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Ontario Fishing Network
Volume 5,  Issue 4 -  April 2005

Breaking the Boat Out for Spring

Tim Allard

I honestly think there's a direct correlation between melting snow and the increasing need for anglers to get on the water. Just consider how many countless hours you, or your friends, have spent sharpening hooks, organizing and reorganizing your tackle box, and the cash you spend on pre-season shopping for supplies. But here's a question: how many of you take the time to properly prepare your boat for the upcoming season? There's no better place to invest your anxious energy than boat and trailer tune-ups and tinkering. Here's a list of some things you should do before you hit the water this season.

Get the engine running
If you didn't get your engine winterized, you'll want to do the annual maintenance in the spring, such as: changing the oil and filters, lubricating parts, and cleaning spark plugs. If you winterized your boat, some shops will include a spring start-up in their package to ensure all is working well after the winter. Hooking up a hose to a pair of "ear muffs" or using other flushing kits will allow you to start your engine on land - always a good move before the first outing.

Check Hoses and Connections
You'll want to check all the hoses and connections from your gas tank to your engine. Have any of the tubes cracked over the winter? Are there any signs of wear and tear visible on tubes or the gas tank? If so, replace worn parts at the beginning of the season. Don't forget to add new gas to that tank too, fuel stabilizers will keep gas uniform over the winter, but you want fresh gas running through the engine as soon as possible.

The Blessed Battery
Batteries are a crucial component in boats today. They power fish finders, trolling motors, lights, livewells, and the list goes on. I have both a cranking and a deep cycle battery in my boat. The cranking is strictly for starting my outboard; the deep cycle is for my electronics. Both types of batteries should be charged differently, but charge them fully before your first run on the water. This is also a good time to clean grimy battery terminals with a wire, battery brush.

Working on Wires
A battery is useless without a network of wires to transport its energy to the gadgets on your boat. Check all the wiring in your boat, looking for kinks and cracks in the wiring, replacing sections of wiring if necessary. Tighten any loose connections and replace any year-old electrical tape with new product to ensure the seal will last the season. While inspecting your wiring, also consider tucking some of it away to tidy your boat. There are a variety of products available in the electrical section of hardware stores, like plastic tie-downs, that will help you organize your boat's wiring.

Tighten It All Up
We might not think of it when we're flying across a lake to get to the next fishing spot, but boats take a beating on the water. The constant stresses and vibrations of pushing through water will loosen a boat's components, specifically screws, over time. I highly recommend tightening all connections in your boat during the spring. Here's a sample of things to tighten: seats, livewell hinges, hull supports, floors, fish finders, electrical switches, trolling motor mounts, and anything else that has a nut, bolt or screw.

Safety Kit
You should already have the appropriate safety gear and equipment to comply with the boating regulations for the vessel you operate. Check this equipment at the beginning of the season and top-up supplies. This includes replenishing supplies from your First Aid kit that might have got low over the summer. Replace weak batteries with fresh ones. Ensure you have spares for some basic boat equipment (such as fuses and spark plugs). Also return any items to your boat that you may have removed during winter storage, like anchors or a tool kit.

Trailer Tune-Up
Don't forget to check your trailer at the beginning of the spring. Start by inspecting your tires, looking for adequate treads and ensure there are no cracks or bulges on the sides. Replace worn tires (if necessary) and add the proper air pressure before any outings. You'll also want to replenish grease levels and repack your bearings if needed. Next, ensure all the lights are operating properly and check the wiring. Finally, inspect the winch and straps, tightening any loose nuts and bolts, but also checking the strap for signs of wear and tear, replacing if needed. This is important; the last thing you want is the strap snapping when you're cranking your boat onto your trailer.

Tuning and tightening up your boat as you wait for season-opener is a smart investment of your time. It keeps your boat in good shape, but it's also an opportunity to spot any potential hazards before they become major problems. Don't get sidelined this season with boat problems that could have been prevented with a little spring tune-up.

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