Get out boating
There are two big events coming up for area boatniks: next week’s Semiahmoo Regatta, expected to bring 100 competitive sailboats and 400 or more crew and skippers and the traditional Opening Day of the Yachting Season, this year on Saturday, May 7. The first of these is organized and hosted by the sailing oriented International Yacht Club of White Rock and Blaine, and the second locally by the power boat flavored Semiahmoo Yacht Cub.
Anyway, the season for messing about in boats is here, and it’s time to do the spring chores attendant to getting your boat underway safely on the water. Boats are complex, so I like to divide things into systems to make more thorough checks and catch problems fast.
Here’s a few things off my list for the trusty “Evinrude Speed Queen,” my Boston Whaler, but I’ve tossed in a few extras for you people with things like cabins, inboard engines, masts and sails. And if I’ve missed something, then add it to your list and let me know.
1. Check the oil, change the fuel. Every four-stroke engine has an oil sump that needs to be checked carefully at the beginning of each day the engine is used. Blaine Bay Refuse, our recycler, accepts oil in sealed, one-gallon screw top unbreakable containers. Contact Blaine Marine Services or the Port of Bellingham for directions on disposing of unwanted fuel. Auto fuel over 30 days old in a two-stroke gas tank should be replaced. Also replace coolants, transmission fluids, oil and fuel filters.
2. Check the hoses, through-hulls and engine wiring. Rubber preservatives like Armour All can help, but when a water intake or exhaust hose feels limp or soft then it needs to be replaced. When you do, put a light film of grease on the inside of the hose (whether for an engine, cooling system, marine head or sink) and it will go on easier, form a tighter seal and come off more easily when it’s time to replace it. Spark plug wires need to be crack free and flexible, and connections for lights need to be checked. A little pfft of WD40 in the light bulb sockets dries them out and makes for better connections, especially in hard-to-reach locations like masthead lights. And when you replace a belt or hose, buy two so you have a spare on board.
3. Batteries. Clean the white powered residue off with a solution of half a box of baking soda to a quart of water. When it stops bubbling then rinse the top off and dry it with paper towels. Fill the battery with distilled water and lightly sand the terminal posts and clamps. Some say grease the terminals once they’re put together to prevent corrosion, others say not to. Flip a coin.
4. Lines and rigging. For both power and sailboats, the condition of your cordage is vital to your safety. A line is a rope doing work, so you’ll want to have confidence that it’s up to the task. Spring is a good time to check them thoroughly for cuts, tears and oil stains. If they’re no longer serviceable they might still be useful as mooring or spring lines. Pay special attention to safety lines, such as the lifelines on your sailboat and the strength and integrity of your anchor line.
5. Trailers. Tires should be rotated when you rotate the tires on your car or truck, except that on a two wheeled trailer you can get away with swapping sides. A rubber preservative like Armour All can keep the sidewalls from checking, and if the trailer is to sit for long periods of time with the boat on it then chocking the trailer up will prevent hard spots from developing that will weaken the tire. You’ve replaced your old bearing caps with Buddy Bearings, of course, to keep the grease in your wheel bearings sufficiently pressurized to eliminate water penetrating around the seals and washing the grease away. Spring is the time to pump them up again until you see grease come out through the small relief hole. And when you’re trailering on the freeway you should always be able to stop and put your hand on the outside bearing. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s possibly about to seize.
Trailer wiring is notoriously bad because it gets so much abuse, so check it and spritz a little WD40 into all connections and light sockets. Turn signals and brake lights are not only handy to have for you and the guy behind you, they’re legally required. Put a liberal dollop of grease on the trailer ball and replenish it from time to time, covering it with a plastic hood (available from trailer supply outlets) when not in use.
6. Personal gear and paperwork. License? Registration? Trailer paperwork? Customs decals and U.S. Coast Guard inspection sticker? Radio station license (if applicable)? Fishing licenses? Manuals for operating engines, radios, on-board machinery and devices such as winches, davits and windlasses? Current charts and tide tables? Life Jacket? Most recent notices to mariners read and if necessary printed out? The best way to know that you comply with all the rules and regs is to get a voluntary inspection by the local Flotilla 19 of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.