Spring is here, which means boating season is right around the corner. If you usually take your boat to a professional for de-winterization, you know that doing so may cost a pretty penny. Learning how to get your boat ready for spring yourself may be a more affordable option. Plus, you’ll take on the high seas — or your local pond — with a more comprehensive knowledge of your vessel. 

Even so, tackling de-winterization on your own for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. Where do you even start? Having a checklist on hand will make the task more manageable and set you up for success both now and for the rest of the season. 

1. Inspect the Hull

After unwrapping or uncovering your boat, your first matter of business is to inspect the hull. Look for moisture penetration, cracks or damage and carefully assess the paint job for scratches. You should also replace the hull zincs, especially if they are 50% gone. This process will extend the life of your boat’s hull, engine, propeller, rudder and other metal components. Plus, changing it now means you won’t have to worry about repeating the process for another few months. 

2. Check the Engine 

Before placing your boat in winter storage, you should have changed the oil and filter. Now, you should re-check the consistency of the oil. A creamy or frothy texture indicates the presence of water in the fluid, which might mean the gasket blew, the cylinder corroded or another serious engine issue. Additionally, reinstall the battery, make sure it’s secure in its box and double-check all electrical connections

3. Update Safety Gear

Most states have rules and regulations regarding safety equipment like life jackets, flares, fire extinguishers and the like. For instance, most municipalities require all children under 13 to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. Check your gear for wear and tear, and add a few more life vests if your family has grown or you anticipate visitors this summer. You should also test bilge blowers and pumps to ensure they still function correctly. 

4. Wax and Paint 

If you didn’t wax your boat in the fall, do so now. Use marine paste-wax on the topsides with the exception of non-skid deck areas. You can use the same solution on a hull, which will last longer than all-in-one products. Furthermore, if you typically paint the hull or plan to do so this season, determine whether you need to strip the old paint and sand the hull. Then, tape the waterline and around all metal parts and get painting. 

5. Check State Requirements 

Most states have strict laws regarding boat drivers and their qualifications. For instance, Georgia requires those between the ages of 12 and 15 to complete a boating education course to man certain vessels independently. New Jersey, however, requires all power vessel operators to complete the course, regardless of age. Make sure you meet all state requirements, renew your registration and locate your boating license before setting sail. Replace any permit stickers as well. 

6. Inspect Your Trailer 

Put as much care into inspecting your trailer as you do your boat. After all, if your trailer doesn’t function or breaks on the way to the marina, your boat goes down with it. Check the rollers and pads, lubricate the wheel bearings and test the lights. Of course, carefully inspect the tire pressure as well and test the brakes if your trailer has them. Spray all connections with contact cleaner. Then, practice driving around the block before heading to the harbor.

7. Check for Leaks 

If you weren’t able to properly store your boat or protect it from the cold winter winds, wooden boards and other components might have shifted in the changing temperatures. Therefore, it’s imperative to check for leaks both before and immediately after placing your boat in the water. Additionally, be sure to secure the drain plug before you launch. You certainly don’t want to sink your vessel on its first voyage of the year!

Consult Your User Manual Before You Sail Away

As a boat owner, you know each make and model of boat is different. As a result, you’ll have to tailor your spring cleaning and prep checklist to suit your vessel’s specific needs. While the above tasks apply to many boat owners, it’s always best to consult your user manual for specific guidelines and cleaning instructions. The manual is the ultimate checklist for getting your boat ready for spring. 

Plan Your First Trip Out!

Once your boat is ready, you can start thinking about your first trip out on the water. Check out our guide to planning your next fishing trip and catch your next monster fish.