How To Prepare For Spring Boating Season.
In Michigan, we call early March "Fake Spring" - with deceptively warmer temps inevitably turning back into a brutal winter at least once more before we're truly into spring. Nevertheless, despite knowing we're not quite there yet, it seems as soon as the temp gauge gets above 40 around here, we start thinking about getting our boats ready for the water.
Whether you're looking to catch some spring wake sessions, preparing for early season fishing, or just can't wait for that first sunset cruise with the family; use the following tips to prepare early and maximize your boating experience this season.
Needless to say, you probably had your boat winterized before storing it this past off-season. Winterization is the process of preparing your boat for storage - so de-winterization is the process of preparing your boat to get back out on the water in spring. Which means it's the first thing you'll do when getting your boat ready for spring boating.
We could write a whole article on the actual process of de-winterization. However, because each type of boat is going to have different needs when it comes to de-winterization; we always recommend having winterization and de-winterization done by a professional to keep your boat running at its best.
Delivery With Premier
If you stored your boat with us in the off-season, we're currently scheduling Spring deliveries for 2021.
Washing the "Winter" Away From Your Boat
Early spring is the perfect time to wash, wax, and detail your boat. Be sure to use marine safe washes, waxes, and cleaners. Avoid using products designed to clean your home or car - these can damage your vinyl and canvassing.
We carry everything you need to properly clean your boat in our Pro Shop - including popular marine-friendly cleaners:
- 303 Products
- Hot Sauce
- And more
When you're cleaning, take everything out of your boat. If you've been using your boat to store things like PFDs, fishing equipment, and water toys, set these aside for their own cleaning later.
Be sure to vacuum and wipe out storage and engine areas, paying special attention to the hard to reach areas.
Taking extra time now to deep-clean your boat will mean easier maintenance throughout the boating season. Also a clean boat makes it less likely dirt and grime will cause maintenance issues to sensitive areas of your boat.
Battery, Lights, & Navigation… and more!
Spring is a good time to check all your electronics. While you should always have a certified technician check your engine's electrical systems, you should take some time to check the electronics you'll be using everyday. Charge your battery, check your interior, exterior, and navigation lights, and ensure your navigation system is up to date if you have one.
Be sure to put on your favorite tunes, and check your stereo system for the best sound.
If your boat has an electronic bimini, put it up and down a couple times to make sure it's working properly. (If your boat doesn't have an electronic bimini - be sure to check your bimini straps and buttons are still fastening securely.)
If you have a fish-finder on your boat, mount it and ensure the electronics are connected properly.
Especially newer boats have many featured electronics not listed here. Take time to check all the electronics that apply to your specific boat.
Reviewing the safety equipment on your boat should be a regular thing. However, spring is an especially good time to ensure you have the right amount and types of PFDs and that they are still in good condition and not expired. While they're relatively uniform, each state has varying requirements for PFDs, so you should familiarize yourself with local rules and regulations.
Check your fire extinguishers are filled and not expired. Do the same with flares and make sure they are stored back in your boat safely.
SAFETY PRO-TIP: Often overlooked, make sure your boat is equipped with a well-stocked, easy-to-access first aid kit. This could mean the difference between having to end your boating day early for a cut or scrape, or being able to stay out on the water.
Now will be a good time to check your lines, fenders, and anchors as well. Lines should be washed, properly dried, recoiled and tied. Anchors and fenders should be clean, and well secured to appropriate lines.
Many boaters choose to trailer their boats. If you are one of these owners, here are a few trailer maintenance tips that are perfect for early spring.
How do your tires look? Are they inflated properly? Is the tread sufficient?Check all your tires including the spare. Make sure your wheel bearings are greased or replaced if necessary.
Have someone help you check your trailer lights - brake lights, turn signals, reverse, etc. Consider buying replacement bulbs and putting them in your boat or car just in case.
Look closely at your rollers, support pads, and guide pillars. Make sure there everything is rolling well and free of defects that might damage your boat.
Test your winch functionality. The webbing should be free of tears and fraying, and the winch should crank smoothly and lock properly.
Don't forget to check your trailer hitch and all related equipment to see if it is functioning properly and fitting securely on your vehicle. Trailer safety chains should be free of rust and links/hooks should be in good condition.
Registration, Licensing, & Local Laws
Grab your registration to confirm it's up to date (including the trailer) - put a new, clean copy of your registration in your boat. Double check your registration decals are not peeling and replace them if needed. This is also a good time to assess your insurance, and any type of roadside assistance you might have or want.
Some states require boaters' licenses for anyone driving your boat. Some states only require this of boaters of a younger age. Other states may not require a license, but might require boaters take a boaters' safety course. Other regulations may only apply to open or large bodies of water. In addition, regulations may change from year to year. Familiarize yourself with your state/local/waterway regulations to make sure you have no surprises during the summer! Nothing ruins a good boating day like a ticket.
Can't Forget The Toys!
Tubes, boards, and skis… oh my! Now's the time to get out all the toys and dream of all the fun you'll be having with them soon. Wash them all thoroughly - even if you washed them before putting them away for winter storage. Inspect your tow ropes for tears, mildew, or fraying and re-coil them neatly if they're in good shape. Ensure rope handles aren't damaged and are still comfortable to hold.
Take the inner tube out of your tube and check for any leaks, weak points, or bulges. Weak point and bulges in tubes could be a good indication that it's time for a replacement. Make sure the outer covering of your tube is free of snags or tears and that the handles are in good shape.
If you have fishing gear, now might be a good time to freshen up the lines and check that your tackle boxes are well-stocked.
You may even want to stock up on some inflatable floating tubes or loungers, water guns, noodles, etc. Anything that you think would be a fun toy to bring along. Remember, fun is what it's all about - and having lots of fun toys makes all the difference!
Your Dock & Lift
If you live on the water or have a lakefront cottage where you primarily use your boat, get your dock and lift in early. There's nothing worse than losing valuable time on the water because you have no place to park your boat.
Keep an eye on the weather though and use good judgement as to when you install your dock. You'd hate to have one last freeze damage it.
The Finer Details
If you've been a boater for many years, you'll know that bringing certain conveniences on your boating trips will make for a much more enjoyable experience. Here's a quick idea list to inspire you:
- extra towels and blankets
- cleaning supplies
- sun screen
- extra pair of sunglasses
- extra inflatable floats or “noodles”
- waterproof football/inflatable beach ball
- water guns
- other water games
- a deck of cards or fun on-deck games
- swimming goggles/snorkels
- a cork screw/bottle opener
- an extra pair of sandals
- first aid kit
- padded pouches to protect fragile items,
- waterproof phone cases
- foldable lawn chairs and a portable grill for shore stops
- extra plates/dinnerware
- extra cups with secure lids
- an extra blanket or two for chilly night cruises
Make a list and build on it year-to-year as you find things you need or want while boating. Keep what items you can in your boat.
PRO-TIP: Organize anything that needs to come back and forth from home in bags that are sorted into similar items, i.e. towels in the red bag, water toys in the blue bag, snacks in the yellow bag, etc.
Consider The Kids
In most areas it's required by law that children under a certain age wear PFDs whenever they're on the boat. Which means kiddo passengers will likely be wearing their PFDs for extended periods of time. If children will be on-board, you'll want to make sure they have comfortable, well-fitting life jackets. Bulky, one-size-fits-most life jackets are bound to get complaints early in the day.
Pack plenty of snacks, cold water, sun protection, toys, etc. Especially when it comes to kiddo passengers, preparing ahead of time is key to an awesome boating trip.
Day of Your Trip: Don't forget to Fuel-Up!
There is no worse feeling than getting all packed up for a day on the water and realizing you don't have any gas in your boat. It may seem obvious, but always remember to fuel-up!
It's good to develop a checklist for your boating trips. Whether it's a day trip on your local lake, or a week-long lake tour around Michigan - knowing what your boat needs and what your passengers might want on the trip is going to be important. This could be dependent on the weather, or the type of trip you're going on. A morning surf session probably requires a different checklist than a twilight fishing trip.
Being on the water and in the sun all day can take a lot out of you - and that's even if you're not doing any active water sports. No matter what you're doing on your trip, be sure to plan for meals and bring lots of snacks and cold beverages to help you and your passengers recharge.
Are You Ready Spring Boating?
Alright, so we know we haven't quite made it spring in Michigan yet. But when the temp does turn up, you'll want to be ready. Getting a jump on the above items will make sure you maximize your time on the water this 2021 season.
And always remember to: Leave Your Worries At The Dock