At the halfway point through the first month of the year, people are starting to turn their minds to spring. March may seem far away, but time marches on and before you know it, you’ll be standing by a hibernating boat wondering why you didn’t use the remaining weeks of winter to get it ready for the water.
Keeping your boat in good working order is as much a part of the boating experience as the boating itself. Your pride and joy has been sitting in storage doing very little for the best part of four months, so it’s going to need some TLC before it’s ready to get back on the water.
Here are the three key things you need to know when ‘waking’ your boat from a long hibernation in winter storage.
Safety first – checking safety equipment should always be at the top of your to-do list. Boating will only be fully enjoyable if you have the peace of mind that you are prepared in the event of an emergency, so remember to make the following important checks before going anywhere near the water.
Make sure that essential safety equipment remains in good working condition, checking expiry dates as part of the process. This includes life jackets and flares, and you should also check that your fire extinguishers are the correct class for your boat, as well as being easily accessible and fully charged.
You may also wish to update or replace old charts and waterway guides so that you don’t lose your way on your springtime voyages.
There’s no point making all the effort to get your boat into the water only to find that the engine has taken its hibernation a little too far and stopped working completely. Always test the engine and fuel systems before taking to the water, as this will save you a lot of hassle – and remember to do so in an open, well-ventilated area.
There are a few procedures you need to follow when assessing your boat’s engine. These include:
- Installing fresh spark plugs
- Changing lower gear case oil
- Checking all fluid levels
- Lubricating all moving connections
- Reconnecting fuel lines
- Tightening or replacing any loose or rusty hose clamps if necessary.
Now is also the time to reconnect any electronics you might have disconnected in the autumn – remember to test each item before you launch. Testing prior to launch is a key lesson to keep in mind whether you are an experienced sailor or have just started sailing lessons.
With regards to the fuel system, you should;
- Inspect it for leaks
- Check hoses for softness, brittleness and cracking as this can indicate damage
- Clean and tighten both ends of the battery cables
- Check the battery water level and test it to make sure it can still hold a charge.
- Ensure the propeller is secured
Another crucial element of your springtime inspection is the trailer. Before you take your boat out of self storage, give the trailer a thorough check:
- Make sure the rollers or bunks on your trailer are in good working condition
- Check the winch straps and chains for signs of damage
- Ensure the latch on your coupler is functioning as it should.
You should also make more basic checks, such as inspecting tyre treads and sidewalls for cracks or lack of tread, as well as testing turn signals and brake lights. When your boat is on the trailer, you may wish to swell the planks by wetting the bottom to confirm you will not overtake the bilge capacity at launch.
Finally, make sure your registration is current – then you’re ready to explore Britain’s best sailing destinations. What are you waiting for?