Spring is just around the corner. Soon, it will be time to put away those coats and hats, and take out your shorts, your cooler, and get your boat or jet ski ready for the season. Yet, before you go out on the water this spring, there are some important things you should consider to make sure that your boat and jet skis are safe.
Our boating accident attorneys here at LMAW see more accidents in the spring due to increased traffic. Poor maintenance and lack of proper safety equipment sometimes contributes to these accidents and, in some cases, a lack of proper safety equipment exacerbates emergencies. If you’ve kept your boat in storage over winter, it may need some patching up, and your equipment might need to be double-checked. Cold weather can damage your equipment, so it’s best to make sure everything is working before you head out onto the water.
First off, it’s important to note that every boat is different, and the kinds of checks you’ll perform for a motorboat will be a little different than the kinds of checks you’d perform for a sailboat. Always read your owner’s manual and perform any safety checks recommended by the manufacturer.
Here are some must-do boating safety checks to keep in mind:
- If you have wipers, make sure they are clean and in working order.
- Visually inspect the hull for any gashes or holes.
- Test your motor and make sure the throttle, shift, and steering work. Listen to the sound of the motor and make sure that it isn’t squealing. If so, you may need to replace the belts. If you can’t identify the source of the noise, it might make sense to take your boat in for a tune up or repair.
- Check all your gauges and make sure your oil, temperature, and fuel levels are registering properly.
- Make sure your radio works. There’s nothing worse than being out at sea and finding you have a dead radio.
- While you’re checking your radio, make sure all your electronic equipment is functioning as it should. You don’t want a dead GPS when you need it. Check wires for corrosion and wear and tear.
- Check your lights.
- Check your cooling system. If you didn’t drain the system before the cold set in, you may have to re-fill it with more coolant; replace hoses if they are cracked.
- Visually inspect your props before you launch the boat. Small imperfections can affect your boat on the water.
- Make sure your horn works.
- Change your oil, replace the fuel filter, and make sure you have sufficient transmission fluid.
- Change spark plugs.
After you’ve made sure that everything is in good working order, take the time to do some spring cleaning. Wax the hull and scrub down the decks. Make sure you use cleaning fluids that are marine-safe.
Once you’ve checked your boat, the next thing you’ll want to do is check your safety equipment. You rely on your safety equipment, and winter can put some wear and tear on this important gear.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you make sure you have all the equipment you need:
- Check expiration date on flares and fire-extinguishers.
- Make sure you have all the safety gear required by law on board the boat. U.S. Coast Guard requires that you have personal flotation devices for everyone on board, a working whistle or bell, visual distress signals, and a fire extinguisher. Double check the local law and rules in your area to make sure that you have all the required equipment, registrations, and passes. You don’t want to go out on the water with anything past its expiration date.
While this is far from an exhaustive list of all the things you should do this spring to keep your boat safe, it should serve as a good guide of where to start. Of course, your best guide will be your boat manufacturer’s owner’s manual. Additionally, different size boats have different requirements for safety equipment, check the U.S. Coast Guard Website or give them a call to make sure that you are still in compliance and make a list of what you need to buy before you head out this spring.