5 things to do before boating this season

Two mariners launch their trailer boat for the first time this seasonBoating season kicks off in the Northwest on May 5, so here are five tips to prepare trailer boaters, in particular, for hassle-free fun on the water.

  1. Flag these weather sites on your smartphone. Conditions can change rapidly on the water, so stay abreast of the forecast:  Washington waters, Oregon coastal waters north and south.

  2. Fire up at home before you launch. Use a flusher that connects to your garden hose. Don't be "that guy" at the boat ramp and end up blocking dock access for everyone else because your motor won't start.

  3. Check your winch rope. Even braided synthetic rope can rot, and you don't want it to snap while retrieving your boat at the launch. While you're at it, check your trailer safety chains. Are they rusty and brittle?

  4. Repack your trailer's wheel bearings. Everyone is smart enough to check their trailer tires for wear and tear. But did you know most mechanics recommend servicing your wheel bearings annually? They're immersed in water – around the Northwest, often in corrosive salt water – and then sit idle for long periods. You want your bearings packed with grease, not rust.

  5. A boater fills his tank with ethanol-free gasoline at the dockDon't pump harmful ethanol gas into your boat's fuel tank. Ethanol-gasoline blends typically replace pure gasoline at gas stations during the winter months, to help reduce hydrocarbon emissions that worsen air pollution. The most common blend is E10, 10% ethanol and 90% gas. Most car engines handle E10 just fine, but marine engines struggle if blended fuel sits idle in the tank for more than a few weeks.

    E10 also is generally not good for older vessels and boats powered by two-stroke outboard engines.

    Worse is E15 fuel, which Mercury Marine says will cause irreversible damage to marine-engine components that will lead to engine failure.

    Gas station pumps are labeled if they contain ethanol blendsGas station pumps in Washington and Oregon are labeled if ethanol is present. Before you fill your tank, pay attention to what comes out of the pump.

    If you fuel up your boat at the dock, you probably don't have to worry about blended fuel – marinas know all about ethanol and likely don't sell E15 or E10.

    Another way for trailer boaters (and classic-car owners too) to get peace of mind is to avoid blended fuel altogether. Many rely on websites like pure-gas.org and buyrealgas.com, which list fuel stations in each state that sell only ethanol-free gasoline.

Also, here's a cautionary tale from last June. Check out the photo. The lesson here: set the parking brake while launching your boat.

by  Jon Osterberg

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