As a Marine Loss Adjustor and Coastguard NZ Senior Master, Paul Field has a wealth of boating knowledge. We asked Paul to share some of his advice about preparing your vessel for spring boating.

As a Marine Loss Adjustor and Coastguard New Zealand Senior Master., Paul Field has a wealth of boating knowledge. We asked Paul to share some of his advice about preparing your vessel for spring boating.
Around this time of year, we see many a “driveway ornament” not having reached the water for some time. However, as we move towards the approaching spring season it’s time once again to start thinking about all those safety and pre-use checks we as boat owners must do, so that as the weather warms up and days start getting longer, our vessels are turn-key
ready to go.

It is imperative the pre-use checks start as early as possible noting if there should be any works needed of significance, it allows time to prepare and remedy without impacting on use in the ever precious limited boating weather. One of the busiest periods on the water we generally experience annually from a Search and Rescue perspective is the “first use of the
season” outing, usually from around early September through to mid-November. The most common failures we tend to see during this period relate to onboard electrical systems and batteries along with use of old stale fuel and associated blockages.

Fresh fuel

Old fuel, whether it be diesel or petrol can be problematic and susceptible to degradation and contamination. Diesel left in a craft over an extended period throughout winter can become a conduit for the cultivation of diesel bug which over time
affects fuel systems by way of blocking or clogging injectors, fuel lines, fuel pumps, filters and the like.

Regular use of Biocide solutions will largely prevent and/or minimise contamination. However, be mindful that the best way to prevent bug is to turn over the fuel regularly and to not leave half empty fuel cells for lengthy periods, as condensation generated within the air space inside cells can provide optimal growing conditions for the bacteria. With larger vessels it is often not practical to simply remove the diesel due to significant volume in the craft. There are any number of service providers capable of ‘polishing’ fuel by way of circulating the vessel’s onboard fuel through specialist machinery to ensure the fuel and fuel systems are clean and fit to use. Now is the time to get this type of work done alongside annual service work and don’t forget the replacement of your fuel filters.

Checking the connections

While we are on the subject of fuel, regularly check tote tank and outboard fuel fittings, filler cap seals and connections, as over time O-ring type seals can perish and/or compress or simply fall out. A poor seal or loose fitting not only provides opportunity for fuel to leak, causing a fire risk, but also allows air into the fuel system during use, potentially stalling an engine or causing intermittent performance reliability issues.

Failure of your engine is not something you want to occur when crossing a bar or operating in inclement conditions. Ensure you check for water presence in any onboard inboard tank prior to starting your engine. It may seem obvious, but we lose count annually of the number of “water in fuel” cases we see at the commencement of the season and hydraulicing an engine is not the way to start the summer.

We often comment, a bit tongue in cheek to customers having run out of gas that “boats don’t tend to operate well when there is too much air in the fuel system” and this applies to an interrupted fuel supply as well. Before considering putting the craft in water, where possible and practicable it is advisable to run up the engine to ensure its operability, including the process of putting the craft in and out of ahead, neutral and astern gears to confirm functionality.

Be aware of your batteries

Batteries are a common item we see fail in the early stages of the season. While there are strict criteria for the determined useable life of batteries operating in a commercial capacity, the same does not apply for a domestic application. Your service providers should be able to undertake a crank test to your onboard start and house batteries which will test and
confirm the batteries’ ability to receive and retain charge. Remember to always use purpose manufactured marine batteries in your vessels as their internal construction is designed to withstand the rigours of vessel movement on the water.

The type of discharge and charging systems in your vessel will be tailored to the type of batteries used and note this is important if and when you need to replace your batteries. If you have not managed to retain a constant charge in your batteries over the lay-up period, it is imperative you have the battery crank tested as a full discharge commonly leads to cell failure and compromises operability.

Ensuring your batteries are fully charged and serviceable removes the potential for embarrassment at the boat ramp.
We would also encourage you to be realistic about the life span of your batteries and discuss and ensure regular inspection is undertaken with your service provider.

Examine vessel equipment

We recommend taking this opportunity to look at expiry dates on items such as gas cylinders, inflatable floatation devices, life jackets, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, flares and similar. This will give you the confidence that when you head out to sea all your onboard equipment is current and ready for use as may be required.

Check your Chart Plotter, and Sounder GPS all function correctly and something often forgotten is to ensure your electronic
and paper charts are all up to date. We have seen operators entangle in mussel farms at night or collide with unlit markers as their onboard charts were out of date, so be mindful that the marine environment does change.

Trailer checks

It’s important to check the trailer Warrant of Fitness and Registration are all still current, as that has caught out many a boatie over the years. If your craft has sat outside on its trailer over the winter, check that the wheel bearings are greased and serviceable as the vessel may not have moved for some considerable time. You should also check your tyre pressures are all correct and that fittings such as your tow coupling and recovery winch are fully free and operable. Finally check all your trailer lights are functional prior to leaving your property. All of these trailer checks are tasks your marine service provider can assist you with.

Preventing the spread of pests
As boaties, we all have a vested interest in protecting the ocean, lakes and waterways for ongoing use, fishing and general
recreational activity. Before your craft is launched for the season, give it a thorough wash and check for any unwanted ‘passengers’. Specifically, we’re talking about any marine pests or biofouling still present on the hull following your boat’s
last outing and about any rodents which may have taken up residence in your pride and joy during winter. Aside from rodents potentially causing damage to cabling and upholstery there is also the ever-present risk of your vessel becoming
a taxi to a new location for these pests. A thorough check of all internal compartments and a full external wash helps to protect the environment by preventing the spread of rodents, marine pests and any biologics into our waterways and pristine coastal regions.

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