15 not-so-obvious tips for a successful first launch of the season
It's the first sunny spring weekend, and hordes of trailer boats clog public launches surrounding Northwest lakes, rivers, and harbors.
You've waited your turn, eager to launch, and now you're next in line. But the guy ahead of you launched his ski 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.
You can avoid his fate by checking your boat before you leave home. Go beyond the common winterizing and tune-up tips with these:
On the boat
- Carry Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices for each person onboard.
- Bring a CG-approved fully charged fire extinguisher.
- Check navigation lights, even if you plan to boat only in daylight.
- On inboard/outboards, test the trim tab to ensure your outdrive tilts up and down. If it's stuck, the problem could be a bad solenoid.
- Attach a garden hose and trailer-fire your motor, ensuring it will start later at the boat launch.
- Keep a tool kit, duct tape (great for temporary repairs), and flashlight onboard.
- Make sure you've secured your drain plug and petcocks.
On the trailer
- Check your tie-down straps and winch rope for rot or fraying.
- Clean and lubricate the winch.
- Check safety chains and the tongue lock for rust and corrosion.
- Check and lubricate wheel bearings.
- Check tire pressure and make sure your trailer has a spare tire.
- Test brake lights and running lights.
- Make sure your tabs are current on your trailer's license plate, and check that your boat is properly registered and licensed. (Check here to see what's required – for example, no registration needed for kayaks, canoes, and boats less than 16 feet with motors of 10 horsepower or less.)
- To avoid trouble at the boat ramp, check to make sure the emergency brake works well on your tow vehicle.