Commissioning your boat at the start of boating season requires a lot more than removing your boat cover and slapping on some bottom paint. In fact, proper spring boat commissioning can make a big difference in the safety and longevity of your boat.
From minor nuisance mistakes that can cause you a lot of aggravation, to more serious mistakes that could literally sink your boat, boaters need to be sure to avoid common mistakes that can be made during spring boat commissioning.
Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. Luckily our fellow boaters are usually more than happy to share advice from real life experiences. The best we can do is learn from these mistakes and be sure never to repeat them with our own boat.
With some help from our friends at BoatUS, we’ve put together a round-up of some boat commissioning mistakes that you’ll definitely want to avoid this spring. These 8 spring boat commissioning mistakes are direct experiences employees of BoatUS have made over the years that could save you a lot of aggravation, or your life.
MISTAKE #1: Connecting Boat Batteries Incorrectly
“When reconnecting my batteries I missed one of the ground wires that had slipped down behind the battery box. I noticed something was wrong when the trim/tilt worked fine but the motor would not start. With so many cables going to multiple batteries, I’m taking a photo this year of how things are properly attached so next spring things go as planned.” – Mike in BoatUS Marine Insurance
“While this did not happen to me personally, it’s something we see in the claims department every spring: hooking up the battery backwards, causing reverse polarity and a massive electrical short or fire.” – Kerry in BoatUS Marine Insurance
MISTAKE #2: Not Gearing up on Safety Equipment
“We remove a lot of gear to store inside each winter, but realized after leaving the dock not all had made it back aboard. Now I download a checklist of required safety equipment and inventory everything to ensure it gets put back on the boat before launch day. I also check the dates on my flares and ensure my extinguisher is in the green zone.” – Margaret in BoatUS Executive Office
MISTAKE #3: Improper Boat Trailer Hook-up
“Winter plays havoc on boat trailers and I once departed the parking lot without checking my trailer lights. Thankfully, just a short distance away another motorist advised me of the issue. Now I make sure all is well before departing and also check tires and inspect the bearings and brakes.” – Ted in BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water
MISTAKE #4: Bad Radio Cable Antennas
“On sailboats with mast-top VHF radio antennas, a common problem on older boats is a rotted antenna coax cable near the mast base. I found this out when I went to use my VHF radio and no one could hear me. Replace the cable now, and if your VHF has DSC or Digital Selective Calling with a one-button mayday feature, be sure the radio is connected to the GPS or chartplotter.” – Scott in BoatUS Public Affairs
MISTAKE #5: Not Commissioning the Dinghy
“Sailors need to remember to check their dinghy – it’s often overlooked and winter might have been hard on it with missing pieces, critters inside, etc. Don’t forget to service the dinghy’s motor too. If you don’t, you’re going to be sorry just like I was when it sputtered just as I left the boat.” – Charles in BoatUS Consumer Affairs and Seaworthy Magazine
MISTAKE #6: Forgetting the Drain Plug
“If you have a trailerable boat with a transom drain plug, take the plug now and attach it to the boat’s throttle control or steering wheel so it will be impossible for you not to notice to install it before launching. Yes, this does happen. I know. Nothing gets your attention more than a little water around your ankles.” – Chris in BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water
MISTAKE #7: Skimping on Bottom Paint Supplies
“When putting on my bottom paint I used a cheap paint roller and soon found out why it was so cheap – it was shedding a fuzz in every pass I made. I also made the mistake of not saving a little extra paint to finish under the jackstands or trailer rollers just before launching.“ – Ted in BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water
MISTAKE #8: Rushing Spring Boat Prep
“Every spring, boat sinking claims start to come in. Nearly always you can chalk it up to rushing to get it done. I take my time inspecting engine hoses and hoses clamps, the bilge pump, stern-drive boot, clean out scuppers and double check the through-hulls and sea strainer. I once found a plastic through-hull for a sink drain at the waterline that initially looked fine, but it was only until I took the time for a closer inspection that I found it was cracked nearly in half on the inside.” – Scott in BoatUS Public Affairs
Spring Boat Prep Resources
For a comprehensive listing of products you may need for your spring boat prep, we recommend checking out our Spring Boat Prepr Gear page.
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