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.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) advises new and current boat and Jet Ski owners to consider purchasing theft prevention devices and brushing up on some basic safety techniques to make sure their vessels stay right where they docked them
With an average of 775 watercraft and Jet Ski's stolen each month, theft costs boat owners and their insurance companies more than $40 million a year.
"Whether you own a motorboat, kayak, personal water craft or 40-foot wooden sailboat-make sure that your boat has the same level of protection as your car or truck," said Robert M. Bryant, President and CEO of National Insurance Crime Bureau. "The majority of watercraft stolen is under 20-feet in length and are never seen again by their owners," he added. "A few simple theft prevention devices could have kept them happily afloat." NICB recommends the following theft prevention guidelines that should leave boat thieves in your wake-guard against a fraudulent purchase, use common sense when disembarking the craft and keep up-to-date identification records.
Boat Fraud: Beware of the Sharks
Learn to recognize common fraud indicators.
-- If a watercraft is offered at a price below market value-be suspicious
-- When purchasing a boat, check that the Hull Identification Number (HIN) matches the HIN on the registration
Dock-It and Lock-It: Using Land Logic on Water
Thieves won't steal a watercraft if it takes too much time or creates too much noise.
-- Always dock in a well-lit area
-- Clearly identify and mark the vessel
-- Secure watercraft to the dock or buoy with a locked steel cable; detachable outboard motors also should be chained and locked to the boat
-- Always shut the engine off; never leave the keys in the boat when going ashore
-- Lock the craft's cabins, doors and windows when not in use
-- Equip the boat with alarms and activate them whenever leaving the craft
-- Disable the boat when docked for long periods by shutting off fuel lines, removing the battery or removing the distributor cap
Stranded with an Empty Dinghy: Keep Identification Records Current
Keep clear, up-to-date records on your watercraft and equipment.
-- Never leave registration, title or identification papers on the boat
-- Take photos or a video of the boat, including a close-up of the HIN
-- Record the serial numbers of all on-board electronics and equipment
By Bobby Boop
Navigation is an important component of boating. It comes into play long before hitting the water, however. Finding your way through the challenges of buying a boat or Jet Ski also can be intimidating.
Even for first-timers, buying a boat or PWC is not as tricky as it might seem. The steps are almost exactly like those needed when buying a car, something almost every American adult has done.
Step 1: Wants and needs
A boat purchase is often a long-term commitment, so it's important to get started the right way - by figuring out what kind of Jet Ski you're going to buy by balancing your wants and needs.
Think about how you will use the PWC or Boat.
Will it be primarily for weekend family fun on big lakes? If so, a traditional 3-seater runabout - the family sedan of Jet Ski’s - maybe the best choice. They are versatile, and many models are available at various price points.
If you are looking for something for cruising with a lot of people, a deck boat might be the best option. Deck boats basically combine the sleek hull of a runabout with the large, open deck design of a pontoon boat. They are also pretty nice fishing platforms. Sounds somewhat like a minivan, doesn't it?
If you need lots of room but do not care much for speed, a pontoon boat may be the way to go.
Big cabin cruisers are the RVs of the water, getting you from point A to point B, and giving you a place to stay when you get there.
Looking to go fast or turn heads? Sleek speedboats with massive engines are the Chevy Corvettes of the lake. Unlike a Vette, they might have room for more than two, but not much more room.
If you need speed but do not want size, a 2 seater personal watercraft might be the ticket.
If your want a more thrilling ride that is a little technical you might want to try a stand up Jet Ski.
Step 2: The budget
Once you decide on the type of Jet Ski or boat you want and/or need, it is time to decide how much to spend.
The first consideration is the price of the boat or Ski itself. Like cars, two boats of similar size, shape and even engine power can be separated in cost by thousands - or even tens of thousands - of dollars.
You do not have to spend much to get reasonably reliable on-water transportation, or you can spend a ton to get the ultimate in luxury and performance.
Lenders are willing to finance boats for long terms - up to and even beyond 15 years in some cases - so monthly payments can be relatively low.
However, other costs must be considered. Insurance and registration are annual costs. Storing a boat at a marina is another, sometimes significant, expense. Regular maintenance costs, as well as unexpected repairs, must be considered. Do not forget about accessories, such as electronic equipment, a trolling motor, and even an anchor.
Finally, make sure your vehicle is capable of towing your boat or Jet Ski’s.
Step 3: Research
Today a car buyer can find out anything about any car, thanks in large part to the Internet. The Internet is also a great way to research boats and Jet Ski’s.
All boat, PWC and engine makers have their own Web sites, although some are better than others. Many sites allow shoppers to "build" their own boat, down to color schemes and accessories.
Internet-savvy car shoppers have one advantage over boat shoppers. Boat prices can be harder to find. Although a few manufacturers offer set, no-haggle prices on boat packages, many don't publish prices. To find out what a specific boat is going for, shoppers can skim Internet message boards.
Sealing the deal
Once you find a boat or Jet Ski you want and can afford, it is time to close the deal.
Haggling about the price is usually part of the process. Because haggling is time-consuming, and time is precious during a boat show, many dealers try to avoid the step by offering boats and Personal Watercraft at special "boat show prices" from the start. They might not be willing to cut any more bucks off the bottom line, but it doesn't hurt to ask, "Is that the best you can do?" at least once.
Once the price is set, be prepared to shell out a nominal amount of cash as a deposit.
Obviously, there is no way to take a boat or Jet Ski for a test ride at the Civic Center. Still, be sure your deal is contingent on an on-water test drive at a later date. Dealers are generally more than happy to agree. If you hate the boat, you will be able to choose another from that dealer.
By Robert Boop
Winterizing Your Boat
It's that time again--time to think of brightly covered leaves and frozen, snow-laden lakes. Although very pleasing to the eyes, these autumn icons and hard lakes mean one thing: putting the boat up for the winter. With special precautions, this event doesn't have to be fraught with stress and worry. Old Man Winter can be pretty harsh on a boat, but by following certain guidelines closely, you and your boat will be ready to go next spring with little effort and, best of all, no stress.
Make a plan ahead of time. This is one of the first things you should do before laying-up your boat. A plan will guide you through the simple steps needed to protect your boat and trailer for the winter. It will also limit to one the number of trips you need to make to the marine store to buy the required items for winter lay-up. This trip will also provide you with some tips from the experts at the marine store. If you live in states between California to Florida, skip all the items below except for breaking the boat out for the spring-time boating season.
Once you have a plan in-hand, the first step is to hike down to your local marine supply store and check out the latest and greatest do-it-yourself lay-up supplies. There is a multitude of chemicals available to stabilize fuel and fog the inside of the engine, along with specialty lubricants to protect vital components from the elements. The list can be long, but if you have some WD40, an engine-fogging agent, fuel stabilizer, marine grease for your grease gun, engine oil and filters, and gear case oil, you're set for a winter lay-up.
While at the marine store, pick up a set of spark plugs and a fuel/water separator for the spring break-out-of-storage event. Purchasing in bulk may give you a little discount advantage. One word of caution: When purchasing the fuel/water separator, take it out of the box and take a close look inside. I found a lot of these filters have rust inside from sitting around the parts house shelves a little too long. You don't want to start the springtime boating season with rust running around your fuel system.
Once you've purchased these products and have thoroughly picked the brains of the experts at the marine store, it's time to get started. If you have an outboard, the lay-up procedures are a little less labor-intensive, and of course, if you have more engines, plan on extending the day a little.
Although some mechanics may say this step is unnecessary, I believe that you can't change your oil enough in the engine and drive. However, change the oil before putting the boat into storage. Run the engine with the clean oil until it reaches operating temperature. This will accomplish two things: First, it will put a fresh coat of oil on all internal engine parts; and second, the dirt and acids that are in the engine will be held in suspension with new oil a lot better than with old stuff. When springtime comes around, run the engine--again, up to operating temperature. Then shut it down, and drain the oil. Refill with fresh oil. Of course, you still need to change the oil filter both times, so make sure you have two filters on hand.
Take out your can of WD40 or equivalent, and spray all exposed cable ends, carburetor linkage or fuel-injection throttle body. Shift linkage should also be lubed, and on some models of IOs, the manufacturer may recommend a certain brand of lubricant/protectant for this purpose. You may also want to fog the engine at this time, following the manufacturer's recommendations.
As for the drive, I don't see a need to change the oil in the drive before winterizing, unless you have water in it. If the water is left in the oil, it will rust all the internal parts of the drive; the first time you run the boat in the spring, the bearings and races will be destroyed. Remember to clean the magnetic plug when changing the oil in the drive.
Checking Things Out
This is a good time to check all the rubber hoses and lines, especially the fuel lines running from the fuel tank to the water separator and on to the fuel injection or carburetor, if so equipped. While you are on the fuel system, take the hose that runs from the fuel tank to the fuel filter off at the tank. Remove the anti-siphon valve and make sure the ball inside is tight against the seat and make sure it opens, also. If this valve gets stuck, although highly unlikely, you will think you are out of fuel. Another hose that is often overlooked is the vent hose. If this hose has a crack, or hole, it could pour raw fuel inside the boat, and you may not even notice it.
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