11 tips for spring commissioning

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Last fall you put your boat to bed with tender loving care. It’s time to wake her up for another boating season.

Last fall you put your boat to bed with tender loving care. It’s time to wake her up for another boating season.

1. If you covered your boat with a blue plastic tarp you’ll likely have to throwit away; they rarely survive a winter. If you used a more expensive silver tarp that can be used for several years, hose it down, dry it and fold it loosely for use after the season. Salvage the framework that supported the cover if its performance was satisfactory. Make a sketch of it before disassembly, label it, and label the components so you’ll know how it goes together next fall.

2. Now get into the boat and see what moisture hath wrought. If you oiled the interior woodwork and the boat was inadequately ventilated you may be confronted with mold and mildew, especially if the winter was mild. You might also find growth in drawers and lockers that were left closed. Hopefully you removed fabric and foam items from the boat.

3. To clean mildew and mold from wood, use a very weak solution of bleach (less than 1 percent) and water, but be very careful because bleach can lighten the color of the wood. Isopropyl alcohol also will work. For fiberglass and plastic, use a solution of about 2 percent bleach and water.

4. For general cleaning I’ve used “Casey’s Solution” — a homemade 50-50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and ammonia — with excellent results, though I haven’t used it on mold and mildew. Whatever you do, don’t mix bleach and Casey’s, since ammonia and bleach create a highly toxic gas. Use boat soap and black streak remover to clean the hull, not cleaner-waxes.

5. Before the boat goes into the water check the condition of the zinc anodes on rudders, prop shafts and the like. Replace them if you didn’t last fall, ensuring good contact. Remember, never paint over zincs.

6. Check the condition of the bottom paint. If you’re using a multiseason ablative coating, look for areas where the signal coat — the first coat of bottom paint in a contrasting color — is showing. This often will be at the stem, leading and trailing edges of the rudder, leading edges of the keel and skeg, and along riding strakes. Modified epoxy paints usually are single-season coatings and must eventually be removed. Wipe the entire bottom with a solvent before sanding, even if the boat was power-washed at the end of last season. Sand with 80-grit paper and remove the residue by wiping with a solvent before painting.

7. If you filled your water tank with non-toxic antifreeze last fall, flush the system thoroughly.

8. Reinstall your batteries, though you may want to wait until the boat is in the water. Be sure to clean any corrosion from the terminals using a wire brush or burnishing tool and a solution of baking soda and water. Grease the terminals, connect the batteries and charge them to capacity.

9. Once you’re in the water open the raw water filter seacock and run the engine. If you didn’t do so in the fall, change the oil. Be sure to run the engine long enough to warm the oil sufficiently (five minutes won’t do it). Kill the engine and use a vacuum pump to remove the oil through the dipstick tube. Fill with the oil recommended by the engine manufacturer.

10. If you winterized correctly, your fuel tanks should be full of stabilized fuel and will offer no problems. Some diesel engines may require bleeding of the fuel line before cranking the engine, so check your engine’s user manual.

11. Check electrical panels, fuses and circuit breakers, and terminals for corrosion. Clean or replace corroded parts as necessary, and check the wiring for damage. Check bulbs and light housings on the mast for damage and possible replacement before stepping. The same goes for rigs that weren’t pulled for the winter. With regard to masts and other awkward locations on your boat, remember the old military adage: “Do it or cause it to be done.” But do it now.