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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Be Better to Your Boat

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay
One of the great things about living in Florida is the fact that you can boat practically all year long.  If you own a boat, you know the pleasures that a day on the water can bring.  At least it does if you can get your boat to start, or if you don’t experience a problem on the water.  Believe it or not, much of the joy of boating can disappear faster than a puddle on a sunny summer afternoon if your boat isn’t looked after.  To help you enhance your boating experience, I have created a short list of things you can do to make sure your vessel is up to the task the next time you decide to head out on the water.

Keeping Your Boat Shipshape

Aside from the fact that an ill-maintained boat is a liability to its owner, keeping your boat shipshape isn’t really all that difficult.  At least it isn’t if you don’t ignore your vessel until the maintenance gripes are numerous. 

1.      When was the last time you had your boat’s motor checked out? – If the only time you think of maintaining your engine is when it stops running, you could come to regret it when you find yourself adrift some night, or worst, when a barge is bearing down on your vessel.  Just as car engines need occasional TLC, so too do boat engines.  An occasional oil change is always a good idea, as is an annual inspection of the hoses, fuel tank, filter and wiring.  Whether you keep your vessel on the water or on a trailer, the salt air can corrode electrical connections and gunk can build up in fuel tanks.  If your motor sucks up muck, you’ll be calling for a tow in no time flat.

Image courtesy flickr
2.      Help your vessel beat the heat. -  While a sunny day on the water is always appreciated, too much of a good thing isn’t good for either the boaters or the boat.  Unlike you and your crew who can slather on sunblock to keep the harsh rays of the Sun at bay, the only sunblock your boat can rely on is canvas.  Left to its own devices, the sun can fade upholstery, crack vinyl and blister paint.  If you want to keep your vessel from being roasted alive by the sun, invest in several tarps that can be used to cover your boat when it’s not in use.  This investment will save you thousands of dollars over the life of your vessel.  Plus, it will keep the interior of your boat much cooler when you show up at the dock for a day on the water.

3.      A clean boat is a happy boat. – When was the last time you cleaned your boat?  Dirt, grime and salt not only look unsightly, they can affect the operation and value of your vessel.  If you trailer your boat, make sure you scrub it thoroughly when you bring it home.  If you don’t hose off the salt, the residue can corrode metal, fasteners and electrical wiring.  If your boat stays in a slip, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a thorough cleaning inside and out once or twice a year.  When you get down to the dirty work of cleaning your vessel, make sure you use boat-friendly detergents that are formulated to be gentle on the gelcoat.  A bucket and a long-handled soft bristle scrub brush will usually do the trick.  One afternoon spent cleaning your boat can pay big dividends in extending the life of marine hardware.

Image courtesy DoD
4.      Nobody likes a dirty bottom. – If you keep your vessel in a slip or on a mooring, you need to have the bottom scraped regularly if you want to be able to get the best performance out of your boat.  It will also make the bottom paint last much longer than if you leave the barnacles to their own devices.  I’ve seen small boats in the marina with so much growth on the hull that they practically resembled a reef.  Don’t let this happen to your boat.

5.      Pre-float inspection – Just as no sensible airplane pilot would consider taking off without performing a preflight check, smart boaters need to perform a pre-float check to make sure that their vessel is seaworthy.  One of the worst things that can happen to your vessel is to have it sink out from under you.  Check your boat’s bilges and bilge pumps to make sure the boat is ready handle wind and waves.  Test the marine radio to make sure that you can contact other vessels or the Coast Guard if need be.  Make sure your running lights and other electronics function properly.  Last but not least, double check your lines and ground tackle so they can be used to anchor your boat should the need arise. 

6.      Stage a safety equipment inspection. – The worst time to find out your safety gear no longer functions is when you need it most.  Therefore, I suggest you conduct a yearly safety inspection that should include the vessel’s fire extinguisher, lifejackets, throwable cushion, flares, and first aid kit.

Image courtesy USAF
7.      Before you set sail, stage a safety briefing. – If you’ve ever gone on a party boat or boat charter, you will recall the captain or mate making a point of giving the passengers a safety briefing.  The reason they do this is to familiarize the passengers with the vessel as well as the safety gear carried aboard.  To neglect the briefing doesn’t just put the paying passengers at risk, it could also expose the boat owner to increased liability.  Whenever I bring family or friends aboard my boat, I always make sure to give them a 5-minute safety briefing that tells them where they can and can’t go while the vessel is underway.  I make sure than every child as well as anyone aboard who can’t swim is made to wear a life-jacket.  I cover what to do if someone should fall overboard and I also make sure that everyone aboard is familiar with the boat’s chain of command, safety gear and the proper feeding of the marine head.  While I may know my boat like the back of my hand, my passengers most certainly do not. 

While boating can be a pleasure, it can also be a peril to you, your crew and passengers if the vessel isn’t properly commanded and maintained.  Here’s to a safe and happy summer boating season from the crew at A Plus Insurance.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at

1 comment:

  1. It never ceases to amaze me how much money people will spend on a boat, then abandon it in place to rot in the Sun.


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