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Apr 17 , 2020

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Spring Boat Inspection

by Frank Ross

Before you launch your boat this year, give everything a good inspection.

It won't be long until boats will find their way out of winter storage, and anglers will be backing them into the water, hoping for a great day of fishing. But if you don't take a little time before you leave the house, you may be back at the dock sooner than you intended. Nothing is more frustrating than a ruined trip, unless it's a trip that got ruined right when the bite turned on. Do yourself a favor and give your boat a thorough going over before it's time to fish. A pre-launch inspection is a very productive way to spend a waning winter day and you'll have time to take care of any problems without having to rush around at the last minute.

Before you launch your boat this spring, check out everything.
Inspect everything before you launch.

This is also a good time to think back to last year's season and remember those things that you were going to add or change before this year - like repositioning rod holders or adding more.

You may need to adapt this list to your own needs, since it covers a wide variety of equipment that you may or may not have. Most of the items on this checklist are things that need a visual inspection, but a few may need more attention.

Before You Launch
1. Ensure that the stern drain plug is installed and that the rubber is in good condition, free of cracks and signs of dry rot or deterioration. Think about it. Do you want to go on the cheap and not replace the cracked rubber on the plug that keeps the ocean out of the bottom of your boat?

2. Inspect all hoses and hose clamps and replace as necessary. With an eye similar to the inspection you gave your transom plug, flex your water hoses and look for cracks. You'll want to find those at your garage not three miles out in rough seas.

3. Props should be inspected for dings, pitting and distortion. Also, check to make sure the cotter pins are secure. Grip the prop and try moving the shaft, to see if it is loose. A loose shaft often indicates that a cutlass bearing may need to be replaced.

4. Inboards should have the rudder stock examined to make sure it hasn't been bent.

5. Hulls should be inspected for blisters, distortions and stress cracks.

6. Check your engine's water intake strainer to make sure it's free of corrosion and secure.

7. For large inboards, check the engine shaft and rudder stuffing boxes for looseness. After the boat is launched, make sure to check these as well as through-hulls for leaks.

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Outdrives and Outboard Engines
1. Inspect the rubber outdrive bellows for cracked, dried or deteriorated spots. These are often found in the folds. Replace any that are suspect.

2. Check the oil levels of the power steering and power trim reservoirs. Replace worn-out zincs.

3. Inspect the outer jacket of control cables. Cracks or swelling indicate corrosion beneath the outer cover. It's wise to be proactive and replace any cables that show signs of deterioration.

Engines and Fuel Systems
1. Fuel lines should be inspected very closely every spring, including fill and vent hoses. Look for softness, brittleness or cracking. Inspect all joints for leaks and make sure all lines are well supported with non-combustible clips or straps with smooth edges.

2. Fuel tanks should also be inspected annually, as well as fuel pumps and filters. Look for leaks or signs of deterioration. All clamps should be snug and free of rust. This is also a good time to clean or replace your fuel filters.

3. Cooling hoses and fittings should be inspected for stiffness, rot, leaks and/or cracking. Check for a snug fit and double-clamps.

4. Check the exhaust manifold for corrosion.

5. Inspect all electrical connections for cleanliness and tightness, especially both ends of battery cables. It's a good idea to remove the terminals and wire-brush both the battery terminals and the cable ends. Fill cells with distilled water on batteries that are not sealed.

6. Bilge pumps and blower hoses should be checked for leaks. Also check the float switch for operation as well as corrosion.

1. Inspect your trailer tire's treads and sidewalls, looking for cracks or lack of tread and replace as necessary.

2. Check the air pressure in your tires and don't forget the spare!

3. Bearings should be inspected and repacked if necessary.

4. Test your taillights, brake lights, turn indicators and back-up lights.

5. Test your trailer's winch to make sure it's working properly and inspect the cable for excessive wear.

6. Inspect your trailer frame for rust and sand/paint to prevent further deterioration.

1. Flares and fire extinguishers should be inspected for expiration dates. It's also a good idea to turn powder extinguishers upside down and give them a little shake to keep the powder loose.

2. Dock and anchor lines should be inspected for chafing or deterioration and replaced as necessary. Recoil line and stow for ease of use.

3. Examine your charts and waterway guides and update or replace outdated materials.

4. Make sure your boating license and/or registration is up to date. Don't forget your trailer tags.

5. Now is a good time to review your boat insurance policy and update coverage if needed. Be sure you have fuel spill insurance coverage.

6. Make sure you have a properly sized and wearable life jackets in good condition for each passenger, including kids and pets.

7. Check your landing nets for holes or deterioration of the netting.

8. Sea anchors should be checked for holes or worn fabric.

9. Rod holders should be inspected to make sure they are free of rough edges that will abrade line or damage rods.

10. Check your kill switch to make sure it is functioning properly and that the lanyard is attached.

11. Emergency lights and signal devices should be inspected and have new batteries if appropriate.

12. Running lights should be checked and contacts cleaned if necessary.

13. Inspect livewells for trash or residue and ensure that pumps are working properly.

14. Check your live bait aerators as well as hoses and clamps.

15. Trollers should inspect related gear to make sure that planer boards and other systems are ready to use.

16. Tighten all loose fittings, bolts and screws that may have vibrated loose. Pay special attention to your motor's main mounting bolts, and if you've got a kicker motor check that one as well. A 3/4" socket will snug them down quickly. Many boats are operated for months with loose mounts.

Usually something bad happens that gets your attention, like a kicker motor falling off the transom in heavy weather, which prompts a thorough check from stem to stern. It's far better to give everything an inspection before you're staring down into the water, wondering how to fish a motor off the bottom of the lake.

1. Spark plugs and wrench

2. General tool kit

3. Extra Prop

4. Extra shear pin

5. Extra cotter pins

6. Flashlight

7. Starting fluid

8. Extra stern plug

9. First Aid kit