Anchors Aweigh! What You Need to Know to Get Your Boat Ready for Summer!

The temperature grows a little warmer and the days get a little longer. Summer is on the horizon, and you know it won’t be long until you’re back to boating. Before you hit the water, use this time to get your boat and boating equipment ready with our boat checklist. Print it out, stick it in a plastic bag and keep it onboard as your boat inspection checklist. Keep the boating safety checklist on hand to review with boating newbies or guests on the lake. 

How to De-winterize Your Boat

There are two ways to store your boat for the winter: 1) haul it out of the water and keep it a safe, dry storage barn or garage; 2) take it to the nearest marina where they prepare it for winter and store it for you. If a marina stores your boat for you, its likely that you won’t need to go through the de-winterizing boat checklist, as marinas typically take care of these items before lowering boats into the water for the summer. However, if you’re the sole caretaker, be sure to follow the steps below to make sure your boat is in proper condition before taking it out on the lake. 

Step 1: Check Boating Equipment

While your boat sits out of water, go through the list of items below, ensuring everything is in working condition. The first and easiest step begins with charging the battery. You’ll want to check and make sure to verify all boat equipment and accessories are working so the battery can be charged as you work through the rest of the boating checklist.

1. Test and/or charge boat battery
    a. First, clean the boat’s battery connections.
    b. Charge the battery.
    c. Tighten all cables.
    d. If you’ve got a trolling motor you expect to be using, charge that as well.
    e. Most regulations require that batteries be properly secured and battery posts covered.     

Boating Mag Bonus Tip: Ways to Identify Battery Cable Issues

Listen: Weak starting performance is your first clue of something amiss. Don’t ignore it.
Feel each battery cable after a run. If one feels hot, search for the problem.
Overheating cables give off an odor. If you whiff something odd, address the issue.
Bend: Give each cable a gentle bend. If it resists and crackles, you’ve found a problem.
Look: Keep an eye on the voltmeter. More than 14.5 volts of output is a bad sign.
Test: Use a multimeter ohm scale to test for resistance. More than an ohm means trouble.”

2. Check the boat engine
    a. If it wasn’t changed before winter, change the engine oil.
    b. Replace oil filter
3. Fill the cooling system (check to make sure hoses are intact and not cracked)
4. Change the fuel filter
5. Check the boat’s alternator belt: check for correct tension and alignment.
    a. If you notice the alternator belt is covered in black dust it may indicate an issue  with the belt being too lose or misaligned.
6. Make sure to clean the engine compartment and wipe down the engine.

Step 2: Inspect your Boat for Leaks

Take advantage of your boat being out of the water. Check its exterior for any blisters or cracks. Use a flashlight to check for any for fluid leaks under the engine.

Step 3: Wash and Wax the Boat 

A couple of coats of wax and a new layer of bottom paint will have your boat looking shiny and new and help protect your boat during the summer.

Sink or Swim: Test Your Knowledge with our Boating Safety Quiz

Step 4: Update all Necessary Documents

Every year you’ll need to update your registration decal and make sure you have proof of insurance. You can always check in with your Farm Bureau Agent to make sure your boat is properly insured and ready to hit the water this summer. Different states have different laws and typically require the boat in use to be registered in the state. Whether you’re operating a boat on a lake/ocean in a your state of residence or a different state, have the registration number or certificate on board at all times. 

Pre-Departure Boat Safety Checklist and Boat Safety Tips

Now that your boat has undergone a rigorous pre-summer condition check, it’s ready to be lowered into the water. If you don’t want to be caught unawares on the open water, here are few more steps in the boating checklist to be sure to follow.

1. Make sure to clean the engine compartment and wipe down the engine.
2. Load up the life jackets.
    a. You’ll need a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III, or V life jacket of suitable  size for each person on the boat.
    b. You’re also required to have one Type IV life jacket (the throwable devices) on board at all times.
    c. In most states, children under 13 years old are required by law to wear a USCG approved life jacket unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin. 
3. Check for other necessary boating safety equipment. The U.S. Coast Guard has compiled a list of required boating safety equipment, which they have determined to be necessary under federal laws which include but aren’t limited to the items below.
   a. Oars
   b. Bailing bucket
   c. Whistle or Bell
   d. Fire extinguisher that is in a readily accessible location that all passengers know about and can reach.
   e. Visual distress signals (i.e. flares)
   f. Anchor
   g. Some states may have additional items/safety equipment, so be sure to check your state boating laws and requirements.
4. Check the lights
   a. White (visible for 2 miles)
   b. Green starboard (visible for 1 mile)
   c. Red portside (visible for 1 mile)
   d. The port and starboard sides of the boat refer to the left and right side of the boat if you were on the boat and looking to the bow.
5. Check the weather forecast.

Never leave the dock without first checking the local weather forecast.

1. Signs of a weather change to look out for when out on the boat include
   a. flat clouds getting lower, thicker, dark, threatening clouds, especially in the west/southwest.
   b. Sudden drop in temperature
   c. Increasing wind or sudden change in wind direction
   d. Heavy AM radio static, which can indicate nearby thunderstorm activity

Finally, brush up on your boating etiquette and make sure you’ve covered the ground rules with friends and family. As a bonus, here’s a quick overview to give to the crew. 

Boating Etiquette: How to Be Courteous During Boating Season 

There are certain customs and traditions that help boater stay safe and respect other boaters out on the water. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind while out cruising the waters: 

Know your ramp manners. Launch and retrieve your boat at the ramp efficiently. Use the parking lot to load your boat, and then pull your boat over to a temporary dock to bring your passengers aboard. 

Swimmers and divers (marked by a yellow flag) always have the right of way at all times. 

Slow down if another boat is trying to pass you: If there’s room to pass and another boat is coming alongside you, easy off your throttle and allow them to pass you. 

If you’re headed perpendicular to another boat; the boat on the right has the right to cross first. If you’re on the left of another boat, yield to them and allow them to cross paths first (similar to a 4-way stop intersection without the stopping).

Never follow a boat inside its wake. If the boat were to suddenly slow you could crash into the back of it. 

Pay attention to how much wake you’re causing. You are responsible for your wake and whatever damage it may cause. If you churn up a large wake and cause other boats to bang into each other, you’re the one on the hook for damages. Don’t cause big wakes in crowded spaces. 

Respect your neighbors. Sound carries much farther on the water so if you have a loud boat or noisy passengers, make sure you leave plenty of space. 

Assist other boats as they arrive and depart. One of the many unwritten laws of boating is that you should always be willing to assist other boaters. 

As spring turns to summer, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make this boating season safe and fun. Whether it’s your boat, your car, or your home, Farm Bureau can help you ensure that you have what you need to protect you from the unexpected.