As we move closer to boating season, small steps help determine whether a boat stays ashore. Each year, many of the injuries we witness post-loss occur when launching or at the start of the season as a result of some owners overestimating their boating skills. Although it is not possible to mitigate all risk, there are a number of steps you can take to minimize property damage and reduce the chance of injuries.
Review your insurance policy
Before the season starts, it’s recommended that all boat owners review their policies to understand the type of cover they have. Do you have the appropriate cover based on your circumstance? Cases are constantly appearing in which policyholders do not quite know what they are paying for. As a boat owner, reviewing the terms of your policy on a routine basis is essential as terms are updated at regular intervals and you have the opportunity to change cover as needed.
Take safety measures
If you were born before 1980, you can drive a boat up to 50 feet in size. However, it does not necessarily mean that one should do so. The driving test for boaters delivers knowledge in terms of navigation, seamanship, sea marks and the dangers to consider in the water. The test can be completed in a short time at a relatively affordable cost, so it can be considered the cheapest insurance you can purchase.
Maintain the boat
To properly care for a boat takes time and work, but it becomes easier if you maintain it sooner rather than later. The most important step to take is to rinse the boat with a high-pressure washer as soon as it is on land. If the boat is given time to dry with dirt and grime, the cleaning job can be considerably more extensive. Boat workshops tend to have a long waiting time in the spring and if you want to take the boat in for service, the earlier the better. Another significant component to maintaining the boat is to consider your environment by sorting any waste and yourself, by using appropriate protective equipment for each task.
When preparing a boat for the season, consider the following suggestions:
- Wash the boat
As one of the primary tasks, take extra precaution that self-bilges and drainage holes are free of leaves and dirt. Read the instructions for use on the detergent you use, wear chemical gloves, start at the bottom and wash upwards. It is beneficial to wash the superstructure and deck before starting the polishing, otherwise the power wash can destroy what you have already done. It’s also recommended to avoid too much scrubbing, Jif and other scouring agents. Rinse the boat with fresh water and preferably use a strong detergent that foams well. Apply with a sponge and bucket. Allow the detergent time to work, and you will avoid a lot of scrubbing. Even so, it is important not to let it dry too much either, because then there may be scabs that are difficult to remove. Rinse the boat thoroughly with fresh water after washing, preferably with a high-pressure washer.
- Check the hull
Start by checking whether the hull has damage in the gelcoat. Damage below the waterline is recommended to be repaired before bottom lubrication and polishing. Check the frames and bulkheads, they must be intact. For wooden boats, you should look carefully for rot on gangways, frames, bulkheads and bottom logs. Check for cracks and if anything stands out, carefully check transitions between keel and hull.
- Polish properly
It is important that the boat is washed well, dried completely and rubbed before starting to polish. Using a polishing machine on the lowest speed is recommended. Do not apply to surfaces larger than, for example, 80x80cm, and work horizontally and vertically. Polishing in direct sunlight is not ideal. A RIB should be put in with “sun cream” to protect the pontoon several times during the summer. This is a sealer or a wax-based coating that creates a film to protect against, and salt water and stains.
- Protect bottom material
Regardless of whether you are going to apply a base material or not, it’s recommended to go over the bottom of the boat with water sanding paper. If necessary, find a bottom material that suits your use and your boat and apply every two years. The bottom must be flushed and cleaned every year.
- Inspect engine and propeller
While professionals take care of full inspections, boat owners can complete a visual check of the engine and compartment for damage, leaks or other things that indicate something may be wrong. You can also check the engine’s oil and coolant level, as well as the battery voltage. Complete a review of all lubrication points and feel free to lubricate wire transmissions and moving parts. Check cables, hoses and look for breaks and wear. Finally, you can check and clean the filters in the engine.
- Ensure the battery is charged
The battery is considered discharged or damaged if it has less than 12 volts. If the battery is slightly over 12 volts, it is about half full. A fully charged battery should have approx. 12.7 volts.
- Check the safety equipment
Every year, there are many boats that start to burn and it can escalate quickly. The first priosity is to have the appropriate equipment in the boat and the second priority is to know how to use it. It is a good rule to check this in connection with the boat cleaning in the spring, in addition to fire alarms, gas detectors, extinguishing equipment and lifejackets. On the inflatable lifejacket, you should check the gas cartridge, trigger tablet and whether the vest is tight. Not all vests are inflatable, and on the normal vest it is important to ensure that all seams are intact — whether the vest is adapted to your weight, shape and whether it has a crotch strap. Writing the date on the vest for when you last checked it is recommended.
- Remember the bottom plug and enlist help during and after launching
When launching, it’s not recommended to drive a boat on a trailer if you do not have a license to do so. There are significant forces in turning and speed bumps have damaged many boats. Always fasten the boat securely to the hanger with at least three straps. Before you back into the water, if necessary, remove the electric plate at the back and pull out the connector between the trailer and the car. Back out into the water, but not so far that the water comes over the hub of the trailer wheels. Remember the handbrake, so you don’t launch the boat and car. When the boat is safely on the water, the car is driven with a trailer out of the water and deserves a thorough flushing with fresh water. Spray all electrical contacts with moisture repellent spray.
When the boat is on the water, check all hull penetrations for leaks. Test winches, drives, flaps and rudder. Check that the battery is being charged by the engine, and that the engine has cooling. Rubber impellers can become hard and often crack when left on land to dry. After running the engine for a while, check for leaks of oil, fuel and cooling water, as well as the oil level.
Boating season is upon us and the risks are too. To minimize property damage and reduce the chance of injuries, it’s recommended to review your policy, take safety precautions, and do your due diligence to maintain the boat. Sedgwick is ready to take care of clients and their insureds throughout boating season and beyond.