to make sure the policy is active and that it provides adequate coverage for your current situation. For example if you are traveling out of the country you’ll want to ensure that your marine insurance policy covers you there.  Also ensure that you not only have adequate hull insurance for your boat but also liability coverage. Once you have the right boat insurance in place, it’s time to get out on the water and soak up the sunshine.

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