Let's Get Ready to Cruise!
By, Capt. George East
Checklist for the new boating season:
Check things that might have deteriorated during winter, including exterior wiring
connections for navigation lights, dock lines (chafing or freeze damage), life jackets (mold,
rotten threads or fabric), paper charts, pipes including cockpit drains that were subject to ice
damage, and hose clamps.
Move the rudder. If it turns with undue resistance or if there is too much play, find the cause
and fix it. Check steering and control systems (cables, control box, linkages, hydraulic
systems). Replace swollen, stiff, or rusty control cables.
Replace deteriorated zincs. Clean contacts of wires
attached inside the hull to zinc bolts. If the wire is
corroded at the terminal, replace with tinned boat wire.
Check engine oil levels, particularly if your boat was
left in the water. High levels may indicate water intrusion
that requires work immediately to save the engine.
Check oil reservoirs including tilt/trim on outboards,
some windlasses, and hydraulic fluid in steering
Check that vent hoses haven't become clogged.
If your boat has been under cover, check for deck leaks, particularly around wooden areas.
Run water from a hose over possible problem areas.
Check for freeze damage where water may have entered confined areas. Examples are
around gel coat cracks, the rudder shaft seal, prop shaft seal, and thru-hull fittings. Examine
cored transoms on outboard boats for cracks that could have allowed water into the transom.
For I/Os, carefully check the bellows for any deterioration.
Test navigation equipment. Depth-finder transducers may be damaged by cold, particularly
if water has migrated through cracks in the plastic.
Load test batteries. Check the electrolyte level and specific
gravity if applicable. A simple voltage reading with a volt/ohm
meter won't tell the whole story, nor will just testing to see if
it can turn over the engine.
Replace fire extinguishers if needed. Invert hand-helds,
tap hard on the bottom with the palm of your hand, and
shake. Do automatic extinguishers need servicing?
Replace flares if they show any sign of damage or are
Is your toolbox wet inside from condensation or leaks? Are
tools such as pliers and adjustable wrenches rusted?
Test bilge pumps and alarms. If the float and alarm switches for your bilge pump(s) can't be
activated manually, or you can't reach them, use a hose to fill the bilge enough to see that the
pumps and alarms work.
Test bilge blowers and check their hoses for tears or disconnected fittings.
Check for moisture in the fuel tank. If you didn't leave your tank topped up to almost full
with appropriate additives and you've been using E10 gas, you may have water in the tank
from condensation and phase separation, which could damage your engine. Draining and
replacing the fuel is sometimes needed. If it is, hire a qualified professional. Replace fuel
filters even if new.
Check fuel lines and fittings. Look for signs of leaks such as discoloring around a fitting.
Replace any line or fitting looking impaired, per ABYC and USCG standards or better. Secure
any loose lines.
Carefully examine the galley
stove. Check connections and
plugs for the electric stove and
check the burners. For gas
stoves, check fittings, line, and
emergency shutoff solenoid valve
and solenoid wire connections at
the switch and solenoid.
Check end plates of engine heat
exchangers for white or greenish discoloration indicating water
seeping past seals. Many
manufacturers recommend these
seals be replaced every year.
Check all other water seals, including around the raw-water pump, freshwater pump (where it
mates to the front of the block and weep hole underneath). Look for signs of corrosion, salt,
or antifreeze residue.
Remove antifreeze in drinking lines. Check heads and hot-water heater for cracks, even if
you drained them or added antifreeze.
Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and change batteries.
Check prop(s) for dings, bent blades, or damage. Consider sending them to a prop shop
for refurbishing. Grab the shaft and try to wiggle it. If there's play, the cutlass bearing needs
replacing. Check the hull and all underwater components. If you have a bolted-on keel, check
for seepage or signs of rust or other deterioration.
Check thru-hull fittings and hoses before launch, lubricate (per the manufacturer's
instruction), and work each.
Clean raw-water strainers for the engine, generator, air conditioning, head, and any others.
Check gaskets and/or O-rings.
For waxed twine stuffing boxes for the rudder and prop shaft, replace the twine and
tighten. While the seal is disassembled, check the shaft where it's normally concealed by the
seal, for crevice corrosion or wear, particularly if the boat sits for long periods without running.
Don't over-tighten; a slight drip is OK. Tighten again once you've run the boat, if needed.
Inspect "drip-less" shaft seals including the lubricating water hose for free flow of water to the
fitting, if you have that type.
When the boat is launched, check bilges, all thru-hull fittings, below-water hoses, and any
other relevant areas for seepage.
Run the engine(s) at the dock at idle, or slow for at least 15 minutes, and then away from
the dock, at varying speeds, but within easy towing distance.
In addition to the above, check and service winches, furling gear, blocks and cars,
all standing rigging before the sails are put on, then check and work all running rigging with
the sails on. Check swage fittings for any signs of cracking or other deterioration. Also check
tangs on the mast where stays are attached.
Check chain plates above and below deck for
cracks or other deterioration, and check the structure where plates come through the deck for
leakage or deterioration. Look for broken strands in stainless cable. Remove any tape
covering turnbuckles or other areas, inspect underneath and replace tape if needed after servicing.
As always I'll look for you outside the inlet.
Capt. George East
East has been boating since he was seventeen,
has had other interests including flying (FAA
licensed pilot) car racing, and snow skiing,
but he has always remained an ardent boater.
After earning a USCG captain's license some 25
years ago, George spent time as a delivery and
demonstration captain for one of the major motoryacht
During this same period, while
he was building a successful construction and
ready mix concrete company, George still found
time to own and operate several boats including
two Chris-Crafts, a Gulfstar, and two Hatterases.
Fast forward to the present
to find George retired from his businesses,
devoting all of his energy to boats and the
boating industry. George currently holds a
100 Ton USCG Master's license. His specialties
are classic Chris-Craft and Hatteras yachts.
George instructed with the U.S. Power Squadron
for 15 years, and is now a broker with Paradigm
Yacht Sales in Louisville, Kentucky and Cape
was contributed to this site by Paradigm Yacht
Sales, Louisville's largest brokerage.
looking to buy or sell a boat, you can reach
P.O. Box 1043
US Highway 42
Prospect, KY 40059