The weather lately has been in the high 70s and low 80s so no matter what the official season may be in the rest of the world, as far as I am concerned right here in Southeast Texas it is summer. For you folks that are not native Texans you must understand that in Texas we have historically run by our own clocks, calendars, and rules, and at best simply tolerate what the rest of the world may wish to think.
This is the time most Texans begin to get their boats ready it for the lake, river, bayou, or Gulf of Mexico. Where you are going to take your boat is not important, all that matters is get it ready and get some of this pretty weather all over you. However, before you back the transom into the water you better make a thorough inspection of the boat and everything attached and associated with the first proposed trip of the year.
Boats and accessories, like almost everything else in our lives, have gotten more and more high tech, which brings us a few benefits and a whole lot of over engineered cow patties. Therefore unless you really know what you are doing I suggest you take your boat to a reputable shop to get the work done properly. If you don’t know where to start I can recommend Glen Gillis at Lakeside Boat Repair.
If you are one of those handy boaters who are blessed with mechanical and electrical skills, I would guess that in 2020 you are among the minority, so let us take a quick look at some of the things that need to be considered before launch time.
Inspect and replace hose clamps as necessary. I subscribe to the idea to double clamp fuel lines and exhaust hoses with marine-rated stainless steel hose clamps. While not technically required, it’s a wise move to double clamp whenever possible on all hoses — especially those below the waterline.
While you are checking clamps you might as well examine all hoses for stiffness, rot, leaks, and cracking, and replace any that are faulty or even just suspect. Make sure they fit snugly and this is a good time to change any that may not last the summer.
While your boat is out of the water you might examine the prop for dings, pitting, and distortion and if you find any contact a shop who has the tools to repair your prop properly. At the same time you are checking your prop and that area of your boat make sure the cotter pins are secure.
On inboard drive systems grip the prop and try moving the shaft up and down and side to side. If it’s loose and can be wiggled, the cutless bearing may need to be replaced. While you are back there check out the rudderstock to ensure it hasn’t been bent. Operate the wheel to make sure the steering works correctly and easily. Also check the engine shaft and rudder stuffing boxes for correct adjustment. A stuffing box should leak no more than two drops each minute when the prop shaft is turning. At the same time while your boat is high and dry look over the hull for blisters, distortions, and stress cracks.
Engine outdrives and outboards have a few unique items to check so let’s take a look at some of those.
Periodically you need to check out rubber outdrive bellows for cracked, dried and/or deteriorated spots (look especially in the folds) and replace if suspect. Do not fall prey to the thought process of, “It should last a while.” With Murphy’s Law alive and well you know it will become a problem at a most inopportune time, so be proactive and get it taken care of now.
If you have power steering and power trim check the oil levels as well as the free and complete motion range of each when operated. Out on the lake is not the time to discover they aren’t working properly. This is also a good time to examine lower unit oil level and top up as necessary and look for signs of leaks.
The outer jacket of control cables should be closely examined from end to end for cracks or swelling that can indicate corrosion and mean that the cable must be replaced. When I say “examine closely” I recommend you run your hands as well as your eyes over the cables, because sometimes you can feel a slight bulge before you can see it.
Seeing as how we live in a world of electric everything, your electrical system is important because most boats will not operate without batteries. We have truly made a rod for our own backs, so enjoy it because sooner or later it will come back to bite us. Anyway, let’s take a look at some basic electrical items to check.
To start with, use a wire brush to clean battery terminals, both ends of battery cables, and then top up cells with distilled water (if applicable). After everything is clean, tighten the electrical connections and charge the batteries.
So to narrow down the odds of anything severe going wrong on your first boating outing do a little preliminary checking and that way after you launch your boat you and the family will be ready to get down to some serious playing on the water.