Truck loading boat into the water.

The Ultimate Boating Season Checklist

Updated June 25, 2020 . AmFam Team

As the weather warms up, you’re thinking about getting the boat ready for the boating season. Take a look at our helpful tips on prepping your boat and trailer for the summer.

The sun is finally out and the water is calling! As the weather warms up, it’s time to retrieve your boat from winter storage and get it ready for the upcoming boating season. To reduce your chance of wasting precious boating time this season, we’ve put together the ultimate checklist to help you to prepare for your boating adventures.

General Boat Inspection and Preparation Tips

Before you take your vessel for a spin on the water, it’s important to check off some general boating chores. Here’s how to prevent on-the-water headaches with a little pre-season TLC:

  • Make sure your boat is currently registered and onboard with you
  • Make sure your boat is properly insured
  • Store and wash the boat cover, or properly dispose of the shrink wrap
  • Inspect all lines, masts and anchors
  • Take a close look at the hull — wash with a marine-safe cleanser and wax to protect your boat’s finish
  • Wipe down and clean the interior for clear visibility
  • Replace wiper blades if necessary
  • Air out and rinse all sails and covers
  • Inventory, wash and place all safety gear

Inspect Your Boat’s Electrical Systems

There are several good reasons to ensure your boat’s electronics are working correctly. You don’t want a day of fun in the sun to be ruined by a power failure leaving you stranded out on the water. Here are a few important things to do when inspecting your boat’s electrical systems:

Clean and check your boat’s battery

  • Remove electrical connections to the battery
  • Check the battery terminals for signs of corrosion
  • Use a wire brush to clean the battery’s terminals and connecting clamps
  • Use a volt meter and be sure your battery is performing according to specifications

Test your electronic components and devices

Now it’s time to test your boat’s electrical components. If you find any issues, check the fuse box, wiring and the component itself for problems. Take a look at these appliances and electronics and verify they’re all operating as designed:

  • GPS
  • Bilge pump
  • Running lights
  • Power trim
  • Blowers
  • Depth finder
  • Compass
  • Radio

Review Your Boat’s Mechanical Systems

Before you put the boat in the water, take a close look at the engine and drivetrain. If you spent some time over the fall last year prepping for winter, this will be a quick check-up. Here’s a list of items to review:

  • Perform oil maintenance
  • Check and top-off all fluids
  • Inspect and gap spark plugs
  • Inspect propeller
  • Check fuel system and fuel filters
  • Check belts, cables and hoses
  • Run and purge the antifreeze from the bilge
  • Water system and restroom — drain antifreeze and wipe down stainless steel

Boat Safety and Emergency Preparedness

If you encounter trouble on the water, help can be hard to reach. That’s why it’s important to prepare thoroughly for problems so you’re be ready to handle emergencies on your own.

In a waterproof bag, store bottled water, a blanket, extra jackets and hats. Keep flares, flashlights, batteries and a first-aid kit in a separate one, too. Here are a few boat safety and emergency preparedness must-dos:

  • Inspect the fire extinguishers
  • Test the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Get your keys on a float
  • Safely store miscellaneous documents on the boat
  • Ensure each passenger has access to a life jacket or personal floatation device

Inspect Your Boat’s Trailer

Over the winter, your boat’s trailer may have also aged. By verifying that the trailer’s operating as designed, it'll be safer to use and it will last longer. Hook your trailer’s electrical harness up to the towing vehicle and verify that the following items are in proper working order.

  • Trailer tail lights
  • Trailer reverse lights
  • Trailer brake lights
  • License plate lights
  • The tire pressure is correct
  • The tires are in good shape
  • Grease the wheel bearings
  • Inspect the safety chains
  • Verify the carpet on the running boards is in good shape

Complying With Trailer Inspection and Brake Requirements

Some states require that your trailer be inspected every boating season to ensure it’s in good condition and operating safely. Check in with your local DMV and get it inspected if necessary.

And, before you hit the road, check your brakes. When over a certain weight threshold, your trailer may require brakes. Be sure your trailer’s in compliance with the related state and coast guard codes. And knowing how to handle a boat safely on the water is another important way to help ensure you’re ready for the summer fun ahead.

Make sure you check with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) and verify that you’ve got the right coverage for your boat before you hit the water. By being fully prepared for the summer fun ahead, you’ll find it’s easier to relax and enjoy yourself when the water calls.

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