With much of the waters in the northern United States still choked with ice, the opening of the season has been delayed for famed tourist boats such as Niagara Falls’ Maid of the Mist and the ferries to Michigan’s Mackinac Island. The brutal winter is also delaying the start of the season for the $121.5 billion recreational boating industry, and Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) says the late spring thaw – or 'ice-out' as it’s known to some – could lead to trouble for boat owners.
'Boaters want to be in the water by Memorial Day, and this year they will have less time for spring commissioning work,' said BoatUS Vice President of Public Affairs Scott Croft. 'That unfortunately leads to more engine troubles or other lack of maintenance issues. Requests for on water assistance to our 24-hour towing dispatch call center could be up a bit as a result.' BoatUS has these tips for boat owners to ensure a smooth launch:
Springtime sinkings: Boats sink in the springtime for specific reasons – but they all generally fall under the category of simply 'rushing to get it done.' Take your time inspecting engine hoses and hoses clamps, keep a path clear for water to drain off the boat (ex. leaves in scuppers); inspect any seacocks or sea strainer for cracks. On larger boats with stuffing boxes, check for leaks and adjust nut if necessary. Click here
for a full Spring Fitting Out Safety Checklist.
Have the right safety gear: While the air temperatures are warming up, water temperatures are likely to remain cool longer than usual – a real hypothermia threat, especially for owners of small boats according to US Coast Guard fatality statistics. Do you have a way to get back into the boat if you fall off? See how BoatUS staff fared when testing boarding ladders on small boats here
Be prepared for breakdowns: After you’ve done everything you can to get her going, stale or ethanol-laden fuel can be a problem in the spring, as is the simple wear and tear of another new boating season. Get yourself an affordable on the water towing plan for the unexpected breakdowns. BoatUS has choices available at BoatUS.com/towing, including a roadside assistance plan for boat trailers and tow vehicles.