The Off-Season Boat Tour
For many of you, this is the time of year when your boat just isn't the first thing on your mind, but it's a great opportunity to keep your boat in ship shape throughout each boating season! Why not take an afternoon to take a "tour" of your boat and tackle some projects that will give you a jump on commissioning it for the next season? Here are a few suggestions. You may discover that you perform some of these tasks regularly, but you may notice a few that have never come to mind.
Double back: My guess is many if not most of you have a professional do some or all of your boat's winterizing. That's perfectly fine, but I would suggest that you take an hour or two to double-check the job your yard did of laying up your Formula for the winter. I'm not making this suggestion because I think mechanics out there are taking shortcuts-to the contrary, most boatyards these days seem to be very aware of the value of providing thorough service to their customers, and that is especially true of our Formula dealers. I think this is a good idea for a couple of reasons. First, oversights, however rare, do happen, and a fresh set of eyes may catch a loosened clamp or low fluid in a reservoir. Second, if you're poking around going through the winterization checklist, you're going to learn a lot about your boat. Honestly, do you really know how your freshwater system is plumbed, pressurized and routed? Stuff like that may come in handy when you least expect it.
Be Prepared: I hope I'm asking you to do something that you think is ridiculously apparent, but check every fire extinguisher and halon fire suppression tank. If they read fully charged, great. If not, take care of it.
Sniff around: While we're on the subject of safety, test all engine room fume detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. They will have test buttons, and you can also hold an unlit butane lighter open by the sensor in the bilge to see if it's operating properly. And make sure you check all the CO detectors. These days, there should be one in every berth area.
Shocking: OK, here's one you probably don't think of every day. How long has it been since you've taken a look at your shorepower cord? Just think about the abuse that poor thing takes. When it's plugged in, it isn't exactly attached to a stable platform. The boat is moving almost constantly, and cords can and do abrade. While you're checking the cord along its length, be alert to any part that looks like it might have been crushed. A seven-ton boat can do a lot of pinching, and that kind of damage can cause a short. Finally, inspect the plugs. If any part is brown or discolored, get it replaced. That is a good indicator of arcing, and the risk involved isn't worth the price of a cord.
What a drag: Time for a speed check! What slows you down? Drag, of course. Do what you can to eliminate it. What shape is the bottom in? Nice and clean? Growth causes turbulence, so be sure you're looking at nice, smooth gelcoat, or if you have bottom paint, it needs to be in good enough shape to shed marine growth. And even propellers can cause drag, so to speak. Although you might be inclined to think of them as "screws," twisting to push the vessel through the water, they are actually precisely engineered foils. A boat propeller works by creating lower pressure on the front of its blades than the backs. If there are nicks and dings on them, you are losing efficiency at best and creating cavitation (vapor bubbles formed when pressure is too low) at worst. If your props aren't in good shape, send them to the prop shop for repair.
Weight watchers: How much unneeded junk is sitting around in your bilge, cabin and storage compartments? More than you think, I'll bet. Weight wastes fuel and slows your speed, too. Go stem to stern looking for stuff that's been put aboard and ask yourself two questions: 1) Has anyone used this in the past year, and 2) Is this necessary for the safe operation of this boat (an extra anchor and rode, for instance). A yes to one or both buys the item in question more time. Two "nos" and you can generally chuck it on the dock. You'll be surprised at how much freeboard you gain.
Grab bag: This is fun. Go to the three-ring binder(s) included as part of your owner's information kit. Leaf through it and pick something out-say, the anchor windlass. Open the component manual, locate the maintenance section and then check to see if it has been done. Ever. If not, there's no time like the present to take care of it.
I could go on and on, but I think you have plenty to do for one afternoon. And when you take the boat out for the first time next season, you'll know who's been checking up on things.