Boating Tips SPRING BOAT PREP CHECKLIST Posted 3/28/2010 It's been a long, cold winter even in areas of the country that are not used to dealing with snow and temperatures below freezing. Spring commissioning has always been a ritual in more northern latitudes, but if you are not familiar with the process here are some helpful tips and checklists that will make your boating safer and more enjoyable as we spring into the new season. For expert advice we called on Larry Smith, service manager at Garden State Yacht Sales on the Manasquan River in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. The facility boasts a complete ships store, is a certified Yamaha service center and dealer for six popular fishing and pleasure boat brands. Their service facility is first class and has highly trained technicians with years of experience winterizing and commissioning boats. "It might sound like a no brainer, but the first things you should check are the batteries," Larry advised. "Nothing else works if the batteries are weak or the terminals are fouled so disconnect the cables, wire brush the terminals and hook up a battery tester. If they are weak, now's the time to replace them. If they are in good shape, reattach the cables using Nylok® nuts." "You should always start the season with new fuel and oil filters. Ethanol fuels can cause big problems, and proper fuel filtration is a critical line of defense against engine damage. At Garden State we use Yamaha filters because they meet the highest performance standards. In fact, we use Yamaha parts and lubricants exclusively on the Yamaha engines we service." First replace the in line fuel filter(s) located between the tank and the engine and be sure to use 10-micron rated, water separator filters because small amounts of water can collect in fuel tanks from condensation during the colder months. Then replace the onboard fuel filter and VPS (vapor separator tank) filters, both located under the engine cowling. If your boat was properly winterized the engine oil (in four stroke outboards) and lower unit lubricants were replaced at that time. If not, change them now. Four-stroke outboard crankcase oil should be changed every 100 hours of operation or once a year, whichever comes first. Lower unit lubricant should be replaced annually in all outboards, more frequently if you use your boat a lot. Check the condition of the timing belt, and replace if damaged or it has over 1000 hours of operating time. Tension on this belt is maintained automatically. Spark plugs on four stroke outboards have a generous lifespan, but if the engine has over 100 hours you might want to have your dealer inspect them for wear and replace them if necessary. The outboard checklist is simple enough. Now let's look over the rest of the boat. With the battery cables hooked up and the switches turned on check all the electrical systems with special attention to the bilge pump(s) and automatic bilge pump switch. Then check the navigational lights and other systems. Inspect all thru-hull fittings, sea cocks and hose clamps to be sure they are water tight. If your boat has hydraulic steering inspect the steering head and rams at the engine to be sure the fittings are tight and there is no leaking. Then check the fluid level in the system to be sure it is at the recommended level. If the boat has cable steering, usually only on smaller boats, check the cables and connections for corrosion and lubricate as needed. If you keep your boat in a slip in a saltwater environment it most likely has antifouling paint on the bottom. Inspect the paint and take whatever steps are needed to renew it prior to launch. Now is the time to wash and wax the hull and interior to ward off the elements during the season. If you decide to clean the bilge use a biodegradable cleaner and allow to air dry. Last, but not least, purchase a new plug for the bilge drain and install it prior to splashing the boat. It's cheap insurance. As always, make sure to refer to the owner's manuals for your boat and outboard for specific details and always contact your local marine dealership if you have additional questions or would like an inspection. Your boat and outboard are ready for another season of safe, trouble free boating. Enjoy.