Getting Ready for My First Boat Trip of the Season

Every winter, it’s the same story. I dream of the day when I can spend weekends on my boat, or plan three-day (or longer) trips with family and friends. And then, suddenly, spring has sprung and I’m nowhere near ready to take the boat out.

Not this year.

This year I’m determined to start early and get my boat ready for our first trip of the season. I want to be out on the water as soon as possible and not miss one minute of boating season. It may seem like a lot of work, but it is so worth it to be ready to go at the first hint of good weather.

Here’s my plan for getting a jump on boating season.

I’ve already gotten my paperwork in order. Safe boating course? Check. Registration? Check. Now it’s time to check the boat. After all, the time to make repairs is before you’re on the water. No one wants a surprise repair when out on the water.

I always pause right before I take the tarp off and uncover my boat. I like to let the anticipation build. This is the first step toward freedom on the weekends, and if I’m lucky, for a few weeks during the summer. I’ll give the boat a quick once-over. I like to check every inch of it, from stem to stern.

First, the easy stuff. I’ll check the fittings and make sure the screws are tight and properly lubricated. Although I carefully checked everything when I winterized my boat, I will check for cracks in the hull and damage to the paint. The sooner these issues, if they exist, are discovered, the better. And this year, since I am starting early, I can have them repaired and still get my boat in the water during the first sign of nice weather.

Next, I’ll do a thorough cleaning. Again, of course, I made sure it was clean when I winterized it, but since it has been covered for at least three months, it needs to be aired out at the very least. And who knows what critters might have made it their home during the winter. That’s something I wouldn’t want to be surprised by on my first trip out.

Since I winterized the boat in my backyard, I’ll also take a few minutes to check the trailer. I want to be sure the supports are working properly, the wiring is sound, and that the turn signals are working. Also, safety first. So next I’ll check my safety equipment. I’ve been through my share of boating emergencies and what I’ve learned is that you can never be too prepared.

Anything that needs to be replaced, inspected, or repaired, I can easily get done before my first boat trip. This includes the fire extinguisher, flares, and flotation devices. I will also make sure the first aid kit is fully stocked, and clean out the onboard storage compartments. I’ll check all life jackets to make sure they are in good condition and replace any that can’t be fixed so that I have a life jacket for every passenger.

Since I filled the water systems with potable antifreeze, I’ll have to flush that out, but I’ll wait until closer to the time I’m putting the boat in the water.

Next up are the mechanical and electrical systems. I know I’ll need to change the battery, or at least charge it. I have a spare that I can use if needed and I’ll get a new one to replace it sometime in the first few weeks of summer. Once I have a working battery, I can check that all the lights, pumps, and gauges are working.

As the warmer weather nears, I’ll check the engine and have any repairs I can’t handle done by my mechanic. I’ll also check for cracks in the cooling system and check all the fluids. Since fuel can become contaminated if left in the tank for too long, I’ll drain the tank and refill it with fresh fuel. Then, I check the oil, filters, and spark plugs. May as well, right?

Some of these tasks are tedious, I admit, but as I turn on the engine, anticipation begins to build again. This is the home stretch, and I know I am very close to getting out on the water. I’ll rev the engine a bit, to make sure it responds well. This part always gives me a little thrill. And makes me a little nervous, as I check for fuel leaks.

Once I’m in the clear, I know my first boating trip of the season will be safe and trouble-free. And hopefully stay that way through spring and summer.

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