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Eight Boat Spring Commissioning Goof-Ups, From BoatUS

BoatUS Staff Speak Up So You Don’t Make the Same Blunders

ALEXANDRIA, Va.,– They are the crewmembers of the nation’s largest boater advocacy, safety and services group, BoatUS. And like most boaters, they aren’t perfect. They make mistakes and learn from them too. With boat yards, back yards, marinas and clubs now coming to life, spring commissioning time has arrived. Here are eight spring commissioning mistakes that the employees of BoatUS have made over the years that could save you a lot of aggravation, or your life.

The battery goof-up #1: “When reconnecting my batteries I missed one of the ground wires that had slipped down behind the battery box. I noticed something was wrong when the trim/tilt worked fine but the motor would not start. With so many cables going to multiple batteries, I’m taking a photo this year of how things are properly attached so next spring things go as planned.” – Mike in BoatUS Marine Insurance

The safety gear goof-up: “We remove a lot of gear to store inside each winter, but realized after leaving the dock not all had made it back aboard. Now I download a checklist of required safety equipment and inventory everything to ensure it gets put back on the boat before launch day. I also check the dates on my flares and ensure my extinguisher is in the green zone.” – Margaret in BoatUS Executive Office

The boat trailer goof-up: “Winter plays havoc on boat trailers and I once departed the parking lot without checking my trailer lights. Thankfully, just a short distance away another motorist advised me of the issue. Now I make sure all is well before departing and also check tires and inspect the bearings and brakes.” – Ted in BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water

The call for help goof-up: “On sailboats with mast-top VHF radio antennas, a common problem on older boats is a rotted antenna coax cable near the mast base. I found this out when I went to use my VHF radio and no one could hear me. Replace the cable now, and if your VHF has DSC or Digital Selective Calling with a one-button mayday feature, be sure the radio is connected to the GPS or chartplotter.” – Scott in BoatUS Public Affairs

The dinghy goof-up: “Sailors need to remember to check their dinghy – it’s often overlooked and winter might have been hard on it with missing pieces, critters inside, etc. Don’t forget to service the dinghy’s motor too. If you don’t, you’re going to be sorry just like I was when it sputtered just as I left the boat.” – Charles in BoatUS Consumer Affairs and Seaworthy Magazine

The transom drain plug goof-up: “If you have a trailerable boat with a transom drain plug, take the plug now and attach it to the boat’s throttle control or steering wheel so it will be impossible for you not to notice to install it before launching. Yes, this does happen. I know. Nothing gets your attention more than a little water around your ankles.” – Chris in BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water

The bottom paint goof-up: “When putting on my bottom paint I used a cheap paint roller and soon found out why it was so cheap – it was shedding a fuzz in every pass I made. I also made the mistake of not saving a little extra paint to finish under the jackstands or trailer rollers just before launching.” – Ted in BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water

The rushing to get it done goof-up: “Every spring, boat sinking claims start to come in. Nearly always you can chalk it up to rushing to get it done. I take my time inspecting engine hoses and hoses clamps, the bilge pump, stern-drive boot, clean out scuppers and double check the through-hulls and sea strainer. I once found a plastic through-hull for a sink drain at the waterline that initially looked fine, but it was only until I took the time for a closer inspection that I found it was cracked nearly in half on the inside.” – Scott in BoatUS Public Affairs

And here’s two “bonus” goof-ups:

The battery goof-up #2: “While this did not happen to me personally, it’s something we see in the claims department every spring: hooking up the battery backwards, causing reverse polarity and a massive electrical short or fire.” – Kerry in BoatUS Marine Insurance

BoatUS has a no cost Spring Fitting Out Safety Checklist ready to print at and comes with the BoatUS towing app that includes tips for a range of boat types.

The be prepared goof-up: “My neighbor went out for the first trip of the season and his engine died and needed help to get back in. He suspected fuel issues. Having spare filters aboard or keeping an eye on the fuel-water separator helps, but when all else failed him, he didn’t have an on water towing plan as a backup. Our towing fleet sees this issue frequently each spring.” – Dennis in the BoatUS Membership Department