Floating ideas for boat preparation

ON THE OUTDOORS

March 02, 1997|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

For do-it-yourself boaters, the rites of late winter and early spring can set up a trouble-free season of boating. So, while the boat is on its trailer or still stored ashore, get out a pencil and paper and give the boat a thorough going over.

With all powered boats, start with the zincs that reduce electrolytic corrosion. Inspect them and replace as necessary. On inboard boats, check the propeller shaft for trueness and pitting or wear. Check the propeller for nicks, deep pits and bent or broken blades. If any are found, send the wheel out to be reconditioned or replace it.

While under the boat, check the integrity of the cutlass bearing by trying to move the propeller shaft from side to side and up and down. There should be virtually no movement; if there is, and the shaft is true, replace the cutlass bearing.

Inspect the bottom for osmotic blistering, circling any areas that are found for attention later, when they should be ground out, filled and faired. Check the through-hulls for watertightness, stress cracks and clogging, noting any problems found. A seeping or broken through hull fitting not found now can result in having the boat hauled again later in the season or sinking it while the owner is away.

If the boat has a rudder, check the rudder post, fittings and blades carefully -- especially blades that are older foam-filled models, which delaminate over time and are thereby greatly weakened. Sound them out, marking questionable areas and have a good shop inspect and/or repair the problem.

Move into the cockpit and inspect the drains, seals around instrument clusters, throttle and shift controls, cockpit locks and hasps and the helm. Note where areas need to be resealed and where lubrication is needed. Next, inspect the steering quadrant for integrity and the upper reaches of the rudder post for wear and trueness.

Move to the engine compartment and the stuffing box, giving it a quick inspection and noting that once back in the water it will have to be checked again for leaks -- there should be none when at rest and only an occasional drip when under way.

Check the transmission fluid, and change if necessary. Also check the engine oil level, which should have been changed along with the filter before the boat was laid up. Check both lubricants for the presence of water, and change out if any is found. After the engine has been run, change the oil and filter again to get out all contaminants.

Move to the water pumps and check the impellers (fresh water and saltwater on many freshwater cooled engines) if they have ** been left in through the winter. Even if they look fine, it is a good idea to change them out and keep used ones in good condition aboard as spares.

In freshwater cooled engines, check the coolant for discoloration and suspended particles. If either condition exists, drain the system, flush thoroughly with fresh water and fill with new coolant.

Check the fuel lines for wear, loose fitting or old hoses and tighten and replace as necessary. Change out the straining elements on all fuel filters, being certain to safely dispose of the contaminated fuel collected in the drain bowls.

Fuel tanks that have been left partially filled through the winter will have collected water through condensation through the winter and should be drained and refilled or properly treated with chemicals before the engine is started.

While in the engine room, clean the power plant, bilge and surrounding area so that once the engine has been fired up, leaks and drips will be easily spotted and minor problems easily corrected.

The electrical system also needs a thorough inspection to ensure that connections are tight and corrosion-free. Start at the main panel and check each connection for tightness and absence of corrosion. Tighten as needed and treat connections with an anti-corrosion spray. Inspect the wiring for chafing where it enters conduits that run through the boat, and trace each circuit as closely as possible.

The starting and charging circuits should receive close attention, especially the heavy cables that run from the batteries. A loose or corroded connection there will make starting the engine difficult -- even with fully charged batteries. Check each battery cell with a hydrometer for equal charges, and charge or replace the batteries as necessary.

Notebook in hand, move through the cabin and look for leaks from decks fitting, ports and hatches, note where the problems seem to originate and rebed or reseal problem areas. Leaks can be checked by wetting down the deck and cabin top and going below to watch for drips or torrents.

Then, move everything out of the boat, get a bucket, sponges and scrub brushes and start cleaning -- from the bilge to the headliner. For removing smells and bacteria, a cup of bleach in a bucket of water will work wonders -- especially in bilges, heads and hard to reach lockers. The same solution will also clean out a freshwater system, but be certain to flush the system thoroughly afterward.

Do not mix chlorine bleach with anything containing ammonia, because when mixed a lethal gas can be produced.

Once the dirty work of changing engines fluids and cleaning the interior has been completed, move to the deck and wash it down, wax non-traffic areas and compound non-skid patterns or other areas where good footing is required.

Check the rigging and lifelines, turnbuckles, anchor rollers and other deck hardware for proper tension and strength, and adjust replace.

Clean, compound and wax the topsides -- and then move to the bottom, where the dirtiest work is about to begin.

Referring to your notes and pencil marks on the hull, replace the zincs, reseal through hulls, grind out, fill and fair blisters, sand the whole bottom lightly unless there are heavy concentrations of barnacles castles and paint.

Certainly there will be some curves thrown during the season, but a good spring training can have you ahead of the game.

Pub Date: 3/02/97

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