By Capt. Joe Kent
March is one of the more frustrating months for boaters and fishermen. Weather forecasts, especially for wind, are likely the most unreliable of the year and fishing is usually hit or miss.
March also is Spring Break Month and most schools designate a week or so as holidays. The first thing on the mind of spring breakers is heading to the coast. For years, while my daughter was in school, there was an annual ritual of spending time at our weekend home on the west end of Galveston Island.
One thing I always emphasized to our guests that week was that whatever the weather upon arrival, it would be different upon departure. I don’t recall ever being wrong on that prediction.
Spring Break also is a time when many fishermen and boaters hit the water for the first time during the New Year. While the weather can play a major role in their enjoyment or lack thereof, equipment failure can really mar the occasion.
This is especially true for boaters. Fishing equipment failures may take fishing out of the plans, but boating equipment problems can really take a toll on your time and enjoyment of the time off.
For those of you planning to take the boat out during a week of vacation, let’s take a look as some of the things that you can do ahead of time to possibly ward off problems away from home.
Engine problems stand out as the number one frustration, as boaters often get stranded away from the dock or find that the motor will not start after launching. Here are a few tips on what to look for ahead of time.
Remove the cowling from your outboard engine and check for things, like corrosion, that have set in during the off months or a dirt dauber’s mound connected to an engine part. If the interior looks OK, then spray liberally with a light oil spray such as WD-40.
Check the lower unit oil and, better still, change it for the season. If water is present, either drops out upon removal of the plug or the oil is milky color, do not run the engine in gear.
The source of the water, usually seals, needs to be determined and repaired. Next, use a flushing device connected to the water intake and crank the engine. If it starts, run the engine for a few minutes. If the cranking battery is weak, check to make sure it can be charged up and is not on its last leg.
Check the power tilt and trim to make sure it is operable. Turn the steering wheel as far in both directions as it will go to eliminate any frozen lines.
If all of this checks out, add some new fuel stabilizer to the gasoline. If your tank is not full, add fresh gasoline.
Although your engine and fuel may pass the initial inspection for the season, you still should have seasonal maintenance performed.
Next, check out your trailer. Start with an inspection of the axle, springs and wheels. While rust likely will be present, make sure that it is no more than surface rust. Check the tires for wear, including dry rotting and pressure. If the tire pressure is low, add air before heading out.
If you feel uncomfortable performing any of those tasks, take your rig to a specialist. Remember the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Now, plan to enjoy your spring break on the water.