I had a long time customer and friend say to me recently “the old joke about a boat being a hole in the water where you pour money might really be true.”   His statement got me thinking, just like life owning a boat is full of variables, and some inherent risk.  However, for most of us that is why we love boating.  Even the best laid plans can be interrupted by unexpected events.  Many of those occurrences can be a fun adventure, like weathering in at a port you’ve never been before, or a pleasant surprise, like seeing wildlife up close.  Unfortunately, some of these random experiences can also be difficult, expensive, and ruin long anticipated vacations.  So, in an effort to reduce negative interruptions and maximize your boating enjoyment we have compiled a general maintenance checklist that will help to keep your boat going strong for many nautical miles to come. 

Before Launch

  • Check the sacrificial anodes – if there is less than 50% of the anode left replace it – remember if possible magnesium works better than zinc in freshwater
  • Check the bottom paint for wear – if necessary apply a fresh coat of bottom paint – make sure to do the correct preparation for the type of bottom paint you are using – a fresh coat of bottom paint each year increases a boat’s speed and fuel efficiency
  • Check the propeller for damage and repair if necessary – a good propeller increases fuel efficiency and reduce vibrations
  • Clean and wax hull sides – a yearly application of wax helps to protect the paint / gelcoat
  • Check all thru hull fittings and ball valves for correct operation and position
  • Check all hoses for cracking and deterioration – make sure all hose clamps are tight
  • Spin paddle wheel in speed transducer and be careful not to paint over the depth transducer when applying bottom paint

After Launch

  • Check the stuffing box has an adequate drip rate – not too fast or too slow – adjust if necessary
  • Clean the bilge and verify that the bilge pump and float switch are functioning properly
  • Test the batteries – make sure terminals are clean and for wet cell batteries check the electrolyte level
  • Check that drain holes are clear – clean if necessary
  • Change the engine oil and oil filter – we recommend you do this at least once a year
  • Change the fuel filter(s) – we recommend this is done once a year
  • Check that all engine belts are tight and in good condition – if not replace them – belt dust on the engine can be a sign that belts need to be tightened or replaced
  • Look at the engine water pump impeller and change if necessary
  • Verify that the alternator is charging at the correct voltage for the batteries
  • Be sure to have a spare oil filter, fuel filter(s), belts, and impeller on board in case of emergency
  • Put a biocide additive in the fuel tank each time you fill up – this prevents growth in the tank
  • Clean and wax all smooth areas on the decks and cabin top – do not wax the nonskid
  • Check the anchor rode for deterioration
  • Review all safety equipment and confirm that it meets the USCG requirements for your vessel – for more information on the requirements go to
  • Sign up for Tow Boat US insurance – this gives boaters peace of mind that there will be help in the event of a boating accident.  Contact PSM to arrange towing insurance.

For Sailors

  • Check all standing rigging for pins, tune the rigging to the standards for your boat, and tape all rigging to prevent chafing on lines and sails
  • Check all running rigging for chafing
  • For boats that keep their masts up a periodic visual check of the rigging at the masthead and spreaders is recommended.

Please note this list is a general maintenance list designed for boats with inboard diesel engines.  The list is not comprehensive and each boater should tailor it to their boat specifically.  It is designed to help boaters reduce the risk of boat break downs and to help them be better prepared in times of distress.  Following this list does not guarantee a boat will not have a break down or some other type of equipment failure. 

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