Your Guide to Boat Checks Before Heading Out on the Water

Getting ready to head out on the water this weekend? Don't forget the all important checks to ensure your vessel is safe to operate. Read more below.

For many, their boat is one of their largest investments – their pride and joy. You may spend years tinkering with bits here and there when you’re not enjoying the finer things in life – namely, lounging in the sun, fishing, or going as fast as you’re allowed to!

But all too often, caught up in the excitement of getting back on the water, people take their boats out without the proper checks. Unfortunately for us boat lovers, an unnoticed issue in a boat can become a much bigger problem than an unnoticed issue in a car. 

So, here are some absolute musts when it comes to checking your boat before hitting the water.

1. Check your bilges

Short of a big bucket and a lot of frantic bailing, your bilge pumps are your last defence in the event of taking on water – so check them. Most bilge pumps have a manual switch to check that they work, but it’s worth actually lifting up the float switch (if safe to do so) or manually pouring water into the bilge to check that it will activate the switch. 

The benefit of actually testing the bilge pump with water is that you’ll also be able to see if it’s capable of shifting that water. The pump may work as far as the switch, but obstructions in the pump line could prove costly in an emergency.

Depending on the size of your boat, it’s also worth having a backup bilge pump. Float switches can fail, so proofing yourself with backups means that you’ll have more time to get to a manual switch if you start to take on water.

2. Check your power

Depending on how you get your power, it’s worth checking it before you leave port or drop your boat from a trailer. Some zero-maintenance AGM batteries will have been fine leftover winter, but then an unseen parasitic drain could have flattened them if you forgot to disconnect them when winterising. In fact, a parasitic drain could flatten them in the week or so since you last took your boat out.

Most rigs will have a separate bank for leisure batteries as a safety measure so that you can still start your engines if they flatten, but be sure to check both banks if you rely on a starter battery to get your motor going. You can check simply with a multimeter, or many rigs have an in-built voltmeter battery monitor for ease.

3. Check your fuel system

Other than checking your fuel level, be sure to check your fuel lines. Especially if you’re using diesel. Fuel filters are known to clog up over time and stop the flow of fuel to your motors. While it’s better to have fuel particulate clog up a filter than your actual engine, it’s worth checking the fuel filter so that you can focus on having a good time on the water. Having to row yourself three miles back to land is no fun. Well, it can be fun, just not when you weren’t expecting to have to do it.

4. Check steering 

Many people take for granted that their steering is going to work, but a quick look at your system could save you a lot of trouble when it comes to moving around. Free up any rusted parts of the steering with some appropriate grease – or alternatively, de-grease and reapply if parts of your steering have got gummed up with debris.




5. Check your lights 

You may be intending to only go out during the day, but a sudden change in weather or another problem could see you having to navigate at night. As such, it’s vital that you check your lights before a journey – not only your main navigational lights but also your onboard lights so that you can get around your boat in the dark.

Make a checklist

The best thing to do, especially before a long trip, is to make a checklist of every necessary check so that you don’t forget any of them. After all, it’s much better to realise you need to buy a new fuel filter before you’re out in the water.

Need more power?

If you’re thinking about a power upgrade, check out our CXO300 outboard motor.