Smart Boater

Spring Boating Repairs


A friend of mine traveled up from Florida this past spring to have the boatyard take care of a few maintenance items and then planned to cruise the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River for the summer before returning to Florida in the fall. It’s a great plan for Florida boaters who want to vacate Florida during hurricane season, and the Chesapeake offers a wide range of cruising destinations to explore.

Shipyard work | credit: mady70

What my friend didn’t expect was the extra number of issues the boatyard found during normal routine maintenance that were NOT planned. One thing led to another, and with scheduling with the yard, delivering parts and discovering deferred maintenance issues, my friend spent most of his summer in the boatyard. The question I asked was on his mind as well: What could I have done differently to avoid these major expenses and not miss the summer cruising time?

Smart boaters can’t anticipate every single thing that will go wrong with their boat, but with more in-depth planning and a strategy to look at the annual and bi-annual maintenance items, you can avoid a situation like my friend had.

Most boaters pay attention to maintenance items such as oil and filter changes, bottom painting and items that are inspected monthly or while doing the annual commissioning. But how often should you inspect things like shafts and shaft seals, rudders and their seals, stabilizer seals, batteries and their manufacturer installation dates, aftercoolers, heat exchangers, and a list that goes on and on.

The easy answer: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations and do not stray from this unless you have notice from the manufacturer to do so. Manufacturers know their products and have studied their failure rates, which is why they publish inspection and replacement recommendations. But how do you remember all these tasks, which ones you have done, and what needs to be checked? Smart boaters will not try to remember all this in their head, as there are too many items to keep track of on a boat.

Most boat manufacturers are invested in their customers and want their boats to represent their brand well, so they provide detailed maintenance schedules for many engine components and systems. In the simplest form, boaters should use these schedules to create a checklist each year and either inspect every item on the list based on its maintenance schedule or have their boatyard help with these tasks.

Easy DIY Maintenance Reminders

To automate reminders and schedules, some boaters create their own spreadsheets and checklists. Starting with daily, weekly and monthly tasks that may include checking oil, strainers, filters, anodes, bilges, pumps, hoses, etc. Most boaters have these items at the top of mind, because they are frequently inspected, replaced or repaired.

Boat maintenance | credit: HABY

Next, create tabs with semi-annual, annual and bi-annual tasks. These are the items that kept my friend at the boatyard longer than expected. It’s impossible to remember when everything on your boat was last replaced or inspected and when it needs to be looked at again. Your owner’s manual likely has a comprehensive list of items to add to these tabs, including shafts and seals for rudders, propellers and stabilizers. Bonding systems, sanitation systems, cutlass bearings, steering and hydraulics, as well as inspections for leaks, loose fittings, and loose or corroded clamps, etc. can save your boating season.

Manufacturers of the many components on your boat also offer advice on inspection and replacement timelines. For example, dripless (maintenance- free) shaft seals are great and provide many hours of safe,

reliable cruising. However, they must be inspected, kept free of corrosion and replaced at the recommended end of life. Ignoring these types of items can cut into your summer cruising time by waiting for costly repairs, or even worse, you could face significant damage or loss of the boat due to seal or bellows failures.

If you are not a checklist kind of person, good tools are on the market today that can be customized to match your boat and automate maintenance reminders, ensure proper spares are ordered and on board, and can be shared with your boatyard. Products like Vessel Vanguard offer a fee-based service with an extensive set of modules for task scheduling, maintenance management, spares inventory tracking and safety. The service also helps boat owners get set up and then keeps the boat on schedule with all maintenance and logging.

Regardless of what method you use, once you plan tasks for this coming season, schedule the work with the boatyard if you aren’t doing the work yourself. They will appreciate knowing what your list looks like and can pre-order parts that have taken longer to arrive over the past couple years. With boatyards scheduling spring work months in advance, it will ensure you get a spot early in the season and avoid interrupting your summer cruising.

Do you have boat maintenance questions or problems? Send them to, and we’ll see if our Smart Boater team can help.

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