Boat Maintenance Checklist

27 March 2011 On The Water

The life expectancy of your boat depends on how well you maintain it. A boat maintenance checklist is a good start for keeping the boats clean and in good condition. 
Special maintenance attention in the spring and fall ensures a problem-free boating season. The boat is a critical component of life at the cabin. Take the time to maintain it properly.

Spring Boat Maintenance Checklist

How do you get your boat ready in the spring?
Before putting the boat in the water and heading to the favourite fishing hole for the first time it is important to ensure the boat is as ready to go as you are.

Here is a spring checklist for the cottage boat.

User’s Manual
Always have your manufacturer’s manual handy when planning to work on the boat. If you don’t have one, go to the boat manufacturer’s website or your local dealer to order one.

If you took the boat keys home for the winter, remember to bring them with you when you go to put the boat in the water for the first time. It’s a simple thing, but an important one. That’s why we make checklists.

Some people attach the keys and the drain plug to the steering wheel when they do the fall maintenance.

Hull Maintenance
Check the hull for any damage that might have occurred during the winter or while the boat was being transport from the winter storage location to the lake.

Clean the hull thoroughly and apply a fresh coat of wax. This is a tedious job and should be done in the fall but it is important for protecting the hull as well as making the boat move through the water as smoothly as possible which helps reduce your fuel costs over the boating season. It also forces you to inspect the hull more carefully for any small cracks or punctures that might be missed on a general inspection of the hull.

Drain Plug
Before you put the boat in the water, make sure the drain plug is properly fastened. Double check to see that the plug is in in the drain hole and not in the intake for the live well. Once the boat is in the water, check the plug again before you take off.

Boat Battery
If you removed the battery in the fall, don’t forget to put it back into the boat before you head to the marina. Check the battery to make sure it is fully charged.

Connect the motor to the battery. Make sure you put the wires on the correct points.

If the boat battery has been sitting all winter, it may have lost some or all of its charge. Try to start the motor before you put the boat in the water to see if there is enough juice left in the battery. Don’t run the motor when it is out of the water, just check to see if it will turn over.

Safety Equipment
Take an inventory of all the required boat safety equipment and check for damage. Replace any safety items that are worn, torn, or broken. Fines for not having the required safety gear aboard the boat can be expensive, so it is worth the time to make sure all of the safety gear is in order.

Boat Cover
Check all the canvas coverings and vinyl for rips, dirt, or mold. Tears in the cover may indicate that the critters have gotten into the boat over the winter. Clean the cover and repair any damage immediately rather than setting the cover aside and promising yourself you will repair it later. You will likely forget about the damaged cover and then use it again in the fall without repairing it because you won’t have time.

Critter Damage
Check for critter damage like chewed wires, ripped seats, nests, and droppings. Mice and raccoons can really mess up the boat over the winter. you want to inspect all of the wires carefully and replace any that have been damaged.

Electronic Boat Equipment
Install all of the electronic gadgets and make sure they are working properly, before you head out onto the lake. Depth finders and maps are critical in areas with submerged rocks, reefs, and low water points. You don’t want to damage the hull or break off the lower end of the motor.

Inside the Boat
Clean the inside of the boat thoroughly and organize all equipment properly. This has to be done right away because you probably won’t do it later. Aside from the good feeling you get when the boat is clean and fresh, the process also forces you to look for small problems that might otherwise be overlooked.

Ideally, you cleaned the boat in the fall so there shouldn’t be much to do in the spring.

Tighten all pole mounts, clips, holders, and anything else that has screws or clamps that may have come loose last year or during the transportation of the boat.

Take the time to polish all the metal. It’s your boat, take pride in it and make it look good!

Boat Bilge Pump
Check the operation of the bilge pump. This is one of the most important pieces of equipment on your boat. Check the connections to the battery and add some water to test the bilge pump’s operation. Never assume that it is working correctly, even if it was fine when you put the boat into storage in the fall.

Boat Insurance
Make sure your insurance policy is up to date on the boat, motors, and trailer. If you bought a new boat motor, make sure the documentation has been updated with the insurance company.

Ropes and Lines
Replace worn ropes, lines, and cables. It is risky to use old ones that are damaged. If a line breaks and your boat floats away from the dock, the possible damage costs for your boat and the other ones it might hit are much higher than the cost of replacing the ropes.

Also check the cables such as the steering cables to ensure they are in good condition.

Test the horn. You may not use it all summer but it must be functioning properly.

Go to the Nautical Alphabet and Horn Signals page to see the standard horn blast boating signals.

Boat Winterizing Checklist

How do you winterize your boat?
For outdoor winter boat storage, it is important to winterize the boat properly. Whether you leave the boat at the cottage, at the marina, or take it home you have to follow a few important steps to avoid problems in the spring.

The weather may be a bit chilly in the fall but there are no bugs so it may be best to do the ugly boat maintenance work at the end of the season so you can get back in the water faster in the spring.

Here is the boat winterizing checklist.

Boat Ignition System
Make sure the ignition is off and take the keys out. It is easy to forget to do this when you are in a hurry to get the boat onto the trailer. Someone else is usually waiting to use the boat ramp and you may pull away as quickly as you cam without removing the keys. If you want to leave the keys with the boat, consider attaching them to the steering wheel.

Disconnect the boat battery when you prepare the boat for winter storage. If possible, it is a good idea to take it and charge it in the spring before you start the new season. If you do this, make sure you make a note on your spring checklist to put the battery back in the boat.

Boat Drain Plug
Remove the drain plug and use a string or rubber band to attach the drain plug to the steering wheel. You don’t want to forget to replace it in the spring. It is important to remove the drain plug for winter storage because the water that makes it into the boat over the winter and in the early spring must have a way to drain out.

Stabilize the Trailer
Place wooden blocks or bricks behind the trailer tires. You never know what might happen over the winter and you don’t want to find the boat in a gully in the spring.

Electronic Devices
Remove all electronics devices and store them in a safe place. This will keep them in good condition and protect them from damage from critters or loss from theft over the winter.

Boat Interior
Clean the interior of the boat. This is a tedious job to do in the fall when you are probably in a hurry but you will be much happier in the spring if you take the time to clean the boat properly before you store it for the winter.

Boat Hull
Thoroughly scrub the scum off the bottom of the boat. It is a tough job but it has to be done. There are less bugs in the fall and the algae build up on the bottom of the boat will be easier to remove in the fall than if you leave it all winter. If you don’t clean it before you put the boat in storage, you are less likely to do it in the spring when you are eager to get the boat back into the water.

Carefully inspect the hull and other parts for damage and do repairs before storing the boat. Repair work is often cheaper at this time of the year and you want to have everything in top condition for the spring.

Boat Wax
Apply a coat of wax to the hull after you have finished cleaning it. This not only helps protect it over the winter, it also makes your job easier in the spring.

How do you keep raccoons and mice out of the boat?
Place some mothballs in a nylon stocking and leave it at the back of the boat to help deter raccoons and mice from making a home in the boat over the winter.

Wrap the boat tightly with good quality tarps and rope. This not only protects the inside of the boat from the rain, snow and ice but it helps keep the animals out of the boat during the winter.

Elevate the Boat
Lift the front of the trailer up onto a wood crate or wooden sawhorse at a high enough angle to allow the rain and snow to run off the back of the boat cover or out the drain if some of the water gets into the boat. It is important to keep the inside of the boat dry over the winter so that the wood doesn’t rot and mold can’t grow.

Support the Skeg
Place a pail or a piece of wood under the motor skeg for support.

Removing Boat Stains

How do you get stains out of the carpet of the boat?
The boat takes a real beating during the cottage season. Whether it’s dirt, food, drinks, or fish guts, the boat always seems to get dirty and we often wait until the end of the season to clean it.

What is the best mixture to use for cleaning stains in the boat?
The nature of the stain determines the ideal mixture for removing it, but the best all purpose cleaner for boat stains is a pail of hot water mixed with a cup of white vinegar and some liquid dish detergent.

Pour the mixture onto the stained area. Use a brush with stiff bristles to spread the cleaner around so that it gets right into the material. Allow the mix to soak into the carpet for 45 minutes. Use thick rags to dab-dry the carpet. Do not scrub the carpet with the rags.

Difficult Boat Carpet Stains
Nasty boat stains may require the use of glass cleaner. Let the glass cleaner soak for 5-10 minutes. Dab dry with a rag. If needed, use a spare piece of carpet to scrub the stain out rather than scrubbing with the rags. The carpet works better.

How do you clean vomit stains in the boat?
Sometimes people and pets get seasick. When the dog or kids barf on the boat carpet use baking soda and water or club soda to attack the acids.

How do you get fish blood out of the boat carpet?
Fish blood can be a problem for the boat carpet because it is easy for the stain to become permanent. Use cold water mixed with dry laundry soap to make an absorbent paste and apply it to the area of the boat carpet that is stained with the fish blood. Wait for the mixture to dry. Use a light brush or a vacuum to clean it up. Don’t use hot water because it will probably make the fish blood stain permanent.

Proper boat maintenance in the spring and fall will ensure that the boat always runs safely and efficiently.

Need more boating tips?
Got to the Boat Motor Maintenance page.
Go to the Boat Motor Positioning page.
Go to the Boating Safety page.
Go to the Boat Trailer Maintenance page.