At last, winter is almost over and it's time to get your pontoon or deck boat out on the water! Skiing, wakeboarding, playing on the beach-it's all waiting for you and your family, just around the corner!
However, to ensure you don't run into any trouble on your first day back on the lake, here's a checklist of things to do. I know, I know, I sound like your mother, but just like she didn't want to see you unprepared for the first day of school, I'd hate to hear about how you were stranded on the reservoir for two hours because you didn't check your outboard.
-Boatsafe.com suggests you begin on the outside, performing a through cleaning of the hull, deck and topsides. If your pontoon's tubes are looking a little dull, try JJV's Best aluminum pontoon cleaner, available at www.jjvbest.com for $19.99 a gallon.
-Next, check your drains and scuppers to see if they are clear. Dirt and other materials can accumulate in these areas over the longs months of winter storage, depending on how covered your boat was.
- Clean your bimini top or other canvas coverings. A gallon of Doctor Klear's "Super Tuff" cleaner/degreaser is made specifically for canvas, bimini tops and all marine fabrics. It's available at Amazon.com for $44.99 a gallon.
-Clean the bilge pumps and other interior spaces. Get to the under-seat storage and ski locker, if applicable. This may be a good spot to use the Thetford Stain Remover we reviewed in the September issue of PDB. Available at www.thetford.com at $14.99 a quart, this cleaner did a good job removing bug stains and other leftover messes from past boating trips.
-Take a look at your tools and spare parts. Is the screwdriver you left under the seat now rusted beyond reclamation? Replace anything that is no longer functional.
-Make sure your registration is present onboard and current.
-Check your pontoons or hull for dings, nicks and other scratches. The Match'n Patch Gelcoat Repair Kit is handy for any fiberglass deck boat owner, designed to permanently repair gouges and other unsightly marks on your boat's hull. Available for $34.99 at www.defender.com.
-Check your railings to make sure they are still secured to the deck, and inspect your swim platform and/or ladder for loose bolts or screws.
-Check and recharge your batteries, if necessary. A handheld battery tester is available at www.marineengine.com for $20.03. The easy-to-read gauge immediately tells you if your battery is alive and ready to go or not.
-While you're at the battery, look for signs of corrosion. Clean the terminals.
-Inspect all wiring for chafing and other trouble spots.
-Test your gauges to make sure they are working properly.
-Test your lighting fixtures (safety and otherwise) and replace any burnt-out bulbs. If you don't already carry spare bulbs onboard, get some.
-Sound your horn. Your neighbors might not appreciate it, but hey, it's got to be tested sometime, right?
-Check your marine radio, if applicable.
-Inspect all personal flotation devices onboard. If any are looking old or worn down, consider replacing them with newer, safer models. See the article on kid safety in the Fall issue of PDB for more information on properly providing flotation devices for children.
-Take a look at your marine first aid kit. If you don't have one, a comprehensive 2.0 Medical Kit can be purchased at www.westmarine.com for $44.99.
-Check your compass and adjust it, if necessary.
-Test your bailer and hand pump. No one wants to be stuck in a boat that's taking on water without a way to get rid of it.
-For an inboard engine, check the following:
1. Change your oil and oil filters, and make sure you have extras of each onboard.
2. Check your cooling system and replace the coolant if necessary.
3. If you don't have one already, start an engine maintenance log, especially keeping track of oil changes.
4. Check your transmission fluid levels.
5. Check the impeller.
6. Inspect your bilge blower and clean water strainer for obstructions.
-For an outboard engine, check the following:
1. Inspect the spark plugs. If the white insulator around the center electrode is a light brown, you should be fine. Replace spark plugs that look worn down or corroded.
2. Check wiring for signs of wear.
3. Change and top off the gear lube.
4. Inspect the fuel lines and tank for any leaking.
5. Lubricate moveable parts. Sailkote Marine Lubricant spray is specially formulated to for marine use and is environmentally-friendly. Pick up a six-ounce spray bottle for $10.94 at Amazon.com.
6. Inspect the propeller for dings, cracks and distortions. Damaged propellers can lead to major damage down the road. Make sure it is secured properly.
There you have it, a checklist to ensure your summer of boating fun goes off without a hitch. For more information, visit www.discoverboating.com or www.boatsafe.com.