It’s that time of year when the weather starts to improve and the possibility of getting back on the water seems inevitable. With the excitement and anticipation of those first days aboard, it’s important to put together a spring commissioning to-do list or download one of countless lists available online. Some are more comprehensive than others, but in the mad rush to push off from the dock, there may be a few things that get overlooked. Those forgotten items can in turn end up being issues that cut into precious time afloat. Below are some often-overlooked items that can make a difference in the coming season, and how to handle them.
Below the Waterline
Doing all the standard commissioning with your engine and drivetrain will ensure a hassle-free season. Your list should include checking and replacing any anodes that are worn away. These include anodes on the engine itself and any others such as prop shaft anodes and those found on trim tabs, rudders and ground plates. When replacing anodes in the Heartland area make sure you do so with magnesium and not aluminum or zinc. Magnesium does a better job of sacrificing itself in freshwater that is less conductive than brackish water or saltwater.
It’s also important to check all your intakes and thru hulls. While your boat was in storage over the winter, all kinds of wildlife may have found these hidey-holes to be a great spot to get out of the elements. Unless checked and cleared, they could prove troublesome.
Whether you have an outboard or outdrive, overlooking the need to replace impellers could be the difference between a great day on the water and an overheated engine. Impellers can dry out over the winter months and become cracked and brittle.
Lower unit oil should also be looked at. If it’s at a lower level than it should be and looks cloudy, you may have a prop shaft seal problem, and having it replaced will avoid issues in the future.
Always check the fuel, fuel tank, fuel lines and filters before starting engines, making sure they’re free of water and contaminants. It’s also a good idea to remove engine covers and cowlings to make sure insects or other wildlife have not set up residence on or around the engine. Starting things up with critters or their bedding material nearby can draw debris into carburetors and intakes and could result in costly repairs.
Above deck there’s always a big list of things to do, including a thorough detailing. A good wash and wax will help maintain the aesthetics of the boat and will also help in keeping it shipshape.
An important and often overlooked step in detailing is to clean and wax your non-skid decks. There re specialized cleaners just for this purpose that include PTEF, a protectant that helps keep dirt and debris from adhering to the surface. Another good way to ensure a clean, sealed and non-slippery deck (especially one that had been neglected) is to use a product like Woody Wax that you spray on and brush in, working from bow to stern. Once done, rinse the deck and dry with towels. It will leave a protective coating that will help keep your decks clean well into the season.
Other often-overlooked items above deck include such things as mold that may have built up on the underside of hatches and under mats, carpets and runners. By checking these unseen places and cleaning them with a good antimicrobial cleaner, you can eliminate mold issues and odor.
Also often overlooked: Disinfecting your water tanks. This will eliminate mold and contaminants that may have developed over the winter, even if they were empty. A hydrogen peroxide and water mixture run through the tanks a couple of times should do the trick.
A lost anchor can ruin a trip on the water — and it happens more than often than it should — so remember to check for loose shackles and frayed lines.
A quick check of your commissioning list and a little forethought, and you’ll be ready for a fun-filled season ahead.
Author: Glenn Hayes is a contributor to HeartLand Boating magazine.