Pumping grease into trailer hub axles through a device called a Bearing Buddy. By using this device, one can add a bit of grease after every boat use to keep the bearings full and water free. Many boating accidents and mishaps could be avoided if people inspected their trailer tires, kept them properly inflated and kept the bearings greased. © Robert Queen
Follow these tips to keep your boat clean and green.
Before you launch – spring maintenance
- Wear protective clothing, especially eye and hand protection during boat maintenance.
- Ask your marina what maintenance is allowed. Perform boat maintenance in designated areas and work inside when possible.
- Spread tarps between the boat and dock when sanding, painting, blasting or cleaning. Tarps should extend high enough to contain residue.
- Use a dustless/vacuum sander, or hand-sand small areas and wipe as you go. Avoid sanding in the slip.
- Never spray paint in the slip. Use environmentally friendly and low-VOC boat paints. Share leftover paint, varnish and teak cleaners; or take them to a hazardous waste collection site.
- Use phosphate-free and biodegradable cleaning products. Eliminate in-water hull cleaning as practical. Wait 90 days after painting before cleaning hull.
- Wax your boat to prevent surface dirt from becoming ingrained.
- Clean engine parts over a container or in a parts washer. Use drip pans or trays when changing fluids or working on engines.
- Check battery charge, water levels and connections for corrosion. Inspect electrical work.
- Tune-up motor to increase fuel efficiency, reduce consumption and discharge fewer pollutants.
- Use nontoxic bilge cleaners and/or bilge pillows that digest hydrocarbons.
- Lubricate the propeller shaft before re-installing the propeller.
- Check belts for cracks or excessive wear.
- Check power steering fluid level.
- Inspect spark plugs. Clean and replace as necessary.
- On outboards, check the water pump indicator hole to make sure it is debris free.
- Inspect the dock surface and roof. Tighten nuts and bolts. Check connector bolts between dock sections for looseness or missing parts. Check for loose bumpers.
- Don't forget trailer maintenance. The most common causes of trailer breakdown are blown tires, bearing failure or structural failure due to rust.
While on the water
- Dispose of waste at a fish cleaning station or compost.
- Leave nothing on the dock to fall into or blow into the water.
- Clean mud, plants and aquatic organisms from the boat, trailer, propeller, live well and anchors before leaving the launch to prevent the spread of exotic species.
- Keep a covered garbage container on board. Bring back what you take out. Recycle.
- If you have an installed toilet, use a sewage pumpout facility. Empty portable toilets into a restroom. Federal law requires all boats with fixed toilet facilities to have a U.S. Coast Guard approved Marine Sanitation Device (MSD). On the Great Lakes, Type III MSDs are required (called holding tanks) to keep the waste aboard until pumped out into a sewage system. The other type of toilet that is legal is the portable toilet, which must be carried ashore and dumped into a waste receiving station.
- Dispose of pet waste properly by using disposable bags for clean up.
- When filling the gas tank avoid spilling, topping off or overfilling to reduce the risk of fuel overflow and allow room for expansion in the tank. Wipe up spills.
- Participate in a hazardous waste collection program for antifreeze, paint, thinner, oil, oil filters, bilge water, batteries, gasoline fluids, solvents and oily rags. Never pour hazardous materials down the drain, on the ground or into the water.
- Do not speed in no-wake and shore zones. Boat wakes erode the shoreline, stir-up sediments, and contribute to silt build-up, which requires dredging.
- Have U.S. Coast Guard wearable life jacket in the proper sizes for everyone on board.
Before storing the boat in winter
- Remove the bilge plug.
- Remove and clean the propeller and lubricate the shaft. Change lower unit gear oil.
- Change engine oil and filter, water-separating fuel filter.
- Drain fuel lines, pumps and carburetor; drain tank or fill and add fuel stabilizer to the gas tank. Check fuel lines for cracks, abrasions and leaks.
- Unless the motor has a closed cooling system, all water needs to be drained from the manifold, hoses, petcocks and block to prevent freezing. Check the closed cooling system coolant levels (antifreeze) if applicable.
- Drain the toilet.
- On outboard motors, lubricate the swivel bracket, tilt support, tilt tube and the steering cable.
- Clean the engine exterior and sand and touch-up paint on scratched areas to prevent rusting.
- Remove the battery for storage, clean the top surfaces, grease terminal bolts, and place in a box or carton and store in a cool, dry place.
- Lubricate the gimbal bearing and the gimbal bearing ring/bell housing pivot pins before storing and again before putting back in the water.
- A professional can winterize your boat, but if you want to tackle it yourself, winterize your engine according to the manufacture's instructions.
Natasha Kassulke is Associate Editor of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.