Pre­sea­son Shake­down

MAKE SURE YOUR BOAT IS READY TO GO BE­FORE FISHING GETS HOT.

Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - CAPT. DAVE LEAR

Spring fever is a se­ri­ous af­flic­tion. It causes rest­less­ness, anx­i­ety, and a con­sid­er­able lack of fo­cus on work and other mun­dane chores. But there is a sim­ple cure.

Salt air and stren­u­ous rod-bending ex­er­cises are sure to purge this ail­ment faster than a red­fish can crush a crab. How­ever, to take full ad­van­tage of the pre­scribed treat­ment, your boat must be in ship­shape con­di­tion.

Whether your boat was win­ter­ized or not, now is the time for a pre­sea­son in­spec­tion to en­sure every­thing is work­ing prop­erly and you can re­pair or re­place any­thing that isn’t be­fore the fishing heats up.

“Our pol­icy is to change both the en­gine and gear oils dur­ing win­ter­i­za­tion,” says Ben Mahler, gen­eral man­ager of the Star Is­land Yacht Club & Ma­rina in Mon­tauk, New York. “We make sure there’s no wa­ter present that would freeze, so when we go through our spring check­list, that’s one less thing to worry about. It’s also im­por­tant to fol­low the man­u­fac­turer’s rec­om­mended main­te­nance sched­ule. Our sea­son is short here, and you don’t want any un­nec­es­sary down­time from a prob­lem that could have been pre­vented.”

Mahler says the nor­mal reg­i­men for spring prepa­ra­tion is to change all air and wa­ter-sep­a­ra­tion fil­ters. Clogged VST fil­ters on out­boards are one of the big­ger prob­lems en­coun­tered, he adds. En­gine and hull zincs, shafts, rud­ders and im­pellers should be checked and re­placed or cleaned as needed. Bat­ter­ies ought to be load-tested and charged, and all pumps and float switches checked, in­clud­ing those for livewell sys­tems, wash­downs and mac­er­a­tors. Fresh­wa­ter tanks should be drained and re­filled with a treat­ment ad­di­tive to pre­vent the dreaded sul­fur smell. Trim tabs should be tested on the rack or trailer to avoid hav­ing to pull the boat out of the wa­ter if there’s a prob­lem.

“We go through the boat, from stem to stern, and check every­thing, in­clud­ing lights and elec­tron­ics,” Mahler ex­plains. “We check all sys­tems and in­spect the

hoses for dry rot and the clamps for rust or break­age. This is also the time to bot­tom-paint the hull, if it’s go­ing to stay in the wa­ter all sea­son. We’ve been us­ing Pet­tit Hy­dro­coat Eco wa­ter-based paint. It’s the best we’ve found for slime and bar­na­cle preven­tion in our area. Af­ter­wards, we wax the rest of the hull, and once we get it back in the wa­ter, we wax the boat’s top­side too.”

Mahler says Star Is­land charges hourly la­bor rates, ex­cept for wax­ing and bot­tom paint­ing, which are priced based on boat length. “All boats are dif­fer­ent,” he ex­plains. “It may only take 10 min­utes to check a bilge pump on one, while it may re­quire two guys and a halfhour on another be­cause they have to re­move fish boxes to ac­cess the pump. So we charge ac­cord­ingly.”

Even in the warmer south­ern states where shrink-wrap and an­tifreeze are for­eign, boaters still need to go over their boats and trail­ers be­fore the sea­son be­gins in earnest, ac­cord­ing to Greg Bent, co-owner of Bent Ma­rine in Me­tairie, Louisiana. “At some point, the an­nual en­gine main­te­nance needs to be done, in­clud­ing chang­ing the oils and fil­ters and run­ning di­ag­nos­tics. The owner’s man­ual pro­vides sched­ul­ing guide­lines,” Bent says. “The bat­ter­ies should be fully charged us­ing a trickle charger, and all through-hulls, hoses and livewell sys­tems in­spected for leaks.”

This is also the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to pull the pro­pel­lers to check for fishing line and re­grease the shaft splines. Make sure the boat regis­tra­tion is cur­rent and all re­quired pa­per­work is on board. Con­firm that all safety equip­ment, in­clud­ing flares, horns and whis­tles, fire ex­tin­guish­ers and life jack­ets, are ser­vice­able too. And don’t over­look the boat trailer, Bent cau­tions. The tires, brakes, lights and bunks should all be in­spected.

“Be­fore your first fishing trip of the sea­son, I rec­om­mend launch­ing the boat for a shake­down cruise,” Bent says. “Make sure every­thing is work­ing prop­erly and let the en­gine get up to its usual op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture. On most out­boards, that’s 165 to 170 de­grees. Check to make sure the shifter is work­ing and the steer­ing is free and easy. If every­thing checks out, flush the en­gine with fresh wa­ter af­ter­wards and you’ll be ready to go catch some fish.”

ROU­TINE RE­VIEW: Re­move the prop to check for de­bris and grease the shaft.

BAT­TERY CHECK: Clean ter­mi­nals, tighten all con­nec­tions, and test power lev­els, top right.

OIL AND FUEL: Check en­gine oil and gear-case lube, and change oil and fuel fil­ters, above.

STOR­AGE IN­SPEC­TION: Look for signs of mois­ture, mold or rust, top left.

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