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(Wayne Ek)
Agape Fishing Guides

It’s getting to be that time of the year when I have to take an afternoon and go over the boat, which has sat idle since last November. Since I guide for a living, I need my boat to work and look great. I feel this is time well spent.

My rig sits all winter in a well-insulated garage that rarely gets below 35 degrees. I have a charging system set-up on a timer, so I can charge the batteries all winter long without over-charging them. I usually start with the batteries, making sure they are full of fluid and cleaning off all the connections. I run 5 batteries in the Ranger, so the space they are mounted in is rather tight. I’ve found a slick way to fill all 5 batteries without a lot of effort. I started using the old style hot water bottle with the long hose and fingertip shut-off clamp. By hanging the bag from the rafters above the boat you have more than enough hose to reach all the batteries and the clamp allows you to shut off the water instantly, so you’re not slopping all over the place. Once cleaned and filled I spray the terminals with a corrosion guard. I use Quicksilver Corrosion Guard.

Actually, before we go any further I should tell you that I like using Quicksilver Marine Products. They meet or exceed the industry standards and are readily available in most areas. The Mills Fleet Farm in my area carries a great selection of their products.

Moving on to the engine. I pull the cowling and check for rodent damage, nests or storage of seeds/nuts. Living out in the country, I have a constant battle going with the little pests. The last couple of years I have left the boat uncovered, with all compartments open and two boxes of mouse killer on the front and rear decks. That has seemed to solve my problems. We’ll see if I am mouse-free this year. Once I’m done checking the engine, I lubricate everything according to the owner’s manual. I like to grease all the fittings on the engine using Quicksilver 2-4-C with Teflon. This product comes in cartridges for small and standard grease guns, but it also comes in a tube which screws right into their Pistol grip gun, which is really a slick deal. I change out the gear lube in the lower unit each fall before I put the boat into storage. You can just recheck the fluid level in the spring if you did a change-out of the gear lube last fall, but I like to change out the lower unit gear lube in the spring as well. Whether you use Quicksilver or a gear lube recommended by your engine’s manufacturer, make sure you use a top-of-the-line product; this is not the place to pinch pennies. At this time there are no established industry standards on gear lubes, so use a name brand product. Find one that is specifically formulated for marine use and will provide your engine with lubrication and corrosion protection.

Next you will need to check the hydraulic fluid levels for any power tilt/trim or steering units. Mine will take a little each year. Someday I would like an engineer to explain why the fluid disappears in a closed system. Try to use a universal hydraulic fluid that is designed to mix with all hydraulic fluids and one that prevents foaming, oxidation and corrosion.

Next I will pull the propeller and check the shaft for fishing line or wear. You should be pulling the propeller off at least once each season just to check for fishing line. With the propeller off, now is a good time to lubricate the shaft with the same 2-4-C you used earlier. I know it sounds simple, but if you are not in the practice of pulling the propeller more than once a year, do yourself a favor and lay each and every part (prop nut, locking washer, adaptor sleeves, drive sleeves and thrust washers) on the ground in the exact order you removed them. If your propeller has nicks or the blades are a little chewed up, now is the time to send it in to be rebuilt. The turn around time should be shorter, as this is the off-season for most repair shops.

Since the boat has been in storage for the winter the bilge sump area should be dry. I like to check this area for rocks, sinkers, screws, and fishing line. You can usually reach the sump area with a shop vacuum and just vacuum out the area to remove all the stuff that collects there and could burn out a pump. I also like to pull the bilge pumps and aerator pumps; this is easy on my boat as all the pumps are Mayfair cartridge pumps. Check the impellers for fishing line and the pump housing for gravel, line or other debris. You can also use the shop vacuum to clean the pump housing.

From the pumps I move to the built-in cooler. I like to wipe the inside of the cooler down with a mild solution of warm water and bleach. Then I pour the remaining solution into the cooler to make sure the drain is not plugged.

During the course of a year you will be amazed at the number of screws and bolts that work themselves loose. I spend time in the boat tightening down every screw or bolt I can find. This is actually one of the most time- consuming procedures I perform on my spring water-ready ritual. If you have a bow mounted trolling motor, make sure you check the bolts or mounting isolators that hold the mounting bracket down. Also, while you are up around the trolling motor, pull the propeller off the trolling motor and remove any build up of fishing line or weeds.

There are a couple of easy but important additional things that need to be checked. The first is making sure all the toggle switches throughout the boat work and all the lights work. This is usually where I find out that I had rodent problems when some of the items do not work, because the little pests have chewed the insulation off the wiring, causing a short. I also like to make sure the fire extinguisher is still charged and in working order. The life vests you stored last year need to be checked. Do all the snaps and zippers work? If you have auto inflatable PFD’s, do you need to replace any CO2 cartridges?

One of the last things I do is to pull the boat out of the garage and hook it up to the garden hose. With the water running I start the engine (hopefully) and check the water pressure and temperature. I then check to make sure the tilt/trim is working. Also check to make sure the steering is normal and did not seize up over the winter. While the engine is running I like to pull the “kill switch “ to make sure it is working. It’s better to find this out while sitting in the driveway rather than at the landing.

Now walk to the front of the boat and make sure you have current year boat registration displayed. Finally, walk to the back of the boat and put the plug back in. As we all know from experience this can be very embarrassing if you forget to do it.

Have a great summer and I hope to see you on the water. You can contact Wayne at Agape Fishing Guides for more information or a guided fishing trip.

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