Southern Maryland Boat Works

Drum Point Marine & Back Creek Boat Yard

Bilgerat Blog

Winter Maintenance, Part II

Posted by Katie on January 23, 2013 at 5:10 PM

Bilges

• Probably the most important thing you can do for your boat is to clean the bilge. Besides making leaks difficult to find, a dirty bilge is a major source of bad odors on the boat. Also, if the bilge is contaminated with fuel or oil, for example, you should clean it to prevent the bilge pumps from pumping the contaminants over-board.

• Check to see that all bilges drain to areas with bilge pumps. Often these drains become clogged preventing water form reaching the bilge pumps where it can be removed from the boat. Bilges under the engine are not supposed to be connected to areas with bilge pumps. These are to remain isolated.

• Check all bilge pumps. Make sure that they come on in both manual and automatic mode. Lift float switches and make sure that the pumps run. Remove any debris that can clog the bilge pump so that they work when needed.

• Make sure that you can identify all sea cocks and thru-hull valves. In an emergency you need to know where they all are and what they do.

• Inspect all sea cocks and thru-hull valves. Make sure that none are leaking. Check for signs of leaks around the base of sea cocks and thru-hulls. If you suspect that they are leaking, have the boat hauled out, and have them removed, cleaned, and re-bed. Ensure that all valves open and close easily, and that when closed, they actually close and do not leak water past the ball. If they do not open and close easily, or if they do not stop the water, they need to replaced or serviced. Some can be serviced- they can be taken apart, cleaned, greased, and reassembled. Others are not serviceable and just need to be replaced. Most likely the boat will need to be hauled out to make any repairs.

• Inspect the bonding system. Everything metal on the boat should be bonded- all thru-hulls and sea cocks, struts (using the bolts that secure them to the boat,) strainers, engines, generators, fuel tanks, etc. The bonding system should be connected to the dc battery ground at one point. This is not only a safety issue, but it also allows the sacrificial anodes (zincs) to protect these components as well. Make sure that all bonding wires are not broken, and that the connections are made tight and that they are clean.

• Inspect all transducers. Make sure they are not leaking between the base and the hull. If there are signs of leaks, the transducers need to be removed, cleaned, and re-bed. Some transducers have a speed wheel. These can be removed while the boat is in the water if there is a plug to replace it while you are cleaning it. Just pull out the center piece, clean the speed wheel, and reinstall it.

• Check the dates on all fire extinguishers, Now is a good time to send them out and have them re certified since the boat is going to be laid up for a few more months.

• Check all deck drains to ensure that they are functioning and that they are not clogged. This is important as they drain off water from rain and snow. Boats have sunk because deck drains were either clogged or left closed after winterizing the boat. Take the time to check each one by pouring water through the drain. If the water does not drain, find out why and repair it.

• Check all smoke/CO detectors. As in your house, pick a time every year to replace the batteries in all the detectors. Also, most have a test function on them. Make sure they are all in good working order and replace those that are faulty.

• Check the engine room ventilation system. Check to see that the vents on the outside of the boat are open and that the fins on the louvers are intact and not bent or broken. Make sure that the blower fans come on and see that the hoses are in place and secure. Also check the hoses for cracks, tears, and make sure they are not crushed. Duct hoses tear easily and are often found hanging next to blowers when they should be attached.

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Hulls- if the boat is going to be on land

• Use this time to take care of the bottom of the boat. Spend time cleaning the hull and then give her a new coat of bottom paint. A clean bottom improves performance and also dramatically reduces fuel costs.

• Clean and inspect the running gear. Pay extra attention to these components if there is a vibration while running or if you hit anything while running in the previous season. Make sure that the nut securing the prop is tight and that the cotter pin is still in place.

• Inspect the boat zincs and replace them as needed. Note any unusual deterioration of the zincs, like if they are completely gone or look brand new but have been on the boat for an entire season. Hire a technician to inspect them for you if you think there may be a problem.

• Have the bottom of the boat inspected for blisters and other signs of water intrusion. Ask a boat yard to discuss with you the extent of the moisture damage and what to do to either fix it or prevent it in the future.

• Hire a surveyor or boat yard to check moisture readings in the hull and decks. Make sure they check around the bolts securing cleats and swim platforms, and around all deck fittings like fuel and water fills. Discuss what can be done to repair the problems or prevent problems from occurring in the future.

• Check all o-rings on fuel tank fill caps. They need to be replaced if there are any cracks in the o-rings, or if they are hard and brittle. Failure to maintain these o-rings will allow rain water to leak into the fuel tank creating many problems that are costly to repair. Water in fuel accounts for many engine and generator problems which are expensive to repair and cause increased down time during the boating season.

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Once you have completed a thorough inspection of the entire boat you will be so much more familiar with your boat. You will have plenty of time to make any repairs needed before the coming season. You will be confident that she is ready to give you a trouble-free boating season. And while freak problems may occur, you will not be plagued by nuisance failures caused by poorly maintained equipment. Also, when these freak problems happen and repairs are necessary, repair costs will be minimized if you took the time to clean away rust and corrosion.

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So grab a space heater, put on some good music, and inspect your boat from top to bottom. The more time you spend with her now, the more trouble free time you will get to spend enjoying her this coming boating season.

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