By Capt. Gus Cane
Spring fever is contagious, especially if the boat has been sitting idle most of the winter. But before you head out on that inaugural trip, it’s critical to check these three things first to ensure the first outing is a memorable one.
Without fire, the engine won’t crank, so start by checking and charging the battery. If it’s a serviceable model, make sure all cells are full of distilled water. Skip this step with sealed batteries like AGMs. Next, make sure all connections are corrosion free and tight. If you made the mistake of using wing nuts to secure the leads, replace those with stainless steel nuts and lock washers. Tighten until snug to ensure solid connections and to avoid sparks. Charge the battery overnight on low trickle charge voltage and double-check the output when the charger is disconnected.
Next, check the fuel water separator for any signs of water or phase separation. This is particularly critical if ethanol fuel was used. Certain filters have a plastic bowl at the bottom for visual inspection. Otherwise, if the filter wasn’t changed with the fall storage, replace it now with a 10-micron rating. To avoid most fuel issues, it’s best to use non-ethanol gasoline if it’s available. It costs a little more per gallon, but the peace of mind and enhanced performance is worth it.
Finally, do a visual inspection of the trailer. Check for dry rot with the bow and stern tie-downs. Look for signs of rust on the bunks, axle, and fenders. Tighten any loose bolts and check the tire pressure on all tires, including the spare. Make sure the winch is operating properly. A squirt of lubricant may be in order for the jack stand gearing. Finally, connect the lighting harness and make sure tail lights, running lights, and turn signals all operate properly.
If all these items check out, you should be ready for screaming drags and bent rods. Just don’t forgot to pack those rods and reels in all the excitement of getting on the water. Tackle bags come in handy, too.