From the Boathouse: Boat maintenance is key to having safe fun


Last Friday was the start of the annual Newport Ocean Sailing Assn.'s Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race. Just over 200 sailboats crossed the start line for the 125-nautical-mile voyage to Ensenada, and the wind was blowing 10 to 12 knots for the start of the classes.

The trimaran, Loe Real, almost broke the record for the fastest time, set by Stars & Stripes, at 6 hours, 46 minutes and 30 seconds. Loe Real missed the record by just under 20 minutes with a time of 7 hours, 3 minutes and 51 seconds.

However, Bill Gibbs, owner of the Loe Real, won the two-year free lease of the Lexus car with his overall fastest time.

The race signals the start of the boating season, and we are lucky to live along a portion of the Pacific Ocean where our boating season really never ends. So now is the time to start preparing our boats for the summer.

Because we do not have freezing temperatures along our coast, you did not have to drain your fresh water tank. However, I would recommend that you drain your fresh water tank and refill with fresh water from the main water supply line or your water maker. I do not recommend drinking the water from a water tank, but use it for washing.

Also, flush your holding tank and add in an odor treatment product. A professional tip is to clean out your sump pumps to keep the unpleasant odor from the organic gases from creeping up the drains.

One of the biggest culprits is mold, and mold loves to grow in dark, damp areas. Therefore, open all the cabinet and shower doors to allow air circulation and let the boat air out for a day. Do not forget the lifejackets; check them and replace any that are worn or damaged.

Beginning of the season is a good time to change the oil to protect your engine(s) (mains and generators). The used oil probably has a little water mixed in it from the condensation over the winter season. Plus, change all the filters, including the fuel filters.

Now, fire up your water maker if you have one and check the water levels in your batteries. And how old are your water pump impellers?

Top off your fuel tanks with fuel, and ask the fuel dock attendants about adding an additive if you have stale fuel. Fuel docks have fuel stabilizers that you can add at the beginning of the boating season, especially to gasoline, and remember your dinghy and portable fuel tanks.

Double check that all your bilge pumps are working and the scuppers are clear of debris before leaving your dock. Give the interior a good cleaning, and do not, I repeat, do not use bleach (chlorine solutions) or petroleum-based solvents to clean the sinks, showers and heads on a boat. These solutions will erode the inner lining of the plastic drain hoses, and the inner linings are specially coated to help prevent obnoxious odors.

Finally, have fun this boating season and use your boat.

Tip of the week is for all boat owners to check GPS charts from the manufacturer for the area where you will be cruising. Additionally, pull out your backup paper charts, navigational rules and coast pilot to confirm that all is current.

Finally, check your Coast Guard-required safety equipment on board your vessel. Are your flares and fire extinguishers still good and not expired? Flip on your navigation and anchor lights and push the test button on your EPRIB. Do not forget to test your VHF marine band radio and any handheld radios that you have aboard.

Please be boat smart and boat safe.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast to coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network at noon Saturdays and replaying throughout the weekend. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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