BoatWorks: Early-Spring Checklist

If your boat has been laid up for the winter, you’ll be dying to get back aboard and start getting it ready for the new season. The sooner you begin on the essentials, the more wiggle room you’ll have when the inevitable last-minute jobs crop up close to launch time. It might be too cold to paint, varnish, or use epoxy before April, but here are five things you should be able to take care of now.

  1. If your batteries were fully charged and topped up with electrolyte before you laid up the boat, they should be good to go after a gentle trickle charge. If not, now is the time to find out. Last week, on my first visit to the boat since December, I found one battery in perfect condition; the other, to which the bilgepump was hard-wired, was completely dead and beyond resuscitation. I’d neglected to plug in the float-charger, and the discharged battery’s electrolyte had frozen on the many nights when the temperature plunged to below 15 degrees. If you removed the terminals from the battery posts, clean them up with fine-grit sandpaper until they’re bright on the contact surfaces, then replace them.
  2. If you replaced your running rigging with messengers when you laid the boat up, pat yourself on the back. Your halyards and sheets will be much more pleasant to use than if they’d sat in the elements all winter. Now’s a good time to put them back. They won’t come to any harm even if it rains and snows for another month.
  3. Varnish your cabin sole. If you have access to a heated basement or garage, take your dull, scuffed floorboards home, rub them down, and apply the potion of your choice. You’ll be glad you did.
  4. It’s a good time to give the plumbing system a going-over. Trapped water may have frozen and split a pipe; hose clamps may have rusted to the point where they’re about to disintegrate. Follow all the tubing runs and give every hose clamp a tweak with a screwdriver.

  5. If you didn’t change the engine coolant at laying-up time, now is a good time to do it. The stuff loses its efficiency over time and needs to be changed nearly as often as your oil. While you’re messing about in the engine compartment, you may as well check the hoses and exhaust system and the alternator drive belt. If it’s frayed or shows signs of splitting or cracking, replace it now.

There’s much more you could do, but getting these basic jobs out of the way will go a long way toward making sure you get the most out of the new boating season.

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Posted: March 14, 2008

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