Spring Checklist for Boaters

Pre-launch checklist

The exact details of the jobs to be done before and during spring launch will differ with different vessels. The ones listed below are typical of those required on a small cruising sailboat with an inboard diesel engine, and assume that the boat has been properly laid up in the fall.

Restock first aid kit

The items in a first aid kit vary, depending on an individual’s knowledge of first aid treatment. There are various kits available on the market for those who do not want to make up their own. A plastic tackle box makes a very good first aid container. Some items a first aid kit should contain are listed below:

• sterile gauze dressings in 5-, 7.5-, and 10-centimetre squares;

• roll of sterile 5-centimetre gauze bandage;

• box of assorted adhesive bandages;

• roll of absorbent cotton;

• roll of 2.5-centimetre adhesive tape;

• tongue depressors/finger splints;

• scissors;

• tweezers;

• medicine dropper;

• oral thermometer;

• bottle of mild antiseptic;

• calamine lotion;

• spirits of ammonia (capsules);

• ASA tablets;

• seasickness pills;

• mild painkiller pills;

• milk of magnesia tablets;

• baking soda;

• antihistamine.

Always check for allergies before giving medicine or pills.

Many medications have a limited shelf life, and if included in the kit should be replaced at intervals.

Spring preparation

• Remove winter covers; repair tears; dry, fold, and store.

• Check for winter damage to hull and cradle.

• Open hatches to ventilate boat throughout. Check inside boat for signs of winter damage.

• Reinstall fire extinguisher.

• Check the bilge, and pump out if necessary.

• Wash mast. Check mast tangs, sheaves, split pins, standing and running rigging, rigging screws, etc. Lubricate mast blocks with silicone.

• Check weight of propane tanks; refill if needed. Connect propane tank; check for leaks with soapy water.

• Pump antifreeze from water tank; flush several times with fresh water. Fill tank, adding one drop of chlorine bleach for every four litres of water.

• Wash down decks and cockpit using mild detergent. Wax and polish all deck fibreglass.

• Use fibreglass cleaner to clean dirty marks off hull. Wash outside of hull using mild detergent. Fill any scars in fibreglass hull; polish smooth. Wax and polish the hull above the waterline.

• Check and remount stanchions and lifelines. Check and tighten bolts on stanchion plates and deck fittings.

• Put anchors in place.

• Check sealer around lower rudder hinge, propeller shaft sleeve, etc., and renew if necessary. Check castle nut and cotter pin on the propeller shaft. Check lock nuts on rudder hinges (inside transom).

• Clean bottom, and rub off loose paint.

• Replace zinc anodes if necessary (salt water boaters).

• Apply bottom paint.

• Repaint waterline.

• Check lettering on hull and dinghy; repaint if necessary.

• Remove tape covering all hull openings—head, engine intake, cockpit drains, exhaust pipe, etc.

• Check that cockpit and sink drains are not plugged.

• Check and repair teak trim as needed. Scrub teak with soap and water, and apply teak oil.

• Check winches, dismantle and grease if necessary.

• Tighten V belts on the engine. Replace engine oil filter; add fresh oil. Clean engine water intake filter and through-hull screen.

• Pump oil from gearbox, and replace with fresh oil.

• Clean or replace air filter.

• Check all hoses for cracks and tightness of clamps.

• Tighten cylinder block drain plug.

• Fit new fuel filter after every 250 running hours.

• Bleed fuel lines and water separator.

• Vacuum inside boat and in cockpit, including lockers. Wipe down the fibreglass cabin lining with mild detergent. Wax and polish fibreglass inside cabin. Touch up inside varnish or teak as required. Apply furniture polish to inside mahogany.

• Clean the cabin sole (unless carpeted).

• Clean windows.

• Put enough oil on board for a complete oil change.

• Check for spare tube of grease for grease gun.

• Clean and grease battery terminals and connect electrical leads.

• Check engine spares—oil filter, fuel filter, impeller, belt, fuel pump, etc. Replace as necessary.

• Put fresh batteries into all equipment needing them: radios, flashlights, etc., and have adequate spares.

• Hook up and check marine radio and antenna.

• Hook up and check GPS receiver and antenna.

• Load equipment on board (a separate list of food, drinks, and clothing should be prepared).

• Check maintenance and equipment lists, to ensure that all jobs have been completed.

Final check

• Close all seacocks, and ensure the drain plug is in place.

• Secure fenders each side, and fit mooring lines at bow and stern.

• Make sure your CPS flag is in bristol condition!

After launching

• Check hull for leaks as soon as the boat is in the water.

• Check fresh water pump, and water pump in the head, for leaks.

• Step the mast, tighten all lock nuts, and put on lock wires.

• Check the engine for loose wires, oil leaks, gas leaks, loose hose clamps, bad water hoses and fan belts, etc., run bilge blower for at least 4 minutes on boats equipped with inboard engines, start the engine, and let it run for 10 minutes.

• Make trial run to check the depth finder, knotmeter, and log when under way.

• Check condition of the cradle, and repair as needed in preparation for autumn haul-out.

3 thoughts on “Spring Checklist for Boaters

  1. After reading this CPS-endorsed spring checklist I believe that some aspects need some serious prioritizing and updating.

    1st Aid Kit: Benedryl gel is much more effective than calamine lotion. Ammonia is never used to revive patients, whose injuries could be exacerbated by the sudden violent reaction to the strong odour.
    The inclusion of some #30 or higher blocking sunscreen and effective insect repellent can save your crew from a world of pain on a cruise.
    What’s the purpose of baking soda?

    Vessel checklist: Propane tanks (empty or full) should never be stored inside a laid-up vessel.

    Routine dosing of freshwater tanks with chlorine will accelerate the demise of plastic tanks and water hoses. Installing clean-out ports on your freshwater tanks, then routinely cleaning these tanks by hand is your ticket to safe, good tasting water, all season long. We have been drinking our untreated water 12 months a year from scrubbed plastic tanks for 10 years without incident. Potable water systems should be winterized only with propylene glycol, which is made for this purpose, never ethylene glycol (engine antifreeze.)

    Freshwater boaters need underwater corrosion protection too, usually magnesium anodes are prescribed, rather than zinc, as in saltwater.

    Hose clamps are not all created equal! [ALL STAINLESS] should be embossed on each clamp. Check them with a small magnet to ensure that the screw is not plain steel, which will fail in saltwater use.
    Hose clamps on seawater hoses below the waterline should be used in pairs when the barb length on the fittings allow.

    Engine seawater impellers are best removed when de-commissioning in the Fall. Retrieve any missing impeller vanes from the heat exchanger and install a new impeller every spring.

    Marine VHF and GPS can be interconnected so that when you push that RED Distress button on the VHF, your position will be broadcast to similarly equipped vessels within VHF range. Apply to Industry Canada for your free and unique 9 digit MMSI code, without which, your VHF radio DSC features won’t function. All of your regular crew should take the CPS radio course to maximize your safety on the water this season. When trouble comes on your vessel, it may quite possibly be the least experienced crew member who radios for help while the skipper deals with the problem.

    Final Checks: Close all seacocks?…There was no mention of through hull stopcock maintenance.these valves should have been serviced (disassembled) and lubricated as one of the pre-launch tasks. Missing this important step can sink your boat!

    After Launching: Checks for soft hoses, loose clamps, loose wires and bad V-belts should have already been performed well before the vessel goes anywhere near the water.

    Verifying proper operation of navigation lights, flare inspection/renewal and life jacket/PFDs and other mandatory life saving gear were not even mentioned.

    Hull cleaning/waxing and teak oiling should be dropped nearer the end of this Spring list!

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