It’s no secret that owning a boat is not for lazy people; maintenance is lot of work! But, any boating enthusiast will tell you that it’s well worth the effort. Plus, swabbing the deck is a great workout.
Assuming your boat sits in the water year-round, there will always be plenty of chores, tasks, and tune-ups to keep you busy onboard. But, how often should you change the oil or repaint the hull? These will vary from boat to boat (especially if you have a wood deck to maintain), but I’ve rounded up some general guidelines for what you should be doing monthly, quarterly, annually and beyond to keep your boat in tiptop shape.
Wash the exterior
Giving your boat a good scrub down every month will keep salt and dirt at bay and help to extend the longevity of your gel coat. We can all agree that fiberglass looks better when it’s shiny.
Clean the interior
If you’re hanging out onboard on a regular basis, it probably wouldn’t hurt to clean the interior once a month, too. At minimum, you’ll want to wipe down the surfaces and scrub the head.
Check the bilges
Give your bilges a quick look to make sure they’re nice and dry. Taking a regular peek below deck will help you to get a feel for what’s normal and what isn’t, which will make it easier to identify small problems before they turn into big ones.
Run the engines and check the fluids
If you don’t plan on taking the boat out that month, it’s probably a good idea to let the engines run for about 30 minutes to keep them in working order. Engines like to be used! And while you’re there, carve out some time to check your engine oil, transmission oil, and coolant levels, too.
Pump out your waste tank
You don’t want your waste tanks sitting full for too long — for obvious reasons. So, be sure to schedule a pump-out service or perform one yourself at least once a month.
Do a deep dive
The hull of your boat accumulates growth every couple of months. To keep the situation from getting out of hand, it’s well worth hiring a diver to do a routine hull scrubbing on a quarterly basis. While they’re down there, have them take a look at your boat’s zincs, too. They’ll probably need to be replaced every six months or so.
Wax the gelcoat
Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, giving your boat a thorough wax once a year will help to maintain its shiny exterior and protect it from the sunshine and salt.
Wash and waterproof canvas
Give your Biminis and covers a good washdown and reapply any waterproofing solutions or sprays once a year. This will extend the life of your canvas and prevent fading.
Change the fluids
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to change the engine oils, engine oil filters, and fuel filters once a year or every 100 hours of engine runtime.
Clean out water tanks
To keep your portable water storage nice and fresh, plan on performing an annual cleanout. This will kill off any mold or mildew that may have built up over the last year. You can buy a specialized cleaning solution for this very task at your local boating store.
Service your waste treatment systems
Whether you use storage tanks or an onboard sanitation system, it’s wise to have these systems looked at on an annual basis. There’s nothing worse than a malfunctioning head — especially when you’re far from shore!
Request a vessel safety check
The Coast Guard offers free vessel safety checks for all boat owners. Schedule an in-person inspection or follow the online guide to do it yourself. It never hurts to stay on top of the latest safety rules and regulations!
Perform a top to bottom system inspection
Hire a mechanic (or do it yourself, if you’re knowledgeable) to do a thorough inspection of your entire boat. Have them take a close look at the batteries, shaft logs, througholes, rust abatement, etc., to make sure your ship is in tiptop shape! While you’re at it, be sure to exercise your handles, winches, and pull systems at least once a year to ensure that they don’t get stuck in place.
Schedule a haul-out
Depending on the water conditions in your harbor, you’ll probably want to haul your boat out every two or three years to repaint the bottom. This is also a great opportunity to do a more thorough inspection of your entire boat and perform any additional maintenance that you’ve been putting off, like balancing the propeller shafts or inspecting the water seals.
Maintaining a boat is a lot of work, but for boat owners, it’s a labor of love… with an occasional curse here and there.