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Ten Things Not to Do for Spring Commissioning


Every spring every magazine tells you how to prepare for the upcoming boating season. Well, here’s how NOT to prepare for the upcoming boating season.

First Spring Run in the Boat

Don’t get a bigger beer cooler.

First, it’ll be heavier to carry — especially when it’s full. You may even get a hernia from the extra stress and be forced to miss some weekends on the water. Secondly, the weight distribution in the boat can slowly (or maybe not so slowly) shift during the day as you deplete that cooler. Thirdly, a smaller cooler makes a better bailer (or as the Coasties call it, “a dewatering device”) which you are likely to need if you ever drink beer while running the boat.

Don’t buy that expensive new rod and reel that you’ve been wanting all winter.

I have to admit that this advice is a bit personal, because I can’t catch fish so why should I waste the money. I’ve been fishing all my life, but I still can’t catch fish. I’ve forgotten, from time to time how bad I am at fishing and therefore I’ve forgotten about this advice and bought that nice new fishing gear over which I’ve lusted. But it still doesn’t help me to catch fish. Now, if you are one of those people who can catch fish, (and I know you’re out there, it’s just that I don’t see you because I always sneak back to the dock in the dark and in shame) you may be an exception to the rule. GO FOR IT.

Don’t run out the first warm day and put in your drain plug.

Some do this so that they can’t possibly do what the magazines always warn you not to do, which is to forget to insert said drain plug before you launch. There will be plenty of rainy days after that warm day and your boat may “sink” in its trailer.

Don’t change your 4 stroke oil by emptying the old oil out that little hole that some manufacturers put in the aft end of the lower unit.

No matter how hard you try, you’re going to spill it and then the EPA and the state environmental people and everyone else will criticize, castigate and penalize you for the transgression. Draw that oil out the dip stick hole even though it takes 20 times longer and you’re probably going to knock over the bucket full of old oil anyway, regardless of its source. Now if you have one of those better designed motors that allow for oil extraction without spilling, you’re in luck. But I’m not sure there are any.

Don’t do a radio check on 16.

And most of all, don’t tell everybody your business on 16 like, “I just got a new VHF and I just want to see if it works,” or, “this is the first time I’ve used my radio since last summer and I just want to see if it works.” First of all, we’re not supposed to do radio checks on 16 for many reasons, mostly involving safety and even search and rescue. Secondly, if you’re doing a radio check, everybody out there knows that you want to see if the thing works.

Don’t sneak over to your neighbor’s in the middle of the night and pour all that old gas that you forgot to use last summer into his lawn tractor.

First of all, it’s just not nice. Secondly, it’s better to pour it into your lawn tractor and every other motorized lawn keeping device you have. That way you won’t have to do yard work for a long long time because all the repair shops will be busy fixing other people’s tools (who also probably did the same thing … just thought about it earlier.)

Don’t return that stuff you borrowed last season from your friend who has the boat in the next slip at the marina.

He’s probably forgotten who he lent it to. And if you return it he’s going to miss the fun of going to West Marine and buying more. And worse still, if you return it, you won’t have it anymore and you’re going to have to go to West Marine and buy replacements. If you’re like me, this won’t be much fun because I’m a lot poorer than anybody else on the dock.

Don’t knock down all the wasps’ nests that have been constructed under every out-of-the-way part of the boat.

Learn to live with them. They can bring you luck, like when that thief who comes on the boat doesn’t know where the nests are hidden.

Don’t demolish the cute little nests of the field mice who have made a home in the boat in which they can make babies.

You’ll have some readymade bait which will save you money for the fish that you won’t (or maybe will) catch. And if those cute mice make their home under the cowling of your outboard you’ll have mystery roasted hors d’oeuvres which you can take to those potlucks on the beach when everybody else brings cheap box cheese and mac.

Don’t flush whatever creature is hiding in the bilge.

These are times of political correctness and environmental awareness. It’s incumbent on all of us to know about invasive species. It’s also important to know the difference between invasive species and evasive species. If a creature is secreting itself down there in your boat’s nether regions where you’ll never see it, we call it an evasive species. But the problem is that you don’t know when an evasive species is also an invasive species, because you can’t see it. If it’s an invasive species you can’t throw it over even if you could readily find it (which, incidentally, would make it a conspicuous species but that’s another story).

The Bottom Line

This all gets pretty complicated because the bottom line is that an invasive species may not be invasive at all in some locales. It may be a native species and it may be perfectly fine to throw it over where it can rejoin its loving family. But this could be a real no-no in those locales where it doesn’t belong because rather than having family reunions this species may be having family dinners … eating families that do belong. Some just ignore whatever is evading them in the bilge, hoping that the rigors of winter probably killed it anyway. Others try to kill whatever is hiding in the bilge, maybe on the assumption that if it’s hiding it must be invading. I think the best thing is to very thoroughly flush the bilge out into a bucket, seal it thoroughly and send it to a “storage area” for nuclear waste.

Tom’s Tips for Summer Sun

  • Sun damages not only your skin but also your eyes. Protect yourself all over.
  • Skin cancer, including melanoma, doesn’t necessarily occur in areas of your body where you’ve been exposed to the sun. It can occur in areas where you’re seldom, if ever exposed. Check everywhere.
  • Sun can cause tan and even burn just by reflecting from the water. You don’t have to be directly out in it.
  • Wind burn, while hardly as serious as sun burn (as far as we know) still can cause severe drying of the skin, causing discomfort and also promoting aging.
  • I’m not a doctor. When you talk to your doctor, ask him for the latest advice on exposure to sun and wind and include those among the risk factors for you which he regularly considers.

Tom Neale

Technical Editor, BoatUS Magazine