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Monday, May 2, 2016

Boat prep key to early season fun

Friday, May 24, 2002

With a mild winter behind them and a warm spring well under way, Missouri anglers are in action on the state's lakes, rivers and streams.As the days become even more inviting, boaters and fishermen will line up at boat ramps to enjoy lake and river outings. But to prevent a fine day on the water from turning into a miserable experience, some simple but important boat maintenance is required.Outdoors people should prepare their boats and trailers for a trouble-free warm weather season. Anglers and boaters who follow a few simple steps can ensure that everything works properly and all safety gear is in order.Outboard motor: replace the lower unit grease. Grease all fittings on the motor, and make sure the steering mechanism is lubricated and working smoothly. Clean or replace spark plugs and make sure they are gapped to specifications. Check all fuel lines for wear, cracks and leaks. A small leak in any fuel line is a serious fire hazard. If you have portable gas tanks, replace old gas. If you have a built-in tank, it's a good idea to use a fuel stabilizer while the boat is stored. Remove prop and check for nicks and gouges. Remove any old fishing line or weeds that may have wrapped on the shaft. Grease shaft and cotter pin on shaft nut.It's also a good idea to start the motor before your first trip to the lake. You can start the motor in your driveway if you have a pair of motor muffs, which attach to a garden hose and force water into your motor's water intake ports. This allows you to run the motor at low RPMs and tune if needed. Never start your motor dry. Making sure your motor is in good running condition before you arrive at the boat ramp also prevents the ramp from being congested at peak times.Batteries: Batteries should have been charged every 30 days throughout the offseason. Water levels should be checked in each cell, and batteries should be fully charged long before the first trip. Check the batteries several days later and make sure they are holding a charge. Inspect and clean all battery connections.Electrical gear: Go through a quick check of all bilge pumps and electrical gauges. Tighten any loose connections and secure wire harnesses.Safety gear: Inspect all personal flotation devices and throwable cushions. There must be one PFD for each person on board, and all must be in good working condition to be legal. Replace any that have become worn or water-soaked. Check the fire extinguisher for proper charge. Be sure a sound-making device is on board or that the horn works. Test boat lights, clean connections and replace bulbs if needed.Trailer: Grease wheel hubs. Check tires for weathering and proper inflation. Check wire connections and make sure all lights work. Lubricate trailer wench and check wench strap for wear. Make sure hitch is sound and safety chains are in place. Check ball and tighten if needed. Other items: drain plug and spare, first aid kit, anchor, paddle, tool kit, electrical tape and wire connectors, variety of spare fuses, extra two-cycle oil, spare trailer light bulbs and extra life jacket.

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