Boat preparation is vital prior to the start of boating season. Follow our pre-launch guidelines to help maintain the various systems on your watercraft ahead of season.
PREPARE YOURSELF FOR BOATING SEASON
Take advantage of the off-season days with these informative preparation steps.
- Enroll in a boating safety course if you haven’t taken one already. Not only will this help you save on your boat insurance, but the course is filled with worthwhile advice for safe navigation of the craft. Find a class from a qualified organization, sponsored by either the US Coast Guard, the US Power Squadron, or offered through your state’s boating authority.
- Read through your watercraft’s manual and the recommended maintenance guidelines put forth by the manufacturer.
- Do a walk-through of your boat. Refresh your memory on its systems, components, features, equipment, and safety precautions.
BOAT PRE-LAUNCH INSPECTION AND CHECKLIST
Watercraft Display and Documentation
Check that all required documentation is current and aboard your vessel prior to the start of boating season. Recreational watercraft should have a state-issued Certificate of Number displayed on the front of the vessel and all federal registration documents readily available.
If the vessel is owned by a U.S. citizen and measures at least five net tons, it is required to carry a Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation. In addition, if the watercraft is insured, keep all insurance cards and documents aboard the craft.
It is vital to check that all safety equipment on the watercraft is properly working and up-to-date. Here are the minimum regulations from U.S. Coast Guard.
- Personal Flotation Devices: All flotation devices aboard the vessel must be Coast Guard approved. Watercraft less than 16’ must have one Type I, II, III, or V per person. Watercraft bigger than 16’ must have one Type I, II, III, or V per person and one Type IV throw-able device.
- Fire Extinguishers: Boats less than 26' must have one B-I fire extinguisher. 26'-40' boats must have two B-I extinguishers or one B-II extinguisher and boats40'-65' must have three B-I extinguishers or one B-II and one B-I extinguisher.
- Visual Distress Signals: Watercraft less than 16’ must have night signals when operating between sunset and sunrise. Watercraft longer than 16’ must have a minimum of three day-use and three night-use pyrotechnic devices.
- Sound Producing Devices: Boats with a length less than 39.4’ must have a horn, whistle, or other device capable of producing sound. Boats larger than 40’ must also have one bell able to produce a 4 second blast for half a mile.
- Backfire Flame Arrestors: Gas-powered watercraft of all sizes must have one Coast Guard approved device on each carburetor.
- Ventilation: All size watercraft must have one Coast Guard approved powered system.
- Pollution Regulations: All boats must follow the “honor system” when it comes to polluting. Boats larger than 26’ must have a 5’’ X 8’’ oil discharge placard and a 4’’ X 9’’ MARPOL trash placard. Watercraft over 39.4’’ must have a waste management plan in addition.
- Marine Sanitation Devices: Any toilet installed on a boat under 65’ must be a CG-certified Type I, II, or III marine sanitation device. Vessels over 65’ can only have Type II or III devices.
- Navigation Devices: All boaters should be familiar with the recommended rules, but vessels 39.4’ and over are required to have a current copy of the USDOT USCG International – Inland Navigation Rules aboard.
- Examine all electrical connections on the watercraft and check that they function correctly.
- Charge or reinstall all batteries as needed.
- Clean and tighten all connections, especially terminals of battery cables.
- Coat battery terminals with insulating grease or with a protective battery terminal spray.
Engine and Fuel System
Check that the engine and fuel system is in proper operation. Some basic steps to take are on our engine maintenance checklist below:
- Replace engine and transmission cooler zincs.
- Inspect engine mounts.
- Replace engine heater plugs.
- Replace fuel filters.
- Clean or replace engine air filter.
- Check the oil cooler for leaks.
- Check level of the oil reservoir.
- Check hose clamps for corrosion and replace if necessary.
- Commission engine at dock - check fluids, cooling, and oil pressure.
- Soap and scrub bilges and engine pan and replace oil absorbent pads.
Belts, Cables, and Hoses
- Inspect hoses and clamps for leaks and corrosion.
- Inspect exhaust elbows.
- Replace engine belts.
- Inspect the boat's steering controls and linkage. Lubricate and adjust as necessary.
- Inspect wear ring and impeller.
Take the time to care for your boat trailer to prevent corrosion and breakage.
- Rinse the trailer before the start of season and with each use.
- Check for rust spots and remove them with a wire brush and a galvanizing component as needed.
- Grease the trailer’s wheel bearings and replace them when necessary.
- Inspect the remaining parts of the trailer, including the bunk, brakes, lights, tires, and bow straps.
- Lubricate the coupler and tongue jack. Check to make sure the fastener pin is secure, and the surrounding bolts are tight.
- Replace any faulty components.
Propellers and Hull
- Replace raw water pump impellers and gasket.
- Inspect and clean raw water strainers.
- Service hull sea cocks by removing barnacles and growths, lubricating the sea cocks, and confirm proper operation.
- Examine the condition of shaft and boots.
- Clean propeller growths and check for damage to blades.
- Install new zinc.
Outdrives and Outboards
- Check the outdrive for cracks.
- Check hydraulic trim fluid and replace if necessary.
- Check lower-unit lubrication level.
- Replace holding tank filter.
- Commission fresh water system and fill water tank.
- Test all water systems and remove all non-toxic antifreeze, including head, shower sump, deck faucet, and all spigots in head and galley.
- Prep and paint lower unit as needed.
- Clean and paint strainers.
- Prep and paint bottom.
- Clean swim platform, boarding ladder, and boarding step.
- Re-install exterior cushions and canvas.
- Inspect swage fittings and replace as necessary.
- Check halyards and sheets for wear.
- Inspect for “fishhooks” in wires.
- Lubricate turnbuckle threads.
- Rinse chain plates to check for leaks.
- Inspect chain plates for rust.