Boat Anatomy 101

How well do you now the anatomy of your boat? Hopefully you know at least know where the engine is. If not, the spring is the perfect time to get to know your boat’s anatomy better, because it’s up on the dry dock, and you’ve got to get it ready for the water.

How Bad Is It, Doc?

You can’t count on the technicians at the marina to babysit your boat for you all winter and have it in the water, ready when spring rolls around. Jamie Galli, the service manager at Pasadena Yacht Yard Marine, says that storage contracts will tell boaters everything they need to know about the responsibility of the marina, and the responsibility of the boat owner. He recommends boaters check on their boats at least once a week, and especially after a storm, because too often, he has seen people return in the spring to a damaged boat full of water.

If your boat needed repairs when it was dry docked back in December, there’s no reason why you couldn’t have started working on it right then. John Stehr, the service manager at JAWS Marine, warns boaters not to procrastinate. “Everyone waits until the first nice weekend, but [marinas] suddenly go from working on five boats to 200 at once.” He says that most marinas and dealers work on boats as they come in, so people who wait longer to launch might not be getting theirs in until summer. 

The Body

The hull is like the body of your boat, so you want to check it for any damage, like soft spots or stress cracks. Stehr says that when it comes to painting, boaters have options. He recommends that larger boats, such as trollers or cruisers, use a single-season paint. He says it’s great for boats that stay in the water year round, because, “if the boat is out of the water for more than 30 days, the paint becomes ineffective, and you have to repaint it.” Stripping the paint isn’t necessary, and a simple power wash before repainting should get enough off to make the new coat smooth. 

The other option is ablative paint. “It’s more expensive, but it’s a multi-season paint.” When you pull your boat for the winter, a simple cuff before spring is all it takes to get you ready for the water again.

The Skeleton 

The next part you should examine is the skeleton. Make sure your masts, spars, and rigging is in top shape. Check for any damaged through-hulls. If there is any water inside your hull, it may have frozen over the winter and caused something to expand, crack, or splinter. Cut any tangled line from your prop and inspect it for corrosion.

Inspect your sails, curtains, cushions, and other fabrics on your boat for dry rot and stains. Stehr says that X14 can remove stains from carpeting and canvas. There’s nothing worse than tearing a dry rotted sail, except maybe sitting in a captain’s chair with split leather on the seat.

The Organs

Boats also have organs, so remember to take a look at things that make it function, not just float. Engines get you where you want to go, and if you left water in your engine over the winter, you probably won’t be going anywhere for some time. Galli says that the top three things people forget about before launching are the battery, bilge, and fluid levels. Often times, when people pull the battery in the winter and put back in the spring, they don’t tighten the connections enough. Using a wrench will twist it tight.

Stehr agrees and says that the number one fluid boaters forget to check is the fuel. “Ethanol [in the fuel] attracts moisture,” he says. “Your engine doesn’t run on water.”

Stehr also advises people to pay attention to and follow their engine’s maintenance schedule. As do cars, boats have regular services scheduled, such as inspecting the lower unit on the engine. “Sacrificial anodes are the place where [electrolysis] starts,” Stehr says. He says people should replace that area right away if they notice any corrosion, because “it’s much cheaper than having to replace a whole lower unit.”

The Head

You don’t want to be out on a weekend cruise without a working toilet. Don’t procrastinate on getting fresh water through your head and sink, and make sure the fittings on your freshwater tank are tight.

The Nervous System

Take a look at your boat’s nervous system and make sure all electronics wiring is safely connected. Corrosion keeps electricity from conducting. Gallis says any signs of corrosion will be green, but not all of it is visible to the eye. He explains corrosion as being “like a cancer. It may have traced up into the wire more than the eye can see.” He recommends using Boe Shield to clean any corrosion.

Anchor Tattoos and Other Accessories

Besides the basic anatomy, you should pay attention to your boat’s accessories. Your registration, license, and fishing license should be up to date before you go for a cruise, because if you’re caught without it, you’ll be sent right back up on land. Flares, sunscreen, and medications also have expiration dates, so make sure your first aid kit and emergency equipment is fresh and up to date. Don’t forget to make sure you have enough PFDs on board, as well as plenty of strong line.

Update Your Wardrobe If You Have To

Sometimes, we focus so much attention on our boats that we forget about the things that get them in the water— trailers. Does your trailer have a flat? Are the taillights working? Are the tags expired? Gallis says putting a little grease on the bearings will make the journey to the ramp much smoother and safer for your boat.

Practice Good Boat Hygiene

Don’t forget to give your boat a good cleaning before you’re set to go. No one wants to go cruising on the first day of spring in a dirty boat. They call it spring cleaning for a reason.

By Emily Bentz