Invasive species regulations are now in effect in many states and many of them now require boaters to remove the plug and drain the bilge and live well before transporting a watercraft. In our Basic Boating Safety Course we have an extensive section on trailering and one of the things we emphasize is to make sure the drain plug is in before launching your boat.
The majority of recreational boats in the United States are trailered to and from the water. Your boat trailer is only one part of the entire boating package, which includes the boat, trailer, hitch and towing vehicle. Neglecting the trailer’s maintenance can result in damage to your boat, your towing vehicle or both. Below is our check-list for launching.
- Do initial launch preparations away from the ramp so as not to impede launching for others.
- Raise the outdrive or motor, remove the support bracket and install the drain plug.
- Disconnect the trailer wiring. Remove tie down straps and again check the drain plug.
- Make any equipment adjustments necessary and check the drain plug.
- Connect the fuel tank, check fluid levels and check the drain plug.
- Drive to the ramp and back the boat and trailer down the ramp, keeping the tow vehicle’s wheels out of the water.
- Set the emergency brake, shift into Park, and block the wheels.
- Someone should get aboard the boat, turn on the blower, lower the motor, look for water entering the boat, (in case you forgot to check the drain plug) sniff the bilge and start the motor.
- Make sure you have attached a bow line to the boat, then release the winch and disconnect the winch line.
- You should be able to launch the boat with a slight shove or by backing the boat off the trailer under power.
- Return the towing vehicle to the parking lot as soon as the boat is launched so the next person in line may proceed.
- Move the boat to an area away from the ramp to load additional equipment and passengers.
Many times we simply get complacent at dockside and don’t use our common sense. Following are a few tips that you should adhere to to make dockside boating safer and more pleasant for you and your dockside neighbors.
ALWAYS neatly coil or flemish excess line both on the dock and onboard. This not only looks more professional but can prevent someone from tripping over a loose line and falling. Guess who would be at fault if it were your line they tripped over?
ALWAYS turn off all AC breakers on board, then turn off the breaker and disconnect the power cord from the dock first. You will see many people undo the power cord from the boat and then hand it to, or worse yet, carry it off the boat to the dock. One slip and they are in the drink with a live wire.
ALWAYS make sure you turn off all outside lights, instruments, and VHF radio. There is nothing more un-neighborly than a light shining on the boat in the next slip or the VHF blasting loudly while you are out for a late night at the local pub.
NEVER connect a dock water supply to the pressure side of the water system on your boat. Not even with a pressure-reducing valve. This is an invitation to sink your boat. All you need is for one of those hose clamps to quit, or a flexible section to rupture and there is an unlimited supply of water to fill your boat. Far better to fill your water tank periodically using a hose and using the onboard water pressure pump to supply your requirements. Now if there is an accident, no more water can come on the boat than was already there and you can’t sink. Keeping your pressure pump working on a regular basis is also better for it. Nothing kills pumps quicker than being idle for long periods.
And while on the subject, NEVER have a water tank that overflows anywhere onboard. Plumb the overflow overboard or to a drain which always runs overboard because, sooner or later, you will go ashore and forget you left the hose filling the tank!
We recently published a pre-season check list to assist in dewinterizing our boat for the upcoming boating season. According to BoatUS insurance division there are five things that are often overlooked that can result in you boats first trip being one that isn’t on the water but under the water.
The Top Five Reasons Why Boats Sink in the Springtime:
- Missing or damaged hose clamps: These clamps are often removed in the fall to winterize the engine, and then forgotten about in the spring when the boat is launched. Tight spaces in engine compartments make it difficult to see some unsecured or deteriorated clamps.
- Unsecured engine hoses: Over the winter, freezing water can lift hoses off seacocks (valves).
- Spring rains: Combine heavy rains with leaking ports, deck hatches, cracked or improperly caulked fittings, chain plates and even scuppers clogged by leaves and your boat could be on the bottom soon.
- Broken sea strainer: Glass, plastic and even bronze strainer bowls can be cracked or bent over in the winter if not properly winterized, allowing to water trickle in when the seawater intake seacock is in the open position.
- Leaking stuffing box: If equipped, a steady drip from an improperly adjusted stuffing box (the “packing” around the prop shaft) has been known to swamp a boat.
As “boating season” and the thoughts of getting out on the water start to increace. I thought it appropriate to to remind all boaters of the danger of propeller strikes.
Did you know?
- A typical three-blade propeller running at 3,200 rpm can inflict 160 impacts in one second.
- A typical recreational propeller can travel from head to toe on an average person in less than one tenth of a second.
- Most propeller accidents CAN be prevented!
What Can You Do?
- Wear your engine cut-off switch lanyard and your life jacket at ALL times. If the lanyard is removed from the switch, the engine will shut off.
- Assign a passenger to keep watch around the propeller area of your boat when people are in the water.
- Consider purchasing propeller safety devices for your boat.
- Before starting your engine, walk to the stern and look in the water to make certain there is no one near your propeller (people near the propeller may not be visible from the helm).
- Never allow passengers to board or exit your boat from the water when engine(s) are running – even at idle and in neutral your propeller may continue to spin.
- Educate passengers about the location and danger of the propeller(s).
- Call attention to and discuss any propeller waning labels around your boat.
- Be especially alert when operating in congested areas and never enter swimming zones.
- Take extra precautions near boats that are towing skiers or tubers.
- Never permit passengers to ride on the bow, gunwale, transom, seat backs, or other locations where they might fall overboard.
- Children should be watched carefully while onboard.
- Establish clear rules for swim platform use, boarding ladders, and seating (if possible, passengers should remain seated at all times).
- If someone falls overboard, STOP! Then slowly turn the boat around, and keep the person in sight as you approach. Assign a passenger to continuously monitor the person in ;the water. Turn your engine off FIRST and then bring the person to safety.
- NEVER reverse your boat to pick someone up out of the water. If necessary, go around again.
A variety of safety devices are available to help prevent propeller strikes:
- Wireless cut off switches
- Propeller guards
- Ringed propellers
- Propulsion alternatives (jet drive)
- Anti-feedback steering