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Have You Visited Your Boat This Winter?

By badriance - Published January 12, 2009 - Viewed 3041 times

You Should -- It Could Save You a Lot of Headaches in the Spring


Winter usually means that boats don't get visited as much because they're used less, but they still need you. And it doesn't take nasty weather to cause problems with an unattended boat; a slow leak or an errant fender can add up to damage that could be avoided with a routine inspection.


Schedule Some Time for Your Boat

The best thing you can do for you boat in the off-season is to visit it regularly. If your boat’s at a dock, try to visit it a couple of times a month. If that’s not practical, you can make arrangements with other boat owners at the marina to check on each other’s boats. If nothing else, call you marina and ask them to do a cursory check.


An inspection doesn’t have to take all day. Anything from a quick check to a thorough inspection, if done regularly, can go a long way toward insuring a trouble-free season next year.


Here are some things you can do to prevent a phone call that starts with, “Hi, this is your marina calling. There’s a problem with your boat...”



v      If your boat’s in the water, begin by checking the waterline. Is there a change? Check docklines at the dock and boat for security and chafe. Adjust the chafeguards if necessary (you do have chafeguards, right?) Make sure your fenders are placed properly and check for any hull marks that might signal a problem.


v      If your boat is stored ashore, check the jackstands, cradle or trailer to make sure the boat hasn’t shifted. The boat should be level so that water doesn’t cause stains or, worse, leaks down below. If a jackstand has shifted, don’t try to adjust it yourself; contact marina personnel.


v      Check cockpit scuppers and drains for blockage. Boats are sunk each year because leaves or snow prevented water from draining. Even boats stored ashore can “sink” when pooled water finds its way below.


v      Examine your boat cover. Look for the beginning of tears, loose fittings, and chafe. Make sure that the cover isn’t allowing water to accumulate or inadvertently funneling water where it shouldn’t.


v      If you have a sailboat with roller furling, be sure that it is wrapped securely and can’t unfurl in a blow. Better yet, take the sail home.


v      With powerboat outdrives, examine the bellows (flexible rubber connections that seal the outdrive and cables from the boat). Make sure your wheel or tiller is secured to prevent rudder damage from boat movement.


v      Inspect shore powercords beginning at the dock pedestal and follow to the inlet on your boat. Corrosion on the plug’s blades or inlet can cause heat and if bad enough, a fire. Make sure the cord can’t get into the water or get crushed against the dock.


v      Check doors, companionways, and hatches. Make sure that no one can easily get into (or has gotten into!) your boat.



v      The first thing to do when you get inside your boat is sniff. Does the boat smell moldy? There could be a leak. Any electrical odor? It’s possible that a circuit could be over loaded or shorted -- find the source. Any other smells like gasoline, propane or vermin need to be investigated right away.


v      Check portlights and hatches for leaks and look for water stains. Better to take care of the problem now than have to delay your boating season with repairs next spring.


v      Inspect your bilge. Any standing water means a leak, and even a small leak can eventually sink a boat. Check the operation of the bilge pump and float switch. If you’re not sure if your bilge pump is coming on while you’re away, consider installing a bilge pump cycle counter.


v       Ensure that all thru-hulls are closed (with the exception of cockpit drains) -- many a cracked or slipped hose has sunk a boat.


v       While you’re checking, it’s not a bad idea to open and close each seacock a couple of times to keep them from seizing. If the boat is stored ashore, now is a good time to take sticky seacocks apart for servicing.


Engine Compartment

v      Inspect your batteries for terminal corrosion and top off with distilled water (if you have conventional wet cells). If you have a multi-meter, you can check the state of charge. -- 12.6 volts is typically fully charged but can be as high as 13.8 if attached to a charger. A bilge pump needs a fully charged battery to work properly, but keep in mind dead batteries don’t sink boats -- they’re just a symptom of a larger problem.


v      Check hoses, clamps, and wires. Sometimes a gentle tug can uncover a problem and prevent a disaster. Don’t forget to check fittings for your generator if you have one.


v      Look for any fuel, oil, or cooling water leaks.


v      If your boat’s stored in the water, pay special attention to your stuffing box; leaking stuffing boxes sink boats every year. A stuffing box should not drip at all when not in use.


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