Use March to prepare boats for spring

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 29, 2004

Special to the News-Herald

Pre-season baseball is now in full spring in Florida and Arizona, and the players are getting ready for a long season. The pitchers are ensuring their arms are in the best possible condition, the power hitters are spending time in the batting cage, and newly hired managers are assessing their players and forming plans for the season. In many ways, having a good season starts with preparation.

The same meticulous approach is needed to get ready for a safe and enjoyable recreational boating, regardless of the type of boat you own. Over the next few weeks I’m planning on providing some ideas to hold your own &uot;spring training&uot; for you and your boat. Like some baseball players the winter has been enjoyable, but now it is time to get ready for the season – with an eye towards the better prepared a boat is, the less chance of problems like engine failure or maintenance issues. These &uot;pre-season&uot; efforts needs to include the trailer, the safety equipment and the boat itself.

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How many times have you been driving down the road and see a pick-up truck or SUV with a boat riding in a trailer? Here in Hampton Roads these trailer rigs are very common, especially early Saturday and Sunday mornings. Filled with fishermen or sportsmen, fueled by hot coffee and their favorite breakfast sandwich groups are headed to the perfect spot. What a great way to spend a warm spring or summer day!

But how much effort have the owners put into checking those trailers? In some cases trailers have sat ideally alongside homes, or in the backyard exposed to the elements, which have been plentiful this winter. Think of the beating your deck has received – the same elements have also affected your trailer and all the hitch connections.

Sponsored by a Coast Guard grant the Sportsman’s Forum, a consortium of many different groups connected with hunting and fishing such as the Boat US Foundation, Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, Cabela’s, Ducks Unlimited, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and the North American Hunting and Fishing Club, have some great ideas on our first &uot;pre-season&uot; subject area.

Here are the first five of ten tips to check your boat trailer from their free &uot;Boating Tips For Hunters and Anglers.&uot; (We will look at the second five next week!)

Tip 1: &uot;Wiring: Check the wiring harness on the tow vehicle.&uot; You are looking for cracks or breaks in the connections.

Tip 2: Make sure all the lights are working on the trailer. There is only one way to do that – start the car or truck up, hitch everything up, and working with a friend, check the lights.

Tip 3: Hitch: &uot;Inspect hitch brackets and bolts for corrosion. Use Grade 8 bolts only. Unfortunately, you won’t find these at a hardware store. If you launch in saltwater plan on replacing the hitch every three years.

If you launch in freshwater some hitches will last the lifetime of the truck, but be sure you inspect it each year.&uot;

Tip 4: Trailer Connection: &uot;Check the receiver and slider. Separate, clean and lubricate with good quality grease (axle grease works fine). Remember salt water can make these two pieces in separable if this isn’t done once a year.&uot;

Tip 5: Brakes: &uot;Pull the rear wheels and check the breaks and seals.&uot; If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, work with a professional mechanic to conduct the inspection.

Getting ready by checking equipment and conducting maintenance for boating season in baseball’s pre-season – another wonderful way to enhance safety on the water.

Until next week, boat safe… and boat smart!

Joe DiRenzo III is a Maritime Homeland Security Technical Director with Anteon’s Center for Security Strategies and Operations. A retired Coast Guard officer, he has written the Recreational Boating column for the News-Herald for three years.