Spring Launch Checklist
If you’re like most boaters, you’re counting the days until the start of the season. But before you cast off be sure go through our Spring Launch Checklist and ensure your boat is in tip top shape.
Electrical & Comms
Batteries & Terminals: Winters can be tough on batteries - especially if they’re stored outside or in the elements. Cold weather and long times between charges can wear even deep cycle batteries down. Before heading out check the charge level on your batteries to see if they need to be topped off. If you have lead acid batteries, check the water levels and fill up if necessary. Lastly, if you’re installing / inspecting batteries it’s a great time to clean up your battery terminals or connection to remove any rust or corrosion. If the wires themselves are worn to frayed, consider repairing or replacing.
Lighting: Before heading out be sure to check all lighting on your vessel for blown bulbs & fuses, connections, and switches. Start with your running lights and work your way down to less critical illumination, including cockpit lights and cabin lights. If you’re not yet in the water it may be a lot easier to deal with wiring issues before you drop in for the season.
Communication Equipment: For the last part of your electrical checkup, verify that your radio systems are in good order. Check for good signal and audio (for both sending and receiving). This will include both the unit as well as antenna hookups. Similar to lighting it may be a lot easier to work on any loose wiring / electrical issues before you’re in the water.
Blowers: While often taken for granted, it’s good to check that engine safety gear is in good order. Ensure blowers are working properly, free of debris, and venting as expected. If they’re not start to diagnose before you first kick over your engine on the water.
Bilges: While you’re checking out your engine bay it’s a good idea to ensure your bilges are working properly. It may not be a bad idea to drop in a bit of water while in a controlled place to ensure your bilges are working as expected - moving water well and clearing out to the bottom of the hull. Depending on your setup you may consider using this time to replace, upgrade, or even add another bilge to your setup.
Hoses, Lines, and Leaks: As a good measure while you’re evaluating your engine boy it’s a good practice to inspect all lines, hoses, and gaskets for any leaks. Oil, fuel, and coolant can lead to annoying issues at best and big safety concerns at worst. Check for any signs of leaks and work them back to their source to be corrected. Also consider the condition of lines and hoses that may be on their way out. Cracked or worn hoses, lines, clamps, and other fittings can be ticking time bombs waiting to go off at the worst. Consider getting ahead of these now before you’re in a spot.
Lines & Rigging
Lines: Regardless of the type of vessel you have, it’s a good idea to check the lines you have aboard. You want to check for both quantity (do you have enough for all situations - including docking & towing) as well as condition (e.g. worn or frayed lines). If you need more lines or have to replace some - do so and give yourself peace of mind.
Cleats: On the topic of lines, it’s good practice to give your cleats a once over as well. Check for any that are showing signs of coming loose. For any that you find understand that root cause and what can be done to address them. This may be as simple as a loose backing plate. At worst these can be cracks or breaks in the mating surface that could require more in depth repair.
Rigging: For any sailing vessels ensure all your rigging (standing and running) is in good order. Check all fitment and operational components as well to ensure you’re ready to go for the season. Aside from worn running rigging, other types of issues can be time consuming and not something you want to deal with once the seasons is underway.
PFDs: While not the most glamorous of topics, give your PFDs and other safety gear a once over. Like your lines ensure you have enough for all members who are on your vessel as well as condition. If any appear worn, torn, and not fit for use replace them. If you have youngsters on your vessel ensure the equipment they may have had last season still fits.
Detectors: Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (especially below decks) are critical - especially if you plan any overnight stays. Check their batteries and functionality, replacing gear that is not up to par. As a general practice this type of equipment should be checked several times a year.
Fire Extinguishers: Ensure all on board fire extinguishers are of the approach class, within their expiration dates, and charged appropriately. Also perform a physical inspection of any canisters to note bulges, rust, or dents that can compromise their performance. Again if there is any doubt dispose of them (within local ordinance) and replace.
Flares: If you have flares aboard ensure they are not expired or comprised. They should not show any sign of damage or deterioration to be considered safe for use. Damage of this type can not only impact their performance when needed, but be a risk to the user and vessel if they burn out of control.
Want to ensure you have all the proper safety gear and that it’s in spec? Consider getting a FREE vessel safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. More information on how to obtain one in your area can be found here.
There is a lot to think about before getting ready for the season. The above is certainly not exhaustive, but should get you started down the right path.
Anything we’re missing? Let us know by commenting below.