The SEXTANT - Atlantic Maritime Academy


The SEXTANT - Atlantic Maritime Academy
Special Boating Season Preparation Issue – April 2010
Time to Get Ready
Splash Day is Just Around the Corner
by Capt. Gary P. Joyce, Boating World
Spring is right around the corner and you know you're just itching to get the cover or shrink-wrap off the
boat and get it ready for another season. As much work as you put into getting your boat up on the hard will
be semi-duplicated when it comes time to get it into the water … but somehow the work load seem less,
mainly because that light at the end of the tunnel is a nice day on the water.
Rather than splashing your boat and getting it ready at the dock, in most cases, it's a helluva' lot easier to
do all the work while she's still up on blocks or on the trailer in the driveway near a source of electricity,
proximity to the tools you'll need, etc.
The only things to worry about when you're working on the hard? Never, ever start your motor unless
water is running through the cooling system. Oh, and all that smoke is supposed to be coming out. You did
pickle it last winter, didn't you?
Mechanical Concerns
Now is the time to check
your entire engine system. Pull
the outboard cover, lean it of
any critters or dust that has
taken residence. Check spark
plugs for tightness (I replace my
spark plugs in the spring) and
check spark plug wires for
visible cracking or wear. Take
a close look at the steering
system and check that it's
functioning smoothly: if you
have hydraulic steering, make
sure the hydraulic fluid level is
Moving down to the lower
unit, check that the prop looks
like a prop and not Mad Maxlooking weaponry; a chipped or
bent prop is not an efficient one.
Check your zincs; zincs that are
nasty-looking should be
replaced. If they are nearly
destroyed, you'll want to check
the grounding/bonding of your
electrical system or the dock's
where your boat is kept for
something wrong electrically.
Check the unit's oil level.
Nice clear oil should flow; if it
has a gray hue, you've got water
in the system and it's off to the
boatyard you go. Make sure
your motor's or outdrive's tilt
Ready, Set ...
system is operating the way it
should be; lube if necessary.
And if you've pulled you lower end (I/Os) on takeout, replace all gaskets with new ones when you put the
drive back on. (They come in engine-specific kits.)
Hotspots to check that are engine-type specific include the drive belts; check for proper tension, as well as
wear and tear. Check fluid hoses; soft spots in hoses indicate a weak spot, so replace them now rather than
when you're approaching the canal locks or the inlet shoal for the first trip of the season.
Unhook alternator/generator and starter connections and spray them with something like CRC's QD
Electronics Cleaner. (This stuff is good for just about anything having to do with the transmission of
electricity.) Give them a brush-up and then refasten. Check out all your thru-hulls; make sure hoses are
good and attachments are solid. (A little tug on them won't hurt, unless a second tug pulls them off!)
Replace rusted or slightly corroded clamps, especially blow the waterline.
If your boat has them, check the screening on your raw water intakes. If you can't scrub off what is on
them, replace them.
Risers and manifolds – of interest to I/O and IB owners – need a special look, because if they fail, your
engine is toast. The exhaust manifolds (which tend to last a bit longer than the risers) can be changed from
raw water to fresh water systems, but risers will always be using raw water. And in the case of marine raw
water, that means salt and corrosion.
Risers carry hot exhaust gas away from the engines. They are usually inverted U-shaped cast iron pipes
(about three or four inches in diameter) attached to your exhaust manifold. V-8 engines will have two and
four cylinder engines one. An exhaust hose is attached to the riser and exits outside the boat. Without going
into how a riser is constructed, suffice it to say that it is a jacket within a jacket, the purpose being for the
outer jacket to have cool water in it (and be cool to the touch), while the inner jacket contains hot exhaust.
The big problem happens if the two mix before exiting. A leak in the water jacket usually means a
detonation of at least one cylinder, if not the entire motor.
The problem with all of this is there is no sure-fire way to determine what the condition of the riser
interiors are except by visually inspecting them for rust and oxidation. Set up a regular schedule for this
checkup. I would suggest you pull the risers (not a major job) at least every third pre-season in saltwater.
Pre-getting in the water, check out your electronic gear. Make sure navigation lights, interior lights,
horn, etc. (a good time to
check your trailer lights, as well)
are working, and if not, find
out why. Make sure sonar,
radar, VHF, etc., are all
operational. It will prove to be a
lot easier to chase down
faults in the system while the
boat is on land, though
tracing down electrical faults is a
pain no matter where it's
done. It may be as simple as a
blown fuse or dirty or
corroded contacts, or as difficult
to find as a broken wire
that's shorting out – always in
the more unreachable
section of your boat. A voltage
meter is an invaluable time
saver, enabling you to see where
the current is no longer
flowing, thus narrowing down
the hunt.
Clean your battery
terminals. Hurth Battery
Terminal Cleaner works well
and has an added plus of turning
blue (from pink) if there is a
battery acid leak. Check battery
switch and/or insolator
C contacts as you would all other
heck ground tackle prior to launch.
A fiberglass hull requires cleaning and waxing to maintain its looks (and resale value) and to cut through
the water more efficiently. Whether or not you'll pick up more than one mile-per-hour's worth of speed is
unlikely, but waxing does serve to keep the porous (it's not a sieve, but microscopically, water can enter)
outer layer of gelcoat non-porous.
You can either apply a cleaner to your hull to remove any oxidation (that white stuff) before waxing (go
with Carnauba wax) or you can try Garry's Royal Satin Premium One-Step Cleaner Wax. I like this stuff
because it's a one-shot deal that cleans light oxidation and then waxes with one application. If the hull has
never been waxed, however, you'll probably want to use a separate hull cleaner and then a wax.
Then there's that ugly looking brown/black stripe that forms at the waterline and defies all efforts to
remove it. There are several products on the market that are intended to address this while requiring a
minimal amount of elbow grease. Strong solutions may harm other materials on your boat, so read the
directions. Star-Brite and Heller Glanz make good products but are by no means the only ones available.
Bottom Paint
Argh. This can be a horror story for the do-it-yourselfer, and with all but small craft is probably worth
having done by a shipyard. Many, if not most, states have environmental requirements, rules and regs about
bottom pain removal nowadays, so you'll have to deal with that as well. Essentially, the old bottom paint has
to come off before new bottom paint goes on. There are a lot of different brands with different chemical
makeups, but one of the better ways to figure out what type to use is to see what your local boat yard
There's no short cut to bottom painting. It requires personal safety equipment, tarps to collect up what
scrapes off, proper disposal of the residue, and in interest in working in either a squatting position or on your
back to get the entire job done properly.
One last item to consider – any and all work on boats tends to generate junk and trash. Whether it's the
shrink-wrap cover or bottom paint chips or old motor oil, dispose of it in an environmentally safe manner.
If you'd have done a lot of the stuff mentioned about when you hauled, you wouldn't have to do it now,
and you'd probably be in the water laughing at your neighbor instead of him laughing at you. Sometimes you
just don't learn.
This is also the time to make sure the amenities (heads, showers, stoves, etc.) on your craft are
operational. If you've got a bad taste coming from your portable water tank, first drain the tank, then try to
get a high-pressure nozzle in the tank to clean the interior, then flush with fresh water again. Next add some
chlorine – one milliliter of chlorine for every five liters of water capacity … or about a teaspoon of chlorine
per five gallons and then top off your water tank again. Ideally, to kill anything growing in there, you should
let the mixture stand for four or five hours or even overnight. The final step is to drain the tank, then fill with
potable water and run through the entire system until no chlorine can be smelled, Conversely, douching out
the tank with baking soda/water mix should be done every season regardless of whether the water tastes
Baking soda is also good for dealing with refrigerator smells. Scrub the interior with a baking soda and
water mix and that should take care of the aromatic scent of last year's fish dinners. Keeping an open box of
baking soda in the refrigerator isn't a bad idea either.
And speaking of smells: you'll want to clean out your bilge. There are environmentally friendly
(biodegradable) cleaners on the market; most require no work other than being poured in the the bilge and
sloshed around (by trailering or boating) and then drained.
Safety Equipment
Are the PFDs serviceable or do they look like they were issued for an amphibious landing in Europe 65
years ago? If the foam is dried out (brittle or crumbly to the touch), toss them out; they're virtually
worthless. There's no reason not to have good PFDs/life jackets on board. And if you have younger
children, make sure you have jackets that fit. If the kids are really young, you'll want ones with a grab loop
on the top of the collar and a crotch strap so they can't fall out of the bottom of the jacket.
Check your ground tackle … all of it. Look for rusted eyes, bad shackles, etc. Run all the line through
your hands no matter how long it is, feel for cuts, kinks, frays, etc. Ditto on dock lines.
If your flares are out of date, now's the time to replace them. (Don't fire them off unless the Coast Guard
knows about it.) Check your boat's compass no matter how much electronic equipment you have aboard; a
compass can lose fluid and the fluid can be replaced and compass will work no matter what happens to your
Make sure your windshield wipers are working and in good condition; sun and salt beat the hell out of
blade rubber, and when you want them to work .. well, you know you only think of replacing your car wipers
when it rains, you're doing 70 on the highway and you can't see.
If you're a solo boater make sure your throttle's kill switch is functioning and consider adding one of those
man-overboard units to the boat. If you go over, the sensor you carry on your person will kill the engine
immediately, giving you a decent chance of getting back to the boat.
Editor's Note:
This article, which appeared in the March 2010 issue of Boating World, is reprinted with
the permission of the magazine's publisher. It is the hope of The Sextant's editorial
staff that it may be helpful to Division 10 Auxiliarists readying their vessels for the upcoming
boating season.