Time to get that boat ready

Published 9:43 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2017

By Susan and Biff Andrews

The 70-degree days of late have boaters ready for the water. But are you really ready? Following is a checklist of preparations to make sure that your watery adventures go smoothly.

Operator’s legal requirements


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The operator of any powered craft over 10hp must have a boat registration card (certificate of number) that shows it’s your boat and legally registered with the state.

The operator must also have a card showing that he or she has passed a boater safety course. This requirement was slowly trickled in over the past seven years or so, but now all operators need one, even us 70-year-olds who have been on the water for 65 years. A reminder: Personal watercraft operators must be 14 years old or older.

Vessel’s legal requirements

The boat’s registration numbers must be displayed on both sides of the bow, as prescribed by law. Check your running lights (red/green bow), your 360-degree anchor light (white)(stern), three flares (check date), a whistle or horn, fire extinguisher, anchor and line, paddle and a flashlight.

There must be a wearable Personal Flotation Device for each person on board that fits — no babies in an extra-large Type 2 device.

Concerning anchors, I’d personally suggest a light “working” anchor (a lunch hook) for most uses and a stowed-away “storm” anchor — one that you know will hold in any conditions — for emergencies. Fishermen can carry a light rebar wreck anchor.

Other optional equipment

Older and wiser folk might also want to have aboard a marine radio, a GPS, a weather radio (redundancy, redundancy), bug repellent, sunscreen and emergency water bottles. And a roll of toilet paper (and a bucket). And a tool kit. And a roll of duct tape.

Check and prepare your engine

You are required by law to have an emergency disconnect switch — the little clippy kill switch thing you’re supposed to attach to your belt in case you go overboard. The day will come when you WILL attach it.

You need to run your engine on land for a while, especially if it was winterized. Consider new spark plugs, an oil change (for an inboard or four stroke outboard), a lower unit oil change, fuel filters, and check the flexibility of fuel lines.

Check your prop for dings. The smallest one will cause vibration.

Check your trailer

First, check tire tread and inflation. Over the winter they will have lost some air. Check wheel bearings and grease, whether or not you have bearing buddies. Check all the lights — running, turning, and brake lights. Check the condition of straps, tie downs and safety chains (the ones you criss-cross under the tongue as well as the one from boat to trailer). And check and lubricate your winch and its rope/strap/wire. Grease your rollers, if you have them. Check the carpeting on your bunks.

Finally, a shakedown cruise

No fishing, skiing or whatever on this cruise.

When trailering, check the temps of your tires. When launching, check rollers and winch line at full extension. Idle at the dock (out of others’ way) for five minutes. Bring the boat up on plane for five to 10 minutes. Retrieve. Flush and rinse with fresh water. Wax the hull if you wish.

And then you’re ready for a summer of fun! (It’s not easy being the captain.)

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.