I love the Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) because of their excellent press releases and how they care about boat owners. This column is dedicated to a safe boating season. This is their safety checklist for the upcoming season:

Before you launch:

1. Inspect and replace hose clamps as necessary. Double clamp fuel lines and exhaust hoses with marine-rated stainless-steel hose clamps.

2. Inspect all hoses for stiffness, rot, leaks and cracking, and replace any that are faulty. Make sure they fit snugly.

3. Inspect your prop for dings, pitting and distortion. Make sure cotter pins are secure.

4. Grip the prop on inboard drive systems and try moving the shaft up and down and side to side. If it’s loose and can be wiggled, bearings may need to be replaced.

5. Operate the wheel or tiller to ensure the steering works correctly.

6. Inspect the hull for blisters, distortions and stress cracks. Check out their YouTube video on oil changes, fixing broken trailer lights or changing a propeller and more.

7. Make sure your engine intake is not cracked or bent from ice and is free of corrosion, clean and properly secured.

8. With inboards, check the engine shaft and rudder stuffing boxes for correct adjustment. A stuffing box should leak no more than two drops each minute when the prop shaft is turning.

9. Use a garden hose to check for deck leaks at ports and hatches.

10. Inspect and test the bilge pump and float switch to make sure they’re both working properly.

11. Inspect dock and anchor lines for chafe and wear.

12. Ensure that the stern drain plug is installed.After the boat is launched, be sure to check all thru-hulls for leaks.

Engines and fuel systems:

1. Inspect fuel lines, including fill and vent hoses, for softness, brittleness or cracking. Check all joints for leaks, and make sure all lines are well supported with noncombustible clips or straps with smooth edges.

2. Inspect fuel tanks, fuel pumps and filters for leaks. Ensure portable tanks and lines are completely drained of stale fuel before filling with fresh fuel. Clean or replace fuel filters and/or fuel-water separators if not done before winterization.

3. Every few years, remove and inspect exhaust manifolds for corrosion (for inboard-powered and outboard boats).

4. Charge battery.

5. Clean and tighten electrical connections, especially both ends of battery cables. Use a wire brush to clean battery terminals, and top up cells with distilled water.

6. Inspect the bilge blower hose for leaks and run the blower to confirm correct operation.

Engine outdrives and outboards:

1. Inspect rubber outdrive bellows for cracked, dried and/or deteriorated spots (look especially in the folds) and replace if suspect.

2. Check power steering and power trim oil levels.

3. Replace anodes/zincs that are more than half wasted.

4. Inspect the outer jacket of control cables. Cracks or swelling indicate corrosion and mean that the cable must be replaced.

5. Inspect lower unit oil level and top up as necessary.


1. Inspect tire treads and sidewalls for cracks or lack of tread and replace as necessary. Check air pressure; don’t forget the spare.

2. Inspect wheel bearings and repack as necessary.

3. Test all lights and replace any broken bulbs or lenses.

4. Inspect winch to make sure it’s working properly. Inspect hitch chains.

5. Inspect trailer frame for rust. Sand and paint to prevent further deterioration.

6. Inspect brakes and brake fluid reservoir.


1. Check expiration dates on flares.

2. Inspect fire extinguishers. Replace if more than 12 years old or if age is unknown. More than 40 million Kidde extinguishers with plastic handles were recalled on Nov. 2, 2017.

3. Ensure you have properly sized and wearable life jackets in good condition for each passenger, including kids. Check inflatable life jacket cylinders and dissolvable “pill” bobbins in auto-inflating models.

4. Test smoke, carbon monoxide, fume and bilge alarms.

5. Check running lights for operation and spare bulb inventory.

6. Update paper charts and chart plotter software.

7. Replenish first-aid kit items that may have been used last season or are expired.


1. Make sure your boat registration is up to date. Don’t forget your trailer tags.

2. Review your boat insurance policy and update coverage if needed. BoatUS provides free quotes at BoatUS.com/Insurance. Provide a copy to your marina or club.

3. Ensure your BoatUS Membership is in good standing. Login to BoatUS.com/Account to check your Membership status or join at BoatUS.com/Membership.

4. Download the free BoatUS App (BoatUS.com/App) to make it easy to summon on-water assistance and speed response times.

For more information about the nation’s largest advocacy, services and safety group, go to BoatUS.com. Check out their YouTube video on oil changes, fixing broken trailer lights or changing a propeller and more.

Celebrating more than 50 years, BoatUS is the nation’s largest organization of recreational boaters with more than a half-million members. When boats break down on the water, TowBoatUS brings them safely back to the launch ramp or dock, 24/7. The BoatUS Marine Insurance Program offers policies that give boat owners affordable, specialized coverage and superior service they need, Visit BoatUS.com.

– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at kieserkenneth@gmail.com.