Spring start-up boating checklist

Spring has sprung and for many SA boaters, that means it’s time to take their boats out of winter storage and put them in the water. For many boaters, annual preparation and cleaning projects are necessary rites of spring that help prevent problems that could keep them off the water once the season is underway.

Below is a detailed spring start-up boating checklist to make sure that your boat is spring ready!

Fuel system

  • Inspect the fuel system for leaks or damage and be sure to pay special attention to fuel hoses, connections and tank surfaces.
  • Evidence of a damaged fuel hose includes softness, brittleness or cracking.
  • Replace components when necessary and verify all fittings and clamps are properly secured.
  • Ensure the engine, exhaust and ventilation systems are all functioning properly.
  • Look before you pump. Don’t fill your tank with fuel that contains more than 10% ethanol (E10) as it will damage your engine.

Belts, cables and hoses

  • Check belts, cables and hoses because they can become brittle and may crack during winter storage.
  • Belts should fit tightly around pulleys to prevent slipping.
  • A worn belt may leave a black residue near the pulley and will fit loosely.
  • Cracks or swells on the outer jacket of throttle, shift and steering control cables may be of internal corrosion and immanent failure.

Electric system

  • Inspect all electrical connections for clean, tight, corrosion-free connections. Corroded connections can be dangerous.
  • Remove corroded terminals and use a wire brush to clean them, along with all cable ends.
  • Charge your battery and have it tested to ensure it can hold a charge.
  • Electrical systems should be regularly inspected by a qualified technician.

Propellers and hulls

  • Inspect propellers for dings, pitting, cracks and distortion.
  • Damaged propellers can cause unwanted vibration and damage to your drive train.
  • Make sure the propeller is secured properly, and replace bearings when needed.
  • When inspecting the hull, look for blisters, distortions and cracks. Be sure to clean the hull, deck, and topsides using an environmentally safe cleaning solution.
  • Also, make sure the drain plug is securely in place before every launch.

Safety gear

  • Check your life jackets to ensure they are in good condition and that there are enough on board for all potential passengers.
  • Be sure all onboard fire extinguishers are the correct class for your vessel, and are fully charged and stowed in the proper place.
  • For any enclosed or semi-enclosed area, ensure you have at least one properly installed and working carbon monoxide detector.


Caring for boat upholstery

Boat upholstery suffers a lot of wear and tear because it is exposed to the elements, such as direct sunlight and water, and is usually stored outside on the water.

Caring for boat upholstery involves regularly cleaning it and keeping it protected.

Correct storage is key

Proper storage of your boat is key to protecting the upholstery. If a boat sits outside in the sun all day, fabric upholstery may become sun bleached while leather and vinyl upholstery may dry out and crack. Caring for boat upholstery involves storing your boat in a garage, or under a carport. If you must store your boat on the water or in a driveway, cover the upholstery with a plastic drop cloth and envelope the upholstered end of the boat with a fitted cover. During the fall and winter months, if you don’t plan on taking out your boat, consider placing it in a storage facility.

Wetter is not better

When taking your boat out on the water, try to keep the upholstery as dry as possible. Although it is inevitable that you will get your upholstery wet from time to time, you don’t want it to soak into the foaming. When the foam gets wet, the upholstery begins to rot. Those that have been in the water should sit on towels to avoid saturating the upholstery, and spills should be wiped up immediately.

Regular cleaning

Cleaning your boat upholstery regularly will extend its life by several years. Boat upholstery comes in fabric, vinyl and leather materials. The type of material you have determines how it should be cleaned.

  • Fabric: This is the most difficult to care for. It soaks up water like a sponge, which will quickly penetrate to the foam. Applying a fabric protectant will extend the life of the upholstery, as water and other spilled liquids will bead up and roll off. Clean the upholstery with standard fabric cleaner every couple of weeks, depending on use. After cleaning, spray the upholstery with a UV protectant to prevent sun damage.
  • Vinyl: This is one of the easiest types to care for. Spills wipe right off, preventing stains from developing. When cleaning this type of upholstery, use a specific vinyl cleaner, to prevent the material from becoming dry. Spray the upholstery and wipe it down with a cloth that has been barely dampened. Spray the vinyl a special vinyl protective finish to prevent sun damage.
  • Leather: Very few boats have leather upholstery, as it is easily damaged by the sun. To prevent over-drying, leather upholstery must be cleaned with a neutral soap, or one that has a pH balance of seven. Spray the leather with the cleaner and wipe it with a dry cloth. Apply a leather conditioner that contains a UV protectant at least once a week, to keep it soft and pliable. Avoid keeping the leather upholstery in direct sunlight for longer than necessary.