Used boat-buying quiz

It’s probably safe to say that not everyone is cut out for the rigors of used-boat ownership. Before you let your boat-buying fever get ahead of you and your wallet, it might be helpful to take the used-boat buying quiz below to see if buying a used boat is right for you.

This not to talk you out of chasing your boat dreams — it’s just to suggest pausing to make some realistic assessments of what you may be facing when that boat is yours to keep and maintain.

Are you comfortable with risk?

Let’s face it, buying a used boat involves some degree of risk. Yes, there’s less risk involved than there used to be, but still, it’s not as safe as buying a brand-new boat. Or a brand-new anything. That cream-puff you bought might have a cracked exhaust manifold that didn’t present itself because the engine was already warm. Or it might be that a manifold bolt has broken off in the cylinder head, and naturally it’s in the hardest place to get to. That means you have put in some bilge time or pay someone else. Yes, the quality of boats and marine propulsion systems have risen greatly over the last decade, so even used boats are better than they ever have been. But they’re not without risk. You need to ask yourself how comfortable you are with that.

Are you handy with boat repairs?

If something breaks on your new-to-you boat, are you handy enough to fix it? Can you put a bellows boot on a stern drive? They have a given service interval and they often get overlooked, then split with age and exposure — and they will sink a boat. Most repairs won’t involve the risk of a sinking, but boats aren’t cars. The environment in which they’re used is much harsher. They get bounced around on the water, and things do break. If you are handy and have an awesome set of tools, you’re good to go, and you’ll find that working on your boat will give you a real sense of satisfaction. If you’re not handy with tools, you have to ask yourself the next question.

Do you mind paying for repairs on a boat you just bought?

The hourly labor rate for a marine technician varies, but if you can’t make the repairs yourself, you may need to pay someone for their time, plus parts. It’s one thing if you’re aware of problems when you agree to buy the boat. You can negotiate against them and get enough of a reduction in price to compensate for the repairs you’ll have to make later. It’ll be the unknowns that get you. In fact, it’s a good idea to budget for unforeseen repairs. That way, if something comes up, you’re not caught with an empty wallet early in the boating season.

Do you have the finances to buy new?

If you have enough financial wherewithal to buy new, that might be the way to go, and every boat manufacturer on the planet agrees with that statement. Just ask them. If you’re not new to boating or you have a lot of money to put down on the boat, or can pay cash, new boats have their obvious benefits. However, if this is your first boat, and you’re just trying to get your feet wet, “gently used” might be the best way to go.

Does everything on your boat need to be ship-shape?

If you’re as fastidious about the condition of your boat, everything needs to be ship-shape. But meticulous owners are hard to find, and so are used boats that have been meticulously cared for. If you have looked at enough used boats over the years, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But you want to keep looking until you find that one boat that strikes the balance between the right price and the right state of repair. There’s one in every price range. They’re just not easy to find. So the next question is especially critical.

Are you patient?

Finding a good used boat takes time. Even if you miss out on a boat, one you know you should have bought, but for whatever reason did not, keep looking. There are more out there. You just have to be patient and stay vigilant. When the next one comes along, you won’t hesitate. And that will be one of the two best days in your life.

This post originally appeared on

Boat buying blunders

Read more about these top four boat buying blunders to ensure your next purchase is smooth sailing.

1. Don’t shop until you drop

Everyone wants a good deal and to spend the least amount of money possible, but “overshopping” is a great way to miss out on the perfect boat. Many of us may shop around to the point where great deals slip right out from under our noses. This means you never end up finding a boat and get frustrated.

Being successful in buying a boat requires realistic expectations about how much a particular boat is going to cost with the options you want. This means knowing as much as you can about the boat you want, including its availability, popularity, and pricing. Popular and fast-selling boats typically command higher prices, so if you go hopping from dealer to dealer looking to save a thousand bucks, you may never end up being able to buy what you’re looking for—others will scoop up the boat before you do.

Additionally, consider the service and maintenance department component when you buy a boat. While lots of folks think their relationship with the dealer ends at the sale, you’ll always want a good service and warranty department in your corner for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. Sometimes it’s worth waiting for a good local dealer to have the boat you want, knowing they’ll be invested in keeping you happy after the sale closes.

2. Understanding your finance options

Don’t assume that you can get financing. Buying a boat is not like buying a car, and the loan underwriting for a recreational craft can sometimes be far more stringent than a vehicle loan.The best thing you can do before you start your boat search is to go online and pull your credit report . Then you can look at your outstanding debts, your overall credit score, and figure how much money you can afford to put down. That way you’ll know where you stand before you find your dream boat.

3. Confusing used for new

When it comes to buying a previously loved boat, check your expectations at the door; they can often mislead you. We typically find that a lot of used boat buyers get aggravated when a used boat isn’t as perfect as a new one.When looking at used boats, remember that they’re just that: used. While you shouldn’t expect to buy a used boat that is falling apart or un-seaworthy (unless that’s exactly what you’re looking for) you should expect some imperfections. Gelcoat may not shine like it used to; vinyl seating and canvas covers may have faded; hatch gasketing may need replacing; etc. Know that these cosmetic items have little to do with how well the boat runs or how safe it is. But don’t expect that new boat smell when the one you’re buying is four years old. And if you’re worried about hidden defects, consider hiring a surveyor before buying.

4. Separating your wants from your needs

Another mistake boat buyers make is not being able to separate their wants from their needs, and that means they miss out on lots of boats that would suit them just fine.Before you start your boat shopping (new or used) sit down and figure out what features you’ll actually use, and ones that’d be nice to have. Just like when you buy a house, everything is a compromise of one sort or another. For example, you may want a boat with joystick steering, but an old-fashioned wheel would work just fine. And if you can’t sort out your must-haves from your wants, a good dealer like Silver Lake Marine can probably help figure out what’s right for you.



Uncommon causes of boating injuries

While spending time near water or on a boat can be an enjoyable way to spend a summer day, some dangerous conditions can exist if you are not properly equipped and prepared to deal with them. Two uncommon and avoidable causes of serious injury include being struck by a propeller and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning

CO is a poisonous gas that is a by-product of the gasoline/diesel engine combustion process. Carbon monoxide exposure is possible on any boat that is equipped with an engine or a generator, including outboard engines. Certain heating systems can produce CO gas as well. The gas is invisible and odourless and can be deadly without warning. For this reason, CO detectors are typically required by authorities to be installed on boats with enclosed accommodation compartments.

Other things to consider include:

  • Purchase marine-grade CO detectors.
  • CO detectors should be placed in any enclosed areas where people congregate or sleep.
  • Recognise the symptoms of CO poisoning, including dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, blurred vision and nausea.
  • If anchored with or rafted together with other boats, be cautious about their engine and generator exhaust reaching your vessel.
  • CO poisoning can occur outside of enclosed spaces, such as swim platforms, cockpits or fly bridges. Exposure can occur in a number of ways, including back drafting of exhaust when the boat is under way or if it is idling with the engine or generator running, or even when it is moving at slow speeds.
  • It is advisable to keep engines turned off when at anchor or at the dock. If using a generator, ensure that the exhaust is properly vented and that all passengers stay away from the exhaust ports – especially those who are swimming near the boat.
  • Be sure to inspect the exhaust system on your boat to ensure it is leak free, in good condition and properly connected.
  • Make sure your exhaust ports are free and clear. Blocked ports can cause CO to back up and accumulate in the cabin or other areas of the boat.


Propeller strikes

Boating and swimming go hand-in-hand. But before anyone gets in the water to enjoy some liquid leisure, be sure the motor on your boat is turned off and the propeller has come to a complete stop. These tips can help your passengers stay safe while swimming near your boat.

  • The engine should remain off when getting in and out of the boat or swimming near the boat. All passengers should be made aware of where the propeller is located.
  • Before starting the engine make sure no one is in the water near your boat.
  • If you have to approach someone in the water, do so head on. Do not approach in reverse. When you reach the person, turn off the engine before bringing them on board.
  • Consider installing propeller guards.
  • Stay alert for people in the water, especially when in an area with water-skiing, scuba diving (watch for diving flag), beaches or when near other boats at anchor, mooring or at dock.
  • Be sure to wear your kill switch lanyard whenever you are operating the boat.



Launching at a shallow ramp

On launch ramps with steeper inclines — say around 20 degrees or more — getting the boat off the trailer is relatively easy. Yet not all ramps are user-friendly. What about ramps with more gradual slopes? Getting the trailer in deep enough for the boat to float can also put your tow vehicle in dangerously deep water. The task turns even more difficult when launching single-handedly or on slippery pavement. Here are five ways to deal with launching on shallow ramps.

Get a roller trailer

On very shallow and unimproved ramps, a roller trailer might prove the only way to launch. Unlike bunk trailers, roller trailers let you slide the boat off when there’s not enough water to float it off. The boat also loads more easily, as it literally rolls up onto the trailer as you crank it forward with the trailer winch.

The same characteristics that ease launching also make it more likely that a boat will roll off the trailer at the wrong time. So it’s doubly important to secure the boat until the trailer is well into the water. Your boat may slide off a roller trailer and bounce on the pavement. To avoid this, don’t rely solely on the bow strap (which might snap under sudden pressure); secure a safety chain to the bow eye as well.

Take the plunge

When loading the trailer on a shallow ramp, where dragging the drive or prop on the apron is a concern, you might want to walk the boat onto the trailer and then attach the winch strap and winch it into place. Unfortunately, this means getting wet. While many trailer boaters take pride in never getting their feet wet, it may be the only way to get the job done on a shallow ramp.

Use a finger dock

It might pay to go out of your way a little and use a ramp with a finger dock, especially if single-handed. Back the boat down close to the finger dock. Secure long lines between the dock and boat so that, once it floats off the trailer, it won’t float away. Then pull the trailer away. Your boat will be waiting for you at the dock.

Float and pull forward

Experts use this single-handed launch technique with bunk trailers on medium-shallow ramps without finger docks. Before backing into the water, you can unfurl from the trailer winch about 10 to 15 feet of strap, but keep it hooked to the boat’s bow eye, with the winch in forward gear. Then back down far enough to float the boat off the trailer while gently pulling the trailer forward a bit. This allows you to tippy-toe down the trailer tongue, clamber over the bow, start the engine and unhook the bow strap. A platform that attaches to the trailer tongue can make this maneuver a bit easier.

Use four-wheel drive

If your vehicle has four-wheel drive, engage it before launching or loading. Don’t wait until the wheels start spinning. This is particularly important on an unimproved ramp where the rear wheels might sink into the mud or sand. Once that happens, four-wheel drive might not be able to help you.

This post originally appeared on

Choosing a trolling motor

Trolling motors are great for controlling the subtle movements of your boat when you are fishing in shallow water or along the shoreline. The right trolling motor can make a big difference in your fishing experience and there are a lot of things to consider.

Ideally, you want a motor that is quiet. However, you also want one that has the right amount of thrust for your boat and one that will match your fishing conditions.

Here are the main things to consider before you purchase a trolling motor:


This is the most important thing to consider when purchasing your trolling motor. Thrust is the measure of how powerful a trolling motor is and it’s measured in pounds (lbs). The larger your boat, the more thrust you will require. To find the appropriate amount of thrust, you can refer to this chart from


Bow or transom mount?

Where you choose to mount your trolling motor is really a matter of personal preference. Transom motors are usually the most cost effective and ideal for smaller boats. They are generally operated by hand and have less precise steering than their bow counterparts because they have to push the boat through the water.

Bow motors require a flat bow to be installed (bass boats or all-purpose fishing boats are best) and can be controlled hands-free using a pedal. They are generally more expensive but can offer precise steering and have more robust features, such as autopilot.

Shaft length

You will need to ensure that the shaft length of the trolling motor is appropriate to the size of your boat, especially for bow mounted motors. The distance between the transom and the waterline is generally the same for most boats; however, bow distances can vary greatly. For a rough shaft length estimate for bow motors, measure the distance from the top of your bow to the waterline and add about 18 inches. For transom motors, shaft length is generally between 30″ to 42″, depending on boat length.

Fishing conditions

Where you usually fish will also play a role in determining which motor is best for you. Do you fish in fresh or salt water? Are you on a large body of water or a small pond? If you typically fish in small lakes with very little current, you can usually get away with buying a motor with the minimum thrust. However, if you tend to fish in bodies of water with fast moving currents, you will want to get a motor that exceeds the minimum level of thrust recommended for your boat type.

This post first appeared on Discover Boating.

The danger of propeller strikes

Spinning propellers are extremely dangerous and propeller strikes can cause serious damage and even death. Read on to find out more about propeller strikes and how they can be prevented.

Did you know?

  • A typical three-blade propeller running at 3 200 rpm can inflict 160 impacts in one second?
  • A typical recreational propeller can travel from head to toe on an average person in less than one-tenth of a second?
  • Most propeller accidents CAN be prevented!

What you can do to prevent propeller strikes

  • Wear your engine cut-off switch lanyard and your life jacket at all times. If the lanyard is removed from the switch, the engine will shut off.
  • Assign a passenger to keep watch around the propeller area of your boat when people are in the water.
  • Consider purchasing propeller safety devices for your boat.

Propeller strike safety tips

  1. Before starting your engine, walk to the stern and look in the water to make certain there is no one near your propeller. Those that are near the propeller may not be visible from the helm.
  2. Never allow passengers to board or exit your boat from the water when engine is running. Even while idling and in neutral, your propeller may continue to spin.
  3. Educate passengers about the location and danger of the propeller. Call attention to and discuss any propeller waning labels around your boat.
  4. Be especially alert when operating in congested areas and never enter swimming zones.
  5. Take extra precautions near boats that are towing skiers or tubers.
  6. Never allow passengers to ride on the bow, gunwale, transom, seat backs or other locations where they might fall overboard.
  7. Children should be watched carefully while onboard.
  8. Establish clear rules for swim platform use, boarding ladders, and seating (if possible, passengers should remain seated at all times).


If someone falls overboard

  1. STOP!
  2. Slowly turn the boat around, and keep the person in sight as you approach.
  3. Assign a passenger to continuously monitor the person in the water.
  4. Turn your engine off FIRST and then bring the person to safety.

NEVER reverse your boat to pick someone up out of the water. If necessary, go around again.


Safety devices

There is no “one-size fits all” solution to eliminate the risk of propeller injuries. Boaters must carefully review all options and determine which devices make the most sense for their particular boating experience. The most effective preventive measure is to remain alert. Boaters who are aware are those who responsibly manage propeller injury risks. A variety of safety devices are available to help prevent propeller strikes:

  • Wireless cut off switches
  • Propeller guards
  • Ringed propellers
  • Propulsion alternatives (jet drive)
  • Interlocks
  • Sensors
  • Anti-feedback steering

This post first appeared on

Prop inspection checklist

Once a boat’s hauled out of the water, it’s a lot easier to inspect the propellers, prop shafts, seals and zincs. It’s also a good time to get any needed repairs or maintenance done, rather than waiting until the start of next season when everyone else is clamouring to get their boats fixed. Here is your go-to prop inspection checklist.

Prop inspection checklist

1 Blades

Whether you own an inboard, sterndrive or outboard, carefully scrutinise the propeller blades for damage. Dings and missing chunks are easy to spot, but a slightly bent blade may not be readily apparent, though you can often feel it when underway because it usually creates vibration. Looking at a prop from the side makes it easier to spot a bent blade.

Another way to determine if a blade is bent is to measure the distance between the outermost edge of each blade and a straightedge suspended from a fixed point such as the anti-ventilation plate of an outboard or sterndrive or the bottom of the hull of an inboard. If the distance substantially deviates for one or more blades, you have an issue such as a bent blade.

You can often fix small dings and chinks in prop blades by filing them down, but be careful not to remove too much material, because this can throw a prop out of balance. Major damage such as broken or bent blades requires the expertise and equipment of a prop shop for repair and rebalancing. While many shops can perform near miracles in fixing mangled props, sometimes a wheel is beyond repair and you’ll need to buy another one.

2 Shafts

Vibration while underway can also be an indicator of a bent prop shaft. Any variation in the distance between blade tips and a fixed point, or a visible wobble, can also mean a bent shaft. For inboards, check out the bearings: The prop should be centered within them. Ultimately, if you suspect a shaft is not true, have a shop check and replace or retrue it as necessary. The shop should also check related components such as bearings, seals and couplers, which can be damaged by running a boat with a bent prop shaft.


3 Hubs

Propeller hubs on outboards and sterndrives are designed to give way if the prop strikes an object to prevent damage to the rest of the drivetrain. However, hubs — particularly the old-style rubber hubs — can wear out with time and heat. So if your prop is 10 years old or older, it is a good idea to have a prop shop check the hub and replace it if it is on the verge of giving way.


4 Seals

Errant fishing line — especially the newer braided line — can quickly melt and become a sharp-edged disc once it gets wrapped around a prop shaft. It can then can slice into the prop-shaft seals. With inboards, carefully inspect the outside of the shaft seals and have the yard replace a seal if there is any indication of fishing-line damage.

On outboards and sterndrives, remove the propeller and hardware and check for fishing line. Remove any line you find and look for leakage of gear lube, which might have a milky hue if the seal has been leaking for any period of time. Even with no sign of leakage, drain the gear lube and have a shop pressure-check the gear case. If the lower unit does not meet its pressure specifications, have the seal replaced, and then refill the gear case with fresh lube.

5 Prop-Shaft

  1. Grease before installing the propeller
  2. Inspect the prop hardware and replace any worn components such as a cotter pin or key way.
  3. Apply a generous coat of fresh marine grease to the entire shaft and install the prop, tightening the prop nut to the engine builder’s specification.
  4. Greasing the prop shaft will make it easy next time to remove the wheel, particularly if the shaft and prop are dissimilar metals.

Quick Tip: Wedging a block of wood between a blade and the anti-ventilation plate or hull will keep the prop from turning while you remove or install the prop nut.

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When your boat doesn’t start

Here are a few tips for what to look for when your boat doesn’t start!

1. Check the fuel

It might sound simple – but checking the fuel to make sure that there’s enough is one of the first things to consider. There’s nothing more embarrassing than scratching your head to try and work out what’s wrong, only to realise you’re out of fuel.

When your boat doesn't start

2. Check the kill switch

Make sure the kill switch is in! Most powerboats have a kill switch. It’s a clip that kills the engine when it’s pulled out. The idea behind it is that you attach the other end to yourself so should you fall overboard, the boat will stop moving. However, it needs to be attached in the first place or else the engine won’t start!

When your boat doesn't start

3. Check the gears

Check that the engines are in neutral. Just like a car, outboard engines won’t start if they’re in gear. It’s a simple thing – but easy to overlook.

When your boat doesn't start

The previous three tips are simple oversights that may occur. However, if the boat still doesn’t start after checking these then there is obviously another issue. Without going into too much detail, there are three components of the outboard engine system that might be causing the issue.

5. The electrical system

The electrical system – this provides the power to the engines to get them running. If nothing happens when you turn the key, the problem might lie with the electrical system. Check the battery, connections at the battery as well as the connections at the engine. If all of these are working, it may be faulty cables or worn out spark plugs.

4. The air/fuel system

This is how the fuel is delivered to the engine. If the engine is turning over when the key is turned but not starting, it’s probably a problem with this component. Check that the primer bulb (bulb you squeeze to inject fuel to the system) is hard, check that there are no cracks in the fuel lines and that there’s no water in the fuel filter.

6. The mechanical component

The final component of the system is the mechanical component. Finding problems with this component is the most difficult, unless you have engineering experience or a good working knowledge of outboard engines.

This post first appeared on Oceans Campus Blog.

Testing a boat

Comfort, looks and price are starting points in boat shopping, but no purchase should even be considered before you complete these six tests. We test boats for different reasons than a potential buyer would. Mostly, we want to see if a boat has any idiosyncrasies that might get a less-experienced operator into trouble.

When testing a boat, you should watch out for these six aspects when taking out your potential purchase for a spin:

1. Safety

This is a biggie. Most performance-safety issues concern turning. Conduct this test with no passengers and only after hooking up the red safety lanyard we call the kill switch. In open water, check to see that no other vessels are nearby. Sit down and brace yourself. With your engine trimmed for porpoise-free running at about 45kmph, crank the wheel hard over.

Does the boat power through the turn smoothly, or does the prop lose its “bite” or blow out, dumping speed? If the boat surges and bolts in this maneuver, it’s a sign of a poor match among hull, drive system and prop. Also, some straight inboard vessels can suffer from rudder stall. This means that when you turn the wheel hard over, the boat starts to turn and then just plows straight ahead. This usually means the rudder is poorly designed, and creates turbulence rather than channeling water. Finally, idle forward, turn the wheel hard over, and then push the throttle to the wall. Some poorly designed boats lay over so far on their beam that water pours over the gunwales. Not good.

2. Low speed control

Things you should be aware of include the following:

  • In which direction does the stern swing on an inboard when in reverse? Most only back up one way.
  • Can you change direction when powering in reverse? Even some stern-drives, when in reverse, lock into a turn and won’t alter direction until you remove the throttle.
  • These factors aren’t cause to instantly reject a boat, but you should be aware of them.

3. Hull integrity

When out on your trial, look for a wave or create one. Then drive over the wave and listen for bulkheads squeaking when you land.  After, look around for screws that might have popped loose.

4. Tracking ease

Center the wheel at idle speed so the boat travels straight, and then take your hands off the wheel. Some boats simply cannot track straight, so you must constantly correct the yawing motion. These boats will become annoying real fast.

5. Systems check

Ensure that every mechanism on the boat is operational.

  • Does the bilge pump jettison water?
  • Operate the radio and the CD changer, and make sure all speakers are functioning.
  • Check every gauge, running light and courtesy light.
  • Flush the head, and run the fresh and raw water.

6. Written documentation

Note anything not operating on paper, and insist that it be operational before closing the deal. It’s easier to get it fixed in the sales line than the service queue.

This post originally appeared on

Power boating tips 101

Boating is a rewarding hobby and sport. Some of the best times are spent on the water with your friends and family while fishing, waterskiing or just cruising. Learning to boat and get around on the water is a lot like learning to drive a car. You’re excited to have the freedom to travel, but a little worried to take over the controls. Being apprehensive when you first start driving a boat is understandable. Here are some power boating tips you can follow to make boating a little easier and safer while you improve your new skills.

Beginner power boating tips

Learning from an experienced boater can help speed up the process. However, watching other boaters that have boats similar to yours and asking questions is another option. There are also many boating education programmes offered as well.

Tips for before you get on the water

  1. If practical, you should start out learning in a small boat. They are easier to control, making even the most nervous beginner more comfortable.
  2. Choose an area with calm water and few boats will give you the chance to learn the feel of the boat without added pressure of handling choppy waves.
  3. Be aware of the weather reports and watch for unexpected adverse weather that might pop up. Being on the water during a rainstorm or heavy winds is dangerous, so don’t wait until the last minute to dock your boat.
  4. Wear a life jacket, and make sure everyone on the boat does. Nine out of 10 drownings happen when no life jacket is being worn.
  5. Basic stuff to have on your boat: U.S. Coast Guard-approved, marine-type fire extinguisher, a visual distress signal if you are on coastal waters, a horn to make sound, a throwable PFD (life ring), first aid kit, back-up plugs, anchor & line and spare keys.
  6. File a float plan. Be sure to let someone know where you’ll be boating and when you’ll be back. In the case of an emergency, this will give rescue personnel a better idea of where you were going and how long you’ve been gone, giving you a better chance of being found.

Tips when launching your boat

  1. Get your boat ready to put in the water by making sure you put the plug in the boat. Your boat should not be in the water without the plug in.
  2. Remove straps and tie-downs on trailers and engines.
  3. Load your gear into the boat while it’s out of the water. It’s easier and safer than lugging cooler boxes, bags, etc. through water or bending down from a dock.
  4. Back your boat down the slipway to get your boat in the water so your engine is in the water and the boat is not floating off the trailer. Be sure everything is working properly before you release the boat from the trailer.
  5. Run the blower to make sure there are no fuel vapors in the engine compartment.
  6. Set the kill switch to run.
  7. Start your boat with the drive mechanism in throttle so the propeller is not turning while you’re on the trailer.
  8. Unhook the boat and release the bow hooks that keep the boat on the trailer.
  9. Boat and vehicle driver now work together to gradually separate boat from the trailer. Vehicle driver slowly back the boat further down the ramp until it is floating. At that point, the boat driver can gently give the boat a little reverse throttle to slip the boat off the trailer.

This post was originally published here.