A FICKLE MISTRESS: Preparing Your Boat for the Summer Dive Season

 

By Ron Czerniak

We love her moods and beauty, but the sea can be a harsh and fickle mistress who must be treated with respect and caution. She can turn on you in a heartbeat!

At the start of last winter most of us likely washed down our boats, cleaned up the debris of an active summer of diving and fishing and parked the boat in the backyard or wherever else we keep our faithful vessel until next season. Then that glorious first spring Saturday; weather forecast is for light winds, sea smooth to slight and sunny skies. Perfect dive day! Hook up the boat to your vehicle and off down to the local boat ramp.

Neat backing impresses the other boaties and your trusty vessel slides off the trailer, where your partner secures it alongside the launch jetty. Car and trailer parked, you jog back to the boat only to find your buddy at the stern with the outboard cover off and scratching their head in wonderment as to why the trusty 150 won’t start. Bugger! Discover batteries completely flat and the terminals corroded. No choice but to get the car and trailer, reload the boat and head home for some much needed maintenance.

Get the picture? Yep, now is the time to give your boat a detailed once over and get it top order before you get out on the water this season.

Okay, enough of the poetic drama – what do I need to do to get my boat ready for another summer of diving fun and adventure? Although I have been boating for over 50 years, I didn’t hesitate in contacting professionals regarding how best to get my boat ready after her winter hibernation. A trip down to Rayglass Boats in Auckland (www.rayglass.co.nz), followed up with a visit to Auckland Volunteer Coast Guard (www.coastguard.org.nz) for some expert advice ensued.

At Rayglass I met their Service Manager, Dean Ryan, who kindly gave me their pre-season checklist, used as a guide in getting a customer’s boat and equipment ready for a trouble-free summer. Dean generously gave me permission to use their checklist, which you’ll find at the end of this article.

Then down to Auckland Volunteer Coast Guard where I spoke to Georgie Smith (Marketing Manager) who had Mike Buddle (Communications Co-ordinator) email me further additional advice. The combination of the Rayglass and Coast Guard guidance is summarised below.

Gear-boat

SAFETY

All boats need to carry a minimum amount of equipment and a wise boatie will carry more, but it should always be enough to satisfy two questions:

  1. What equipment will I need to get back safely?
  2. What equipment will enable me to survive in an emergency?

THE SIX ESSENTIALS
Use the acronym ‘PASS BF’ (Pass Before) to remember them:

  • Personal flotation devices (Lifejackets)
  • Anchor, chain & warp
  • Signalling equipment (at least two items)
  • Secondary propulsion
  • Bailer
  • Fire extinguisher.

In addition to these six essential items, eight further items help ensure safety:

  1. First aid kit
  2. Spare engine parts
  3. Tools
  4. Rope
  5. Local charts
  6. Compass
  7. Change of warm, dry clothes
  8. Knife.

BOAT PREPARATION

  • Have your boat serviced: Before you head out on the water, schedule a service of your boat, the engine and the boat trailer. Make regular checks of the engine, and everything on and around the boat – inside and out. If anything is damaged or worn, repair or replace it.
  • Check and change your fuel: If your boat has been laid up over winter, change any remaining old fuel with clean, fresh fuel. Also, never assume your trip will run exactly according to plan – plan to use a third of your fuel for the trip out, a third for the trip back, and have a third in reserve to allow for anything unexpected.
  • Check your batteries: Without maintenance, batteries deteriorate over time. You may think they are in good condition because the engine started, but may not have enough juice for a sustained trip with modern electronics. Get your battery professionally checked to ensure it can cope with all the electronic equipment on board, as well as starting the engine. A dedicated starter battery and an additional battery for all the electronics is sound practice.
  • Know and check your equipment: You need to know how all your equipment works and check it regularly. Make sure you don’t overlook less obvious items, like the cylinders on inflatable lifejackets.

Under any of the above points further information could have been included, but this article was written solely with the aim of emphasising the importance of getting your boat ready for this year’s dive season and providing a quick guide to do so.

P.S. Over many years I have been a member of Auckland Volunteer Coastguard and I cannot recommend them highly enough. Become a member (it’s not expensive), take some of their excellent boating courses and avail yourself of their services. You won’t regret it.

APPENDIX

Rayglass Checklist

  • Anchor
  • Chain, warp, fairlead
  • Anchor winch
  • Batteries
  • Engine
  • Engine oil
  • Leg oil
  • Plugs
  • Propeller
  • Anodes and wiring
  • Trim tabs
  • Helm and steering
  • Radio
  • GPS/Sounder and other electronics
  • Switch panels
  • Navigation lights and flood light if fitted
  • Bilge pump(s)
  • Toilet
  • Sink, taps, fridge
  • Wash down pump and hoses
  • Interior trim
  • And don’t forget to check everything on the boat trailer.

 

 

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