Year-Round Boat Maintenance

By Joanne Lemna  | 
March 9, 2016

There’s nothing more enjoyable than a day on the water. Part of being a responsible boat owner is to do the year-round boat maintenance required. This will also help ensure you can enjoy your boat all day and avoid a disastrous breakdown. Planning ahead and properly maintaining your boat and equipment means you can stay afloat much longer. You'll also save time and money by reducing the chance of costly breakdowns and keep you on the right side of the law (don't forget that the Criminal Code of Canada requires that your boat and equipment be maintained in seaworthy condition).

Proper boat maintenance includes being actively involved in and well acquainted with every aspect of your boat. Keep an eye out for potential problems, from loose fittings to fraying ropes. Damage to your boat can often be easily prevented by following a simple maintenance routine.

Preseason Maintenance

  1. Do a full clean of the interior and exterior of your boat, including waxing and polishing.
  2. Inspect all your equipment and ensure that it works.
  3. Check your life-saving equipment, such as fire extinguishers, life jackets, flotation devices, and emergency supplies. Restock any first aid items as well.
  4. Check to ensure that your boat's battery is properly charged and that it is kept at the correct fluid levels. Keep the battery clean as dampness and dirt can drain it.
  5. Check your documents and ensure everything is up to date, including your boating license, registration, and insurance.

Check out Discover Boating's full spring start up check list and guide here.

In-Season Maintenance

  1. Clean the engine after every outing and check your entire boat for rust, damage or corrosion.
  2. Check your oil, as well, to make sure you have enough to run your boat effectively.
  3. Keep an eye on your engine's cooling system to make sure it's running properly.
  4. Check the electrical components, as many boating breakdowns occur as a result of corroded electrical systems. Keep them dry and consider coating electrical parts with a water-repellent grease.
  5. Keep your boat clean by giving it a regular wash to prevent the long-term effects of environmental wear and tear. You can use anti-fouling paint to help protect your boat from the elements. Environmentally safe products are your best option to preserve the water and nature you love to enjoy.

Check out Discover Boating's pre-departure checklist and semi-annual checklist to make sure you're prepared before you head out and are taking care of all your boat's general maintenance needs.

Winterizing Your Boat

Taking care of your boat properly means you need to pay attention to it even when you're not actively using it. Ensure your boat is winterized and stored properly so when the warmer weather comes you won't have to worry.

  1. Do a full clean of your boat. Use an environmentally friendly marine detergent or algae remover on the exterior. Empty the bilge of excess water and clean it using soap and water or a marine-grade bilge cleaner.
  2. Check the entire boat for cracks and leaks, and check to see that everything works. Repair or replace anything that needs it. If you're not comfortable with the mechanical side of things, consider taking your boat to an authorized boat mechanic. They can provide a pre-storage check and perform any repairs your boat may need.
  3. Check fluid levels. You may want to consider draining and flushing the engine's cooling system before you fill the boat's fuel tank. You should also check the fuel filter.
  4. Cover your boat to protect it. Invest in a good boat cover, as this will keep your boat clean and free from debris and animals. It also protects your boat from damaging UV rays which can break down hoses and fade your carpet and upholstery.

Visit Discover Boating's winterizing guide for a more detailed explanation.

Should I bother with boat insurance for the winter?

You might think you can save a bit of money by not insuring your boat over the winter months, however, statistics show that nearly 20 percent of all boat insurance claims are reported during the offseason. Things can go wrong on a boat even if it's not in the water. Regular maintenance and insurance can protect you and your boat. Here are four more reasons to keep your boat insured:

  1. Theft and vandalism happen all the time, and the longer your boat sits in one place, the higher the chance it will be stolen. According to the US-based National Insurance Crime Bureau, 53 percent of watercraft thefts occurred during the off-season (September through April) in 2012. Even if your boat is parked in your driveway, your regular home insurance probably won't cover you if this happens to you. Specialized insurance will cover incidents that occur on land as well as in the water.
  2. Natural disasters and bad weather can happen at any time throughout the year. For example, if your boat is stored in your garage and the roof collapses because of a monster winter storm, you'll be thankful you had boat insurance to cover the damages.
  3. Liability coverage. Can you imagine if your boat’s wheel chocks dislodged and your boat started rolling down your driveway? What happens if it strikes a car or pedestrian? A boat can injure people and property whether it's in the water or not. You can be held liable for injuries and damages. Your boat insurance that has liability coverage will pay for incidents like this. Without it and you may find yourself on the hook.
  4. Year-round protection can save you money. Several insurance companies offer incentives for maintaining your boat insurance policy throughout the year. For instance, some will offer reductions to your deductible for every claims-free period under your insurance policy and this can contribute to further discounts. Benefits are only available if you keep your boat insurance valid year round. It's a low price to pay for extended protection through all the seasons.

Remember that your broker is always available to answer any questions you might have regarding your boat insurance policy.

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