Before your first trip away from the dock, you want to inspect your boat and test all the equipment aboard to make sure everything works the way it is supposed to.
A few minutes inspecting and testing while still at the dock first thing in the season is one of the best investments you can make. It can prevent anything from disappointment to disaster. You don’t want to get out on the water to find that you have no gears, and your VHF is on the fritz. Then when you throw your anchor over, much to your dismay, it’s not connected. You’re on the rocks.
Do a thorough inspection of your boat. Turn everything on and test it. Pull out all the lines including the anchor line and check for any problems.
Your checking is better done if you go area by area around the boat so that nothing gets overlooked. You don’t want anything to let you down when you are out on the water enjoying boating with your family and/or friends.
At the helm, start the motor(s). Test the shift, throttle and steering. Turn on the VHF and do a radio check. Make sure all other electronic equipment is operational. Now is the time. Not later when you are out and depending on it.
Get down beside your motor. Pull the dip stick. Check the oil. Even though the mechanic may have just summarized it, do your own check. Check all other fluid levels like power steering, trim, battery fluid. Look at all the belts for frays and tightness.
Check the bilge for fresh oil and/or water. Run the bilge pump. If the bilge is empty, put some water in with the dock hose to be sure it actually pumps and not just makes a noise. Switch on the water pressure and check for leaks throughout the whole system. Once all the air is out, the pump shouldn’t run. If it does, check for leaks.
Now that you’ve checked the engine room plumbing, go to the galley and head and ensure the sink taps and drains don’t leak and the toilet joints are dry. Flush the toilet. Recharge the chemical if it hasn’t been done already.
Inspect and test all your galley appliances, doors, drawers, etc. Does the frig cool and the stove heat? Do all switches and dials work? Make sure all cupboard doors and drawers open and close without binding and that the catches catch. You don’t want your food all over the floor when you hit the first wave.
The Safety Equipment
Pull out all your safety equipment. Confirm the expiry dates on date sensitive items like flares and fire extinguishers. Clean, repair recharge or replace if necessary.
Inspect your PFDs and make sure they haven’t been damaged by moisture or 4-legged critters over the winter. You don’t want nasty surprises later.
Electrical And Electronics
Test all other electrical and electronic systems to make sure they haven’t forgotten how to their jobs. For example, are your way points still in your GPS or were they lost when you replaced the batteries?
Turn on your running lights. Are all the bulbs lit? Does your horn work? Check all other lights on the boat in the cockpit and through the cabin.
Sailors should raise the sails on a calm day in the slip to verify that all the rigging is in good condition and nothing jams. Make sure all equipment functions properly like winches and furling.
Fishermen also need to check all their fish finders, downriggers, bait well pumps etc.
For Cruising Boaters
Cruising boaters should test their anchor winch for jams and frays and wiring connections and basic stuff like is the anchor shackled to the line? Pull out, check and inventory all your other anchors and rodes. Also the equipment related to long trips and remote anchorages.
Once everything is inspected, tested and operational, you can leave the dock with the confidence that your boat’s equipment won’t let you down.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Doug Dawson has personally done over 12,000 boat evaluations and has been a Boating Insider since his youth. He is also author of the popular "How To Buy A Boat With Confidence".
To check out his site and LEARN HOW TO MAXIMIZE THE ENJOYMENT OF YOUR LIMITED BOATING TIME visit: http://www.boatingwithdawsons.com
This guy really is an expert on everything to do with boating.