Preparing for Boating Season
Launch time is here and it’s time to start preparing for the upcoming boating season. Tasks vary depending on the boat you own as well as the type of boating you may undertake. Below is a “short list” of some important procedures that should be on your complete list of things to do to get ready for spring launch.
Vessel preparation and maintenance: This varies depending on the type of boat you own. Insure that your engine or engines have all oils and lubricants topped off or replaced based on recommended maintenance schedules. Insure that a certified engine mechanic has performed an engine check and tuned the engine(s) to insure best performance and fuel economy. Inspect all engine belts for wear and replace if worn. If your outboard motor lower gear-case oil was not changed when winterized, change it now. Check the water pump impeller.   Check other types of equipment on board including bilge pumps to insure they are operating properly. Flush your water system. You can buy products that are added directly to the water holding tank to improve the water’s taste and smell. Make a list of spare parts you should carry in case you have a breakdown. Your mechanic or marine parts manager can give you recommendations.
Navigation and safety equipment: Absolutely check your navigation lights! Do you have replacement bulbs for running lights, anchor light, etc.? Are your navigation charts current?Do you have the right number and type of flares and are they current. Check your electronic equipment such as VHF radios, radar, and GPS. What is the condition of your PFDs and do you have the right sizes and number and are they Coast Guard approved? Don’t forget to inspect the condition of your docklines, anchor line and running rigging. As an option, contact Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadron to see when you can arrange a courtesy vessel inspection to insure you have everything you need legally on board; fire extinguishers, etc.
Trailer Maintenance: The majority of the boats in Michigan are trailerable boats. If you are one of these owners, here are a few maintenance suggestions for your trailer. Check the condition of your tires including the spare. Have the wheel bearings been checked, greased and/or replaced if need be. Have someone check your lights to insure all are working properly- brake lights, turn signals, etc. Check rollers and support pads. Check your trailer hitch and all related equipment to see if it is functioning properly (Don’t use a 1 7/8” ball for a 2” adapter). Inspect the trailer safety chains and also the wire rope and trailer winch.
Trip Preparation: If you are planning a boat trip (pull your trailer boat or cruise to a vacation destination), consider making your plans soon. Once you have determined where you want to travel, you can select a commercial marina or harbor that provides transient slips and in many cases, you can make advanced reservations. But the longer you wait, the less likely space will be available. Even the marina at Mackinaw Island takes reservations as an example; but space goes quickly.  
All The Other Stuff: Make a list and build on it year to year as you find things you need while boating including things like: extra towels and blankets, cleaning supplies, quarters and laundry detergent for the laundromat, sun screen, updated cruising guide, a deck of cards, cork screw, shower sandals, first aid kit, bubble wrap to protect fragile items, a portable grill, sleeping bags with zip-out sheets and folding chairs which are easily stored and great for the beach.
Planning ahead insures a good start for the boating season and great fun for you and your family.
Article By Van W. Snider, Jr., CAE
President, Michigan Boating Industries Association
For more information about boating safety and preparation, read these helpful articles: