When weather on the water goes down

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 30, 2002

How was Thanksgiving? Did you have an opportunity to enjoy a nice meal and give thanks? I hope so.

This week, with cold weather firmly in place, recreational boaters should consider shifting their mind set to using the colder weather to pull their vessels from the water and perform preventive maintenance that will ensure that their boats are ready to go when the warm weather returns to Hampton Roads. The subject of preventive care is something we’ll explore over the next three weeks.

How important is a good preventive maintenance program to the safe and successful operation of your vessel? Well, look at it this way: how many of you change the oil in your truck or car every 3,000 to 4,000 miles? I would hope the vast majority of you either do it yourself or take your care to be serviced.

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We change the oil in our car, have our tires rotated, have tune-ups completed, etc because we want to get the maximum performance from one of the most expensive possessions, next to our home, that we own.

In addition to helping to maintain value a well-maintained car also performs better. Same applies to a vessel. Most importantly a good maintenance schedule may prevent a break-down – which can ruin your whole day.

How do you approach maintenance? There are actually several very good and relatively inexpensive books that have been written on the subject. A quick check of Amazon.com

displayed 166 different publications from books looking at fiberglass repair to &uot;Quick and Easy Boat Maintenance.&uot;

If you are more into using computers there are even computer programs out there which manage the maintenance of your vessel, using a Web-based maintenance application. They provide a unique solution to marine maintenance of single engine power boats to larger motor yachts.

So the option is yours. The important thing is that you do have a maintenance system set up.

Actually, this is the easy part. I recommend you break your program down into the following four areas:

– The decks and hull

– The engine system

– The electronics

– The trailer you pull it with.

This week will focus on the deck and hull. We’ll look specifically at fiberglass and aluminum hulls. One of the important things, whether your boat is in and out of the water is to do a good visual inspection for cracks, even very small ones.

If there are cracks or other signs of fatigue in the hull then this needs area of concern to be identified to the marina or boat maintenance you are working with as you build your work list.

In the case of an aluminum deck the big issue is corrosion. As Safeboat.com provides, &uot;Metals on boats corrode quickly, especially in a salt water environment, if not adequately maintained.&uot; Just as with fiberglass, if you see areas of concern, get them on the work list early.

Do the same type of visual inspection on your deck. There will be some obvious wear and tear in this location but serious cracks need to be addressed. In all cases use this off-season time period to clean and refurbish your hull. A cracked fiberglass hull is not a pleasurable experience.

Fiberglass needs fresh water and as non-abrasive soap as possible. In the case of aluminum a number of quality products are available.

In all cases start with hull as you build your maintenance plan for the off-season. Next week we’ll look at the engine systems.

Until then, Boat Safe…and Boat Smart!

LCDR Joe DiRenzo III is a resident of Suffolk and a regular columnist for the News-Herald.