March 15, 2023
If we can agree on anything, this last year has been wacky—and the weather has been even wackier, if that’s even possible. While those other factors are out of our control, there are a lot of things that we can control. Here are a few friendly reminders to make sure you aren’t “that guy” at the ramp when the ice melts from your favorite lake.
Charge It Up - A dead battery has to be one of the most common and easily avoidable issues. Even if you didn’t take care of it before winter set in, now is the time to get it on a charger or remove it and take it to an automotive store to be checked out. In many cases, onboard boat chargers will not charge a battery once it has dropped below a certain voltage. If this is the case, put it on an automotive charger for a short while to help give it a jump or surface charge that will allow your on-board charger to effectively finish the charge process.
Holy Holes - I think it’s safe to say that lifejackets and throw-cushions are required just about everywhere. What a lot of people may not know is that they won’t pass a safety check if they have holes or a tear in them. So, whether it was rough-housing or hungry mice, make sure you have ‘’hole less’’ flotation. I’ve also found that a small Velcro strap on a throw cushion not only keeps you legal, but also from having a perfectly good one blow out of the boat either on the lake or going down the road. Plan ahead.
Plug It - Most springs, I see at least one panicked boat owner racing for the truck to pull the boat back out because someone forgot the plug. An extra drain plug in the glovebox is worth its weight in gold, just saying! If you do find yourself in this situation don’t be so quick to load the boat entirely on the trailer. The extra weight from a hull full of water can destroy a bow winch and potentially even your trailer. Instead do it in stages and let your bilge pump help you out before even more damage is done.
Connect It - I’m not a big spider guy. Not because I fear them—not too much anyways—but mostly because those things seem to always get into the electrical connections of my trailer, no matter what steps I take. Take a minute to clean out receptacles on both your trailer and your vehicle. I use to prefer a paper towel on a screwdriver, but I’ve upgraded to a small-caliber rifle wire-cleaning brush. This effectively removes the webs and debris out, but a good ole fashioned small pick can also be a great asset in these situations. Finish it off with some electrical component cleaner and your lights will shine bright.
Give it Props - Running with a dinged prop on larger outboards can actually cause enough vibration to create serious issues in the upper portion of your outboard. In order to run smoothly and avoid cutting your hand, take a file to it and smooth out any burrs. If you still have noticeable damage, it’s wise to take it to a prop shop to make sure it’s balanced. Even a new or visibly clean prop can have different blades out of pitch causing poor performance. While you are taking a peek at your prop, it’s a good time to remove it and make sure you don’t have any line caught in the hub. Fishing line can compromise the lower units seal and allow water in causing even more expensive damage.
Light it up - Most states require you to have both a day and night signaling device. Signal flares keep you legal and may just save your butt during an emergency. If you plan on traveling to Canada or at least Canadian waters, leave the pistol-style flares at home and instead pick up the stick style. The pistol-style is considered a firearm and will get you in more trouble than not having them at all! If you don’t want to purchase flares every few years when they expire, look for the new LED pod style that require batteries. These do not expire.
There certainly are more than six things to prepare for before you hit the lake this spring, but if you take the time to go through the above list, you’ll likely avoid becoming a social media viral video, a funny meme or just a bunch of expensive repairs.
Capt. Ross Robertson