A Comprehensive Guide to Pre-Float Inspection and Boating Safety
The key to maintaining your boat and ensuring a safe and stress-free boating experience is a thorough pre-float inspection. Similar to the preflight check done by aircraft pilots, a walk around your boat before and after each use is essential. Unfortunately, many boaters overlook this step, leading to preventable issues that can ruin their day on the water.
Before heading out, it's crucial to ensure that you have all the necessary gear on board, including proper lifejackets, fire extinguishers, and other items required by the U.S. Coast Guard. Additionally, make sure you have essential items such as sunscreen, hats, towels, spare parts, proper tools, anchor, and registration or documentation. But be mindful of overloading your boat; minimalism is key, and every item aboard should have a specific purpose.
When inspecting the boat, start at the transom and check the drive housing, transom assembly, hoses, and rams for any leaks or cracks. Inspect the propellers carefully, looking for small cracks, and try moving the drives laterally to check for any movement. Any lateral movement could indicate air or a leak in your hydraulic steering, which must be repaired before operating your boat. Once the boat is in the water, raise the engine hatch, turn on the blowers, and fire up the engine. Look for water flow and any water or oil leaks. Verify the engine ignition stop switch is working correctly.
Problems with boats, both new and old, often telegraph their issues, so it's our responsibility to observe everything under the hatch before leaving the dock. After a long hard run, raise the hatch and inspect everything again. When the boat is dry, do the walk once more, checking the transom, drives, removing the props, and inspecting the prop shaft and each prop blade. Afterward, wash, dry, wipe, wax, and spray with a moisture-removing, rust-preventing product. These simple steps, combined with routine service and maintenance, will save you thousands of dollars and many lost boating hours.