Harbortown Marine
Spring Safety & Maintenance
Before you venture out, do a comprehensive inspection of your boat, or have it done by us, to make sure you start out the season trouble-free, and save money throughout the year.  The following information is not detailed enough for someone who doesn't know how to perform all the procedures below.  It is designed only as a very basic guide, and it is in no way a comprehensive maintenance program.
We hope these helpful hints benefit you, but keep in mind that this information is not all-inclusive.  If you're not sure what to do, or how to do it, don't take chances.  Have professionals do the work for you.
Preventive maintenance, proper installations, and thorough jobs are the best way to save time, money and headaches later on.  Damage can be caused by shortcutting and quick fixes.  Taking time to do it right, or have it done right, is more beneficial to you and your boat in the long run...


Check your electrical system, including switches, wiring, connectors, fuses, circuit breakers, light bulbs, sockets, lenses, batteries, and horn.  Make sure bilge pumps and bilge blowers are working properly.  Inspect bilge hoses and clamps, vent hoses and vents.  Replace anything that looks questionable.  Even slight damage or deterioration could cause poor flow and hamper proper release of water or fumes from the bilge area.
Check that the wheel turns smoothly, and that the outdrive or rudder turns equally from side to side.  If you have a hydraulic steering system, check all connections for corrosion or leakage.  Also watch for seal wear.  Drain and replace hydraulic fluid each year.  Lubricate steering cable ends to avoid corrosion and help ensure smooth operation.  Watch for bent ends, cracked or split jackets, and replace if needed.  If controls stick (other than at gear positions), cables may need to be adjusted or replaced, or you may have a control mechanism problem.
Make sure all fuel hoses and clamps are secure.  Replace any hoses showing signs of deterioration.  Watch for damage caused by ethanol fuels.  If you have trim tabs, make sure they're working properly.  Check the temperature while running under a load to see if the motor is running hot.  Examine water intakes for clogging.  Check for water pump or impeller problems.  Make sure there are no fishing lines or other debris around the prop area.  If there are bends or nicks in the propeller(s), get them repaired.  It's a good idea to replace props and keep reconditioned props for spares.  You wouldn't want to get caught out on the highway without a spare tire, so why take chances of getting caught out in the middle of the lake without a spare prop?
Change the lower unit lube.  Inspect the lower unit for cracks or water leakage into the lube.  Replace seals if necessary.  Lubricate all linkages.  Replace engine oil and filters.  Check for water in the old oil.  Use an oil pad to prevent spills in the bilge while draining and replacing oil.  Use an oil boom to soak up big spills in the bilge.  Replace seals and gaskets if necessary. Clean raw-water filter.  Change fuel filters.  If you have fuel-water separators, change those filters as well. If you have a closed system, check the antifreeze/coolant.
Check all cleats, bow and stern chocks, ladders, fender racks, top fittings, rail mounts, canvas fasteners. . . anything that is attached to your boat that may be loose or could show signs of wear.  Replace hardware screws, recaulk as needed.  If necessary, repair fiberglass around screws that have pulled free.
Make sure the hull is in good condition.  Check for cracks and blistering.  Good prep work is 90% of any job, especially when it comes to doing bottom work. Do any repairs necessary.  Ignoring these problems will only create larger and more expensive repairs later.  For more information about bottom care, see our Bottom Painting Helpful Hint.
Spiff up both interior & exterior (a clean boat is a happy boat).  Neglecting your vinyl, metals, wood, fiberglass, carpeting, or canvas can cause severe damage over time.  A few hours and a few dollars to maintain your boat regularly will save you a lot of time and money in repairs or replacements later on. Clean and protect your vinyl seats and cushions.  Clean, brighten, and/or sand wood, and finish with a good quality teak oil, sealer, or varnish.  Clean, wash, wax, and seal fiberglass surfaces.  Clean the carpeting and canvas, and use canvas waterproofing on your mooring cover and bimini top to protect canvas as well as prevent water seepage.  Canvas waterproofing is also good for protecting your folding canvas deck chairs.
Make sure you have all of your safety equipment.  Check the expiration dates on your flares and replace them if they're expired.  Check your fire extinguisher(s).  If they're disposable, replace when the gauge or button shows empty.  Make sure you have proper sized PFDs for everyone who will be on board your boat. The number of life vests matching the number of people is not enough.  For example, if you have children, you must have PFDs that are rated for the size/weight of each child.  Check for wear on dock lines and the anchor line, and replace old, hardened, or frayed lines.  If the anchor is bent, it may not work properly and should be replaced.  Make sure fenders aren't showing signs of cracking and that they're inflated properly.
Check your VHF radio, compass, GPS/chartplotter, and depth sounder for proper operation.  If your VHF doesn't work, always check that it's not a problem with your antenna before replacing your radio.  Antennas can look fine on the outside, but can be damaged internally.  Hook up your radio to another boat's antenna that you know is working properly, use a tester, or have us test it for you.  Checking out your antenna could save you the expense of replacing your VHF.  If you don't have a radio, it's a good investment.  Many people think of a VHF radio as a luxury.  Although it's not a required safety item, if you're stuck out in the middle of nowhere without one, not having one could make a believer out of you.  Cell phones are fine for normal communications with family or friends from ship to shore.  But depending on where you are, you can't always reach someone.  And a VHF radio gives you instant contact with the Coast Guard, who monitors Channels 9 and 16.  You can also contact other boaters near you, which you can't do with a cell phone.  In an emergency, a VHF is a faster and more reliable way of contacting the type of help you need when you're out in your boat.  It could be a matter of life and death.
For more detailed safety information, Harbortown Marine has booklets provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft (ODNR).  We also have the Federal Requirements & Safety.  Both contain boating information, as well as a listing of requirements for safety equipment.  You can also ask the local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary for a free inspection of your boat to make sure you are not only legal, but safe.  Speaking of safety, it's a good idea to take a safe boating course if you haven't done so.  You'll be a better boater, and could save money on your insurance!  Also check if your boat insurance carrier offers towing coverage.  Many have very inexpensive plans without having to pay for memberships.
Be sure to check your Registration/Decals.  Ohio boat registrations are issued for 3 years and expire on March 1, no matter what month they were renewed last.  Make sure you get your expired registration renewed before you venture out.  Check the year on your boat decal or the actual registration.  If you need to do a renewal, see our ODNR Registration section of this web site for the most frequently asked questions and answers, information on fees, and what you'll need to make renewing your registration easy.
Most important, be sure to inspect all systems and parts on your boat regularly, not just in the spring, so you'll catch problems as they're starting, not when you're out on the water, where a failure could be critical. Keep in mind that performing routine preventive boat maintenance is usually less expensive than waiting to do repairs when they become major problems.  It's often safer, too.
And don't forget the drain plug!