I've been yearning to write about boating, because boating season coincides with sunshine and warm air.
But when I press the little icon for my iPhone weather app, it shows puffy clouds dripping rain over Seattle for the next umpteen days. Well, at least until Thursday, May 4, when a sliver of sun appears with the promise of 65 (gasp!) degrees.
Perhaps if I offer boating tips now, that will somehow turn the tide of our
record-breaking rainy weather. And if not, you'll still benefit from preparing to ply our sun-drenched Northwest waters, if you can recall what they look like.
The April edition of our Perspective newsletter features "15 not-so-obvious tips for a successful first launch of the season." I'll highlight just a few of those, plus a few additional tips.
If you own a trailer boat, picture this: You've eagerly waited to launch, and now you're next in line. But the guy ahead of you launched his boat 10 minutes ago, and there he sits at the helm, blocking the dock, still cranking the starter on his dead motor. Soon the starter wilts and he gives up, fetches his car, and angers everyone in line by cutting to the front to retrieve his hapless vessel.
I was nearly that guy. Except, instead of a dead starter, it was a dead solenoid that controls the tilt function of the outdrive on my inboard-outboard motor. My outdrive was stuck in the up position. Happily, the malfunction happened at home instead of at the boat launch, because I was smart enough to trailer-fire before driving to the lake.
You should do likewise each spring. Buy a flusher that attaches to the end of your garden hose. They're handy for rinsing salt water out of your motor, and they enable you to run your motor with your boat on its trailer. Lower your outdrive, then slide the flusher's rubber cups over the outdrive water pickup and turn on the hose. Now you can start your motor and, assuming you "fogged" it before winter, you'll clear out all the fogging oil and get the motor purring smoothly before you launch.
Also, if you own an inboard or an inboard/outboard, don't forget to secure the petcocks (the threaded shut-off valves that drain water from your block), as well as your hull's main drain plug (you wouldn't want to sink at the dock, right?). And it's not a bad idea to store a spare drain plug in your boat.
Two things that trailer-boat owners often overlook: the rope on the winch, and the tie-downs. Both can deteriorate and fray while sitting outside in the elements. Inspect them closely, or risk your boat sliding off the trailer in transit. Or risk being that embarrassed guy at the boat launch whose rope snaps while cranking his boat onto the trailer.
Other common oversights: Besides having a Coast Guard-approved flotation device for each person onboard your vessel, you must have at least one "throwable" flotation device you can toss to someone in the water.
Boaters should carry emergency flares, either hand-held or airborne, depending on the size of your hull. Note their expiration dates – flares can fizzle out while in storage after just a few years.
Remember, all boaters born after 1954 must have a boating safety card to operate a vessel. It's like a driver's license. You also might benefit from an
online safe-boater class to boost your skills and avoid less-skilled boaters.
Final tip: It's smart to check the current weather forecast before you leave the dock. Better yet, once you're on the water, check that weather app on your smartphone occasionally since wind conditions can change rapidly. And bookmark this link for
Washington's marine weather forecast. Monitor NOAA's Oregon marine forecast here.