Check before you spring a leak
The subject of this week's Water Ways column came to mind while researching last week's report on the damaging effects of ethanol on older boats.
It occurred to me that the advice to "inspect plastic and rubber components of your boat's fuel system when using ethanol-blended fuel" was, among other things, something every boat owner should do on a regular basis no matter what type of fuel is being used.
In fact, in most of the U.S., boaters often do a complete annual safety inspection of their vessels at the beginning of the "boating season" sometime in early spring.
But in Hawaii, even though spring is noted on the calendar here as well, boat owners frequently forget to conduct such inspections because our boating season is essentially year-round.
This is unfortunate because although our isolated island archipelago is a boating paradise, it can also be an extremely hazardous place to have an offshore boating breakdown.
According to BoatU.S. -- the nation's largest recreational boating association -- there are a number of things all boaters should check at least once a year to prevent such mishaps. The following are among the most important:
» Check all through-hull fittings, seacocks, hoses, and clamps and replace as necessary.
» Inspect outboard engine control cables, fuel lines and vent hoses for softness, swelling, brittleness or cracking, all of which may indicate future failure.
» Inspect fuel tanks, fuel pumps, and filters for leaks. All hose clamps should be snug and free of rust.
» Examine cooling hoses and fittings for stiffness, rot, leaks, and/or cracking. The hoses should fit snugly and be double-clamped.
» Clean and tighten all electrical connections, especially both ends of battery cables. Battery terminals should be clean and the cells should be filled to the proper level.
» Check the expiration dates on flares and fire extinguishers and replace or have serviced, as warranted.
» Examine alcohol or propane stoves and remote fuel tanks for loose fittings and damaged hoses.
» Inspect bilge pumps and float switches to make sure they are working properly.
» Test any smoke, carbon monoxide, or bilge alarms.
» Make sure you have properly sized and wearable life jackets in good condition for everyone aboard, including kids and pets.
And finally, ask for a free safety check from the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron.
If you would like the complete list, visit the BoatU.S. Web site at http://www.BoatUS.com.