Boating Safety Is For Life

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Boating Safety News

Spring Fitting Out

In the boating world there is an annual rite, spring fitting out. In most places in North America, boats are hauled out or put away for the winter, and then in the spring, brought out for the new boating season. But, for safe and trouble free boating, there are things that need to be done every year before you put that boat back in the water.  Some are obvious, like cleaning, painting, waxing, and generally making the boat look good. But there are others which are much more important, especially if you want a safe smooth running boat. At the end of this I will add some references to very complete lists of things to do during Spring Fitting Out. 

I will make a list and divide it into power boats and sailboats. Some items are common to both, but there are some which are specific to the type of boat.

Common items:
waxing (for fiberglass)

Go over the whole boat, inside and out, and make a to-do list of items that need fixing.
Inspect and test the entire electrical system. Replace any old or frayed wires, corroded connectors or fuses. (most electrical problems are due to bad or corroded connectors) Don't scrimp here. Good wiring and connectors are crucial to an electrical system's operation.

Charge and test batteries: Do this under load if possible. Replace old weak batteries. Clean the battery terminals.

Check and test to make sure all electrical and electronics work properly.

Checking safety equipment:

Inspect lifejackets/flotation devices for wear and tear, mold and mildew. Replace as needed.

Inspect fire extinguishers and have them tested.

Inspect anchors, chains and anchor lines. Anchors may need to be cleaned and painted. Anchor lines may need to be replaced. Do not scrimp. If lines are old and frayed, replace them. 

Check and test bilge pumps. Clean the bilge thoroughly

Check and test running lights. 

Visual distress signals should be examined. If they are beyond the use by day, replace them. Dispose of the old ones correctly, they are hazardous materials.

Underwater fittings: inspect sea cocks and other through hull fittings. Make sure all valves work. 
Disassemble them and lubricate. Check for blockages from barnacles, sea growth and other obstructions (Plastic bags on engine cooling water intakes. Growth inside the intake.)

Inspect and lubricate steering systems.

On stern drives, inspect the bellows and all rubber gaskets. There should be no holes and they should be flexible and pliant. Replace them even if they only appear bad.

Stoves and other appliances: Check to see they are working and, if they need routine maintenance. If they use propane or CNG check the entire system for leaks, corrosion, or other problems. Check the owner's manual that came with the appliance.

Motorboats: (this includes main engines and auxiliary generators)

Check all fluid levels.

Drain and replace engine oil.

If the engine has a closed cooling system, drain and replace coolant. 

If it is a stern drive or outboard, check the lower unit for correct fluid levels.

Replace the cooling water impeller. Do this on all engines. 

The following section on fuel systems is vital and can save your life. Many fires and explosions occur on the first time out in the spring because people did not pay enough attention to the fuel system on their boat.

Check fuel lines, if they are hard, or very squishy, and have checks, cracks and splits, or if they are over five years old, replace them. This includes the entire fuel system, including fuel fill hose and vent hose, as well as the line from the tank to the engine. Use only USCG Type A1-15 or B1 - 15 hose as appropriate.  It will be labeled USCG TYPE A1-15 (or B1-15) SAE-J1527 ISO 7840. Replace the clamps using only 316L stainless steel clamps. Make sure the clamps are all 316L including the screw. Check with a magnet if necessary. 316L is non magnetic.  If you replace fuel lines you should also have the fuel system pressure tested.

Check fuel vent lines for blockages. If it has a flame arrester screen on the vent, clean it. 

If the engine is an outboard and uses portable fuel tanks, inspect the tanks and fuel hose, and especially the squeeze bulb. Replace as needed, but if over five years old replace the lines and bulb. 

Remove and clean the backfire flame arrester and replace it on the engine. Make sure it is on the engine before you run the engine.

Test the engine room blower to make sure it operates at full strength and check vent outlets for full flow of air. Make sure insects or varmints haven't set up home in the vent ducting. Check the ducting for holes. Replace as necessary. 

 Engine tuning

Replace spark plugs and points (if not electronic ignition) and tune up the engine. If you do this out of the water make sure you supply cooling water to the impeller. Check to make sure water is circulating through the engine (look at the outlet stream).

When the engine is running check to see if the alternator is putting out the correct voltage and amperes, and charging the batteries.

Inspect and/or replace anodes (often called zincs) that protect your stern drive and other underwater metal fittings. These actually come in zinc, aluminum and magnesium, depending on the type of water your boat is in, so make sure you get the right kind. Check the sterndrive manufacturer's instructions.

Inspect props, shafts and other underwater fittings. If props have bends, dings and other damage have them repaired or replaced.

Inspect all standing rigging (stays and shrouds). Look especially at turnbuckles, and other screw type connections in stainless steel wire. This is where corrosion occurs, but you can't see it without taking it apart. Replace as necessary and put it back together. Adjust the tensions.

Inspect all running rigging (halyards, sheets, etc.) and the sheaves they run through. Replace any frayed or worn lines or wire rope. These will break when it is least expected, and most needed, I guarantee it.

Inspect sails for rips, tears, worn seams, etc. Repair or replace as needed. 

If the boat has an auxiliary engine do the same as for a motorboat engines.

Inspect and/or replace anodes (often called zincs) that protect propellers and drive shaft and other underwater metal fittings. These actually come in zinc, aluminum and magnesium. depending on the type of water your boat is in, so make sure you get the right kind. 

Last but not least: Contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary or U. S. Power Squadron vessel examiner and get a courtesy vessel safety check.

Sailing Magazine: A penny-pincher’s guide to fitting out:

Soundings: Start the new season with a proper fitting out;

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