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Take care when relaunching your boat this Spring

Having seen numerous boat insurance claims over 40 years in the business, we reflect on common mistakes and provides practical tips to help you avoid some of the most common claims associated with launching your boat. 

The main culprits for water ingress on re-launch are stern gland packing and seals, engine raw water inlet hoses and seacocks, missing impeller logs, and cracked or dried bellows.  As Spring approaches, follow these top tips for a safer boating season.

More haste less speed

It is always better for the boat’s owner to be present when the boat is launched. Alternatively clear instructions should be given to the boat yard for a pre-launch check. This is particularly important after Winter, where skin fittings, pipes, engines and water-cooling systems, may have suffered damage that cannot always be detected. 

Carry out all the necessary work before the boat is in the water, as much of it can only be done on dry land.

Sailing boats

Inspect fittings, wire halyards and running backstays for cracks and rust - but be sure to get help when lifting masts to avoid injury. Chain plates should be caulked as leaks can cause problems. Clean and wax decks repairing scratches and abrasions, painting with anti-fouling and check the hull for the latter.

Stoves and remote tanks should be examined for leaks, and rusted propane canisters and cans should be discarded safely. Replace fire extinguishers and inspect bilge pump, switches and flares and don't forget to check lighting and electrical connections. 

Ideally the owner, or the boat yard, should inspect the boat internally after launching to make sure it is water tight and there are no leaks. Bishop Skinner Marine handle frequent claims to do with sinking following a launch, often because the speed log or hull fitting is not secured.

Motor boats

Check for frost damage by running water through the engine and checking coolant levels. Inspect and lubricate all water carrying pipes and seacocks and replace hoses and hose clamps. It's important to replace deteriorated zincs and check lighting and other electrical problems as chafed wires and battery cables can cause a fire.

Always inspect propellers for pitting and distortion that can create excessive vibration and loosen screws. Inspect the hull for blisters, distortion, and stress cracks. Large blisters may require professional attention and cracks should be fixed by a boat engineer.

Engines should ideally be serviced by a professional. Check the engine shaft and rudder stuffing boxes for leaks. If leaking can’t be stopped by tightening the nut, repack the gland. Over-tightening the nut will burn out the packing material. Inspect fuel lines, fill and vent hoses, for rot, leaks, or cracking, replace and support with clips.

Make sure you inspect all fuel tanks, fuel pumps and filters for leaks. Clean fuel filters and inspect and remove exhaust manifolds every few years as rust could hinder water flow. Clean and tighten electrical connections, especially battery cables and repair scratches and paint with anti-fouling.

As motor boats can cause bigger problems, our next article will advise on preparing inboard and outboard engines for launch, with anecdotes of unfortunate incidents to learn from.

Don’t forget to check that your trailer is in good condition too. Sand and paint rusted areas, inspect bearings and repack as necessary. Test tail and back-up lights, replace burned-out bulbs, chafed wires and clean corroded terminals. Test the winch to ensure it is working properly, and inspect tyre treads and check the brakes. Finally, it's worth checking that your vehicle policy covers your trailer.