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PROPER BOAT MAINTENANCE CAN HELP PREVENT ACCIDENTS AND INJURIES

With spring now in full swing, those of you who enjoy boating are likely in the beginning stages of getting your boat ready for the season. Proper preparation can help ensure a safe and enjoyable boating season regardless of where you boat or what activities you engage in while boating.

Whether you spend your time boating on Okoboji, Spirit Lake, Lake Rathbun, Lower or Upper Gar, Clear Lake, the Des Moines River, or any other body of water in Iowa, as is the case with just about everything in life, proper preparation is key.

Preparation and inspection are also important no matter what type of vessel you own, be it a pontoon boat, fishing boat, ski boat, jet-ski, canoe, sailboat or any other type of boat. Investing even just a few hours prior to hitting the water can pay dividends for a safe season and can help reduce the risk of boat accidents and personal injuries. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure”.

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SPRING BOAT MAINTENANCE

Following are but a few areas of your boat that you should go through prior to hitting the water. The topics below are not meant to be exclusive and you should refer to your owner’s manual for additional detail and instruction.

Fuel System

Inspect fuel lines and connections;

Inspect fuel tanks for leaks or rust issues;

Inspect the exhaust and ventilation system;

Propellers / Hull

Look for bends, cracks, and holes;

Ensure the propeller moves freely;

Look at the hull for cracks, holes, and leak sites;

Verify that the drain plug fits snugly;

Electrical

Inspect all electoral lines and connections for proper fit and ensure there is no corrosion;

Clean battery terminals;

Test battery level;

Ensure your boat’s battery holds a charge;

Belts & Cables

Look for cracked, dry, or brittle areas and replace as needed;

Look at the jackets on the control cables. Cracks in the outer area can indicate a deeper    problem;

Fluid Levels

Check all fluids including: oil, coolants, power steering fluid, and any other fluid on board;

Safety Gear

Life jackets;

Fire extinguisher fully charged and the correct one for your boat;

PRE-TRIP MAINTENANCE

Proper boat maintenance and safety doesn’t end with your spring inspection and maintenance. In fact, proper inspection and preparation prior to hitting the water is just as important in helping to reduce the likelihood of boat accidents and injuries. The following information includes just some of the things you will want to inspect each time you head for the lake:

Lights

Navigation lights;

Instrument lights;

Have a flashlight and extra batteries with you;

Tools

Ensure you have at least a basic toolbox on board;

Have spare bulbs, plugs, fuel filters, and the like;

Fuel and Oil

Check ALL fluid levels including oil and coolant
Ventilation System

Ensure pumps and motors do not have items too close to them which can inhibit ventilation and proper operation;

If necessary, run blowers to eliminate any fuel vapors;

If the blowers do not eliminate gas smell, turn off the engine and determine the source of the odor;

Horns

Your boat should be equipped with a horn that can sound, at a minimum, a four second blast that can be heard at distances of one-half mile or more;

Bring a hand held air horn should your onboard horn fail;

Equip each life vest with a whistle;

Have emergency flares stored in a dry place that is easy to reach;

Battery

Check that rechargeable batteries are fully charged;

Check that power reaches all areas of your boat;

Have spare batteries on-hand for all battery operated devices on the boat;

Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)

Have at least one PFD per passenger and each vessel should have a minimum of two at all times;

Boats larger than sixteen feet should have a flotation device that can be thrown;

Educate your passengers, prior to shipping out, where the PDFs can be found and how to put them on.

As noted throughout this article, the information provided herein is not an absolute complete list and is not intended as a substitute for recommendations in your owner’s manual. Rather, this is merely a primer that might help decrease the likelihood of an accident and/or the severity of injury should an accident happen.

If you or a loved one is involved in a boat accident anywhere in Iowa, contact our Iowa boat accident lawyers today for a free consultation.