Spring is definitely in the air and the itch to get on the water is becoming unbearable. We talked about getting fishing gear ready in the last article, so let’s move on to getting the boat ready to hit the water.
‘Dewinterization’ is the term used for the spring preparation of a boat. This, of course, is assuming there was actual ‘winterization’ of the boat. This should have included oil and filter replacement, fuel stabilization, new spark plugs, lower unit oil changed (outboards only), add antifreeze to fresh water systems, battery removed and stored, shift cables and steering system lubricated, and lastly shrink wrapped or store the boat inside. If you did none of this, then the dewinterization can get very expensive with repairs.
To start the spring prep, first make sure all batteries are charged and are holding a charge. Before installing them, clean the battery terminals and cable ends. Use lock nuts when attaching the cables as wing nuts tend to loosen up. Coast Guard regulations require that the battery be secured and the battery posts covered. Now you can test the electrical systems like the bilge pump, radio, navigation lights, GPS, depth finder, trim tabs, engine tilt motor, and other systems that require power. Obviously fix these items before splashing the boat. With electrical systems that aren’t functioning properly first check the fuse and then the connections before replacing the item that doesn’t work. Some electronics such as a radar unit will have a fuse on the unit itself which often gets overlooked.
Any antifreeze in the water systems also needs to be removed and the systems flushed. The proper antifreeze used for this process is non toxic, usually pink in color. If you used the green stuff that goes in cars, then first — don’t do it again, and second — dispose of it properly (not in the ground or down a drain). After the systems are flushed, check the engine(s) top to bottom. For inboard engines, look in the bilge for any fluid leakage. Check the oil level, coolant level, steering fluids, and transmission oil. Look over the fuel lines for any cracks or loose connections. Through hull “seacocks” should be checked for functionality and greased and the hose connections should be tested and tightened. On an outboard engine I like to change the lower unit’s water impeller annually and take the propeller off and grease it. It’s a good idea to change impellers in any seawater pumps if they get a lot of use; this is easier now than after the boat is in. Check the control cables and connections, they should move easily — any resistance can indicate the need for replacement.
Now is the engine start-up procedure. First, you have to make sure the fuel system is primed, meaning there should be fuel in the lines and fuel pump. The engine manual explains how to do this. Engines that have electric fuel pumps can be damaged if the system is not primed properly, so make sure this step is not skipped. Next, hook up a water source. Outboards and inboards needs water as a coolant; a garden hose works. You’ll hook the hose up to what we call ‘ear muffs’ for outboards, inboard engines can receive a water supply at the strainer if a hose connection isn’t available on the engine. Now you can start the engine and watch for water to come from the exhaust or telltale. If there’s no water, stop the engine and check the water supply. A bad impeller can also prevent water from moving through the engine if it wasn’t changed. Once you have the engine running with water flow, check your dash gauges for operation. As the engine runs at idle speed listen for any inconsistencies or strange noises. For inboard engines, look in the bilge again and use a flashlight to look over the engine for any leaks. Shift the engine into gear, forward and reverse, then neutral. If you have a safety stop lanyard, use it to shut the boat down as a test of this system.
You’re almost there! Put a coat of bottom paint and buff the hull with a couple coats of quality wax and you’re ready to go fishing.
This is all stuff a boat owner should know how to do and there is a learning curve. If you aren’t mechanically inclined, or don’t have the time, we are fortunate on Block Island to have top-notch outboard mechanics at Block Island Marine. Tim Keane is the best and stays busy keeping up with the island boaters’ needs. So, if you can’t do it yourself don’t be shy and hire the experts.
Catch ‘em up!