Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

It’s Time

Boat Maintenance: Spring Commissioning

The warm breezes of spring are blowing into town, and the choppy ocean is beginning to calm down for spring, making you want to rush to take your boat out.

Halt. Wait a minute. Not so fast.

There are a couple of things you need to do before you back My Pride And Joy down the ramp or turn the ignition key. Even those of us in parts of the country where we can cruise virtually year round, need to take a step back and give a thorough once over to the boat we count on so far from shore.

Happily, spring commissioning need not be daunting if you follow a simple plan.

Mechanical Prep

Check the condition of your fluids and hoses. Replace as necessary, especially if you didn't change your fluids recently. Check hoses for loose hose clamps. Check fuel filters, air filters, spark plugs, and the flame arrestor. Clean or replace as applicable. Check the engine timing and make any necessary adjustments. Lubricate the throttle, steering, and shifting.

If you've got an inboard, check the engine block and manifold drain petcocks to make sure they close securely and do not leak. Replace if necessary. They should close securely. Replace if there is any sign of a leak. Check the stuffing box or shaft log for leakage.

Really Get In There

If you've got an outboard or stern drive, don't forget to check the raw water pump impeller to make sure it's pumping a healthy amount of water. If it's been two years since you replaced it, you may want to replace it now. Check the sterndrive bellows. Really get in there and look for signs of wear and/or cracking.

All boat owners should check their sacrificial zincs, and replace as needed. Zincs are cheap insurance, and they'll be much harder to change out later if you're going to leave your boat in the water.

Better To Do On The Dock

Check and charge your boat batteries, if applicable. Replace them if necessary. Better to do this at the dock than offshore. For example, an outboard needs at least 13.8 to 14.2 volts to trigger the magneto. Batteries more than three years old should be looked at carefully, especially in hot-weather climates. Go as low as 11 volts and the engine will spin without starting. Check the battery posts and all other connections for loose connections and/or corrosion.

Rinse the bilge thoroughly of any accumulated debris, or anti-freeze if you winterized last fall. Put a generous amount of marine bilge cleaner in the bilge to assure sanitary conditions if water accumulates. Make sure the electric bilge float arm is functioning properly. The bilge should go on when it is manually raised. Check that all bilge ducts, pipes and hoses are free of obstruction. A plumber's "snake" will clear most blockages.

The Exterior

The exterior of your boat needs to be thoroughly cleaned at least twice a year, if not more often, or you'll find yourself with a seasoned mess with stains that are more difficult to get out than they'd been if you hadn’t skipped this simple step.

First, close all the windows and hatches so the cleaning and rinse water only goes where you want it to, and remove any seat cushions, etc., that you didn't take off the deck during winterizing like you should have.

Think Shipshape Condition

Next, get out your brush collection, you're going to need them all — the soft polyester bristle brush for fiberglass gel coat, bottom paint and other painted areas and varnished wood, and the polypropylene brush with its stiff bristles is perfect for cleaning tough-to-clean non-skid decking and uncoated teak.

Remember, when cleaning teak, rub against the grain or you may remove the soft wood fibers between the grain as you scrub.

With proper winterizing, an extremely snug boat cover, and a little bit of luck, you may only need to use a general purpose cleaner such as Star brite's Super Green or their Super Orange Citrus Cleaner/Degreaser (800-327-8583; http://www.starbrite.com).

You can also go the wash-and-wax route, but we prefer to take the time at the beginning of the season to apply a more heavy-duty polymer-based polish such as Star brite PTEF with which we've had good results for a full season.

Every Three To Six Months

Apply a coat of polish every six months for best results — although waxing every three months is best to keep the boat in shipshape condition and combat the setting of future stains.

If, however, you find yourself with some stains that either weren't cleaned off properly during winterizing or, more likely, just happened over the winter, consider West Marine Pure Oceans Fiberglass Stain Remover (800-BOATING, http://www.westmarine.com), simply spray on, follow directions, and repeat as needed.

It's even gotten off tree sap stains from our deck, though two applications were necessary. General goop and stickiness, such as from changing out your registration sticker, can be removed quickly and easily with Release from BoatLife (800-382-9706; http://www.boatlife.com). Just spray on, let sit as directed and scrape off the softened adhesive or caulk. If you spray it in the wrong area, simply leave the area alone, and it will reharden just as if it had never been sprayed in the first place.

Start Scrubbing

Once you've worked on any particularly difficult stains, start scrubbing at the highest point on your boat and follow the washwater down. This will eliminate the chance of having to clean an area twice due to dirty washwater runoff. If the boat cleaner is drying on as you work, clean and rinse the boat in sections. A synthetic chamois will help you get the most out of your work, by drying the fiberglass to a high shine.

Once the boat deck and hull are in shipshape conditions, take out your docklines, cushions, etc. Wash them down with a boat wash and allow them to air dry. Coat cushion snaps with Vaseline for a season of easy on-and-off use.

Lubricate the zippers of your clear plastic enclosures and canvas boat cover zippers with a snap-and-zipper lubricant made for the marine environment, yes, Chapstick will work, but the results won’t last all that long. Use a product designed for the marine environment, such as Star brite’s PTEF Snap & Zipper lube.

To Be Continued (with suggestions for cabin commissioning) Next Issue

 

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