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Maintaining Your Boat's Support Systems

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Whether your boat is new or old, it has several mechanical and electronic systems that support its daily operations. Smart Skippers know that the best way to help ensure the cruise of the day goes smoothly is to keep an up to date maintenance checklist onboard and easily accessible. This checklist should contain an accurate record of past maintenance requirements, and it should be updated each time routine maintenance is performed. In addition, record each time surprise events require immediate attention … This checklist should include the following items 1. Engine and Hydraulic Systems … Check the engine’s oil by using the dipstick to confirm the oil level is good. If the oil level is low, check for leaks that may have accumulated leaking oil beneath the engine. If possible check this oil for metal shavings and water that may have seeped through an engine gasket that needs to be replaced. If your boat is an older model check the plugs and replace them with new ones if needed. If the engine’s belts look worn or are slipping change them. Also check the hydraulic systems for the helm, the outboard engine lifts, and engine room access floor lifts … 2. The Transmission … Check the fluid levels, if low check for leaks. If you have leaks check for metal shavings. Be aware that any oil or hydraulic system that has metal shavings needs to be serviced by a mechanic immediately … 3. Water Systems … Check all water intakes. These include the engine’s cooling system, and the air conditioning system. Also check to see that the bilge pumps are working and that through hull fittings are not leaking. Lastly, check to be sure the fresh water tank, its pumps, and faucets are all leak free … 4. Sanitation Systems … Be aware that you cannot pump human waste overboard, and make sure that your holding tank, it’s fitting, and it’s pump out mechanism is leak free … 5. The Bilge … be certain that all through hull fittings are watertight, and check that all float switches are functioning properly … 6. Depth Finders … Check that the sensor is not leaking, and that the bottom of the sensor is free from marine growth 7. Trim Tabs … Make sure the hull fittings are water tight 8.The Helm … On larger boats the helm is hydraulic. There will also be hydraulic pistons that activate the rudders. In addition, hydraulic pistons help turn outboards or the lower units of an inboard/outboard … 9. The Generator … Like your ship’s engines, the generator is an internal combustion engine. This should be maintained in the same manner that you use for the boats primary engines. Again, check that fittings are tight, and that the engine’s cooling systems are no leaking, and check that all gaskets are tight. … 10. Fuel Tanks … Check for corrosion at the bottom of the tanks if you have access, and check that all fuel lines, and their connections are tight. Also, use this time to verify the fuel gauges are accurate … 11. Fuel Gauges… The fuel gauges on a boat are problematic. The reason is because your boat is not sitting on solid ground as your car does. Depending on where the tanks’ sensors are positioned in the tank, the reading will differ if you shift weight on the deck forward or aft. In addition, when a boat gets underway its bow rises and stern sinks somewhat and the fuel in the tank moves to the stern. This results in the tank’s fuel sensor sending inaccurate data to the fuel gauge. One way to avoid this inaccuracy is to read the fuel gauge when you get on the boat and read the gauge before you take on passengers and get underway … 12. Sticking the Tank … An old school way to check the fuel in your boat’s tank is to insert a stick into the tank until it reaches the bottom. Remove the stick and take note of how many inches of fuel show on the stick. Compare the number of inches on your stick with your tank’s depth to determine an estimated amount of fuel in the tank … 13. Know How Far Your Boat Can Go … If you have new boat, you should have a document that shows how many gallons of fuel your boat consumes at a wide range of speeds. Once you determine how much fuel you have in the tank, you can calculate if you have enough fuel to get to and return from the ship’s destination. Also, be aware that currents and wind will impact the headway you make. … 14. Batteries … Before you leave the dock make sure all the batteries and the systems they operate are functioning properly before you cast off. If you have a generator, this mitigates your lost battery power risks … 15. The Ship’s Electronics … Navigation systems, Autopilot Systems, Radars, Fluxgate Compasses, and the Ship’s Radios are smart devices that dramatically increased the functionality of all types of recreational boats. I urge every Skipper to engage these new technologies and expand the limits of their journeys. Are You Ok! … As a Skipper of a highly functional vessel it is critical that you make sure you are fit for the mission on any given day. Before you shove off ask yourself if you have symptoms of an illness, and if are you taking strong medications, or have you been drinking in the last 8 hours. If yes, ask a Mate take the helm.

Remember … Smart Boating is Safe Boating !!!

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