These past few winter months have been long and cold, but here is the good news: it is almost spring! The air is getting warmer, the snow will start receding soon, and the time is coming to bring your boat out of storage and get back on the water. This is the time of year that all boaters look forward to. 

Just as you prepared your boat for safe storage through the winter, it will need some work to get it ready for the summer. Below is a guide that will help you to make sure that when you put your boat back in the water you will be ready for a safe and fun boating experience all summer long.

The Boat’s Hull and Storage

When you take your boat out of storage, your first step should be to do a visual inspection. If you used a canvas cover or tarp, check it for any tears or damage. Once your boat is uncovered, look over every inch with care. Make sure all screws and fittings are tight and well lubricated. Are there cracks in the hull or damage to the paint job? Now is the time to find it, so you are able to get it fixed before the season is in full swing. If any dust or mildew (or small critters) made its way underneath the cover, your boat will benefit from an in-depth cleaning or wash down.

This inspection should also include the trailer that your boat is on. Make sure that all the supports are in good working order and have not been damaged. In addition, check that the wiring is undamaged, so that the trailer’s brake lights and turn signals are fully functional.

This is also an excellent time to make sure that your boat is up-to-date as far as safety regulation is concerned. Make sure flares, extinguishers, and flotation devices are not expired and are compliant with regulations. If you are not up-to-date on what exactly you need, there are several checklist apps that can be of great assistance. On-board stickers are also useful reminders.

Checking on your safety equipment is also a good time to clear and air out any of your on-board storage spaces. Closed-off areas are both more likely to build up dust and mildew and be full of items that are expired or that you do not use any more. You may have filled your water systems with potable antifreeze to keep the pipes from cracking, so now is the time to flush it out.

Check the Boat’s Electrical and Mechanical Systems

Once you have checked the physical integrity of your boat, cleaned and waxed the hull, and painted and repaired any cracks, it is time to move on to your boat’s electrical and mechanical systems. If your boat has been in storage for a long time — more than the length of one winter — you will probably need to change its battery. If not, it should be charged before you get in the water. When your battery is charged and running, check to make sure all lights, pumps, and gauges are working properly. Replace any burnt-out bulbs and systems.

The next step is to make sure that your engine runs properly. Remember that fuel can become contaminated if it is left sitting for too long. If you are in doubt as to whether any fuel left in your tank has been contaminated, drain it and refill with fresh fuel. Fuel becomes contaminated when it interacts with water, so if your tank has been sitting for three months or more and collecting moisture, the fuel should be replaced. Check your oil, spark plugs, and filters.

Once you are fueled and ready to go, turn on your engine and let it idle for a little while. Listen to the sounds it makes — if you hear anything abnormal it may be time to look for a professional. Check also that it responds normally when you rev the engine for a brief moment. You do not necessarily have to be a professional to find fuel leaks; just use your nose and your eyes, and notice when anything seems different from when you put your boat into storage.

If everything checks out and feels normal, you are ready to go! Enjoy this summer season, get out on the water as often as you can, and may every day be smooth sailing.