To enjoy smooth sailing when the season turns to sweltering, it’s important to look after your boat throughout the year. Extended periods of inactivity can accelerate wear and tear which can lead to breakdowns when you most need your boat. Whether you’ll be providing boating services to holiday-makers or sailing with family and friends, make sure it’s in tip-top condition before the summer season.
To keep yourself and your passengers safe, South Africa’s trusted marine battery supplier, Battery Centre, has rounded up some useful tips on how to prepare and maintain your boat and marine battery before you hit the waves:
Dust off the dirt: Winter storage means accumulated dust. Before conducting checks, give your boat a wash. Clean the hull, deck, topsides and windows using a mild non-corrosive detergent – and add a fresh coat of wax for protection.
To clean the battery, start on top and remove corrosion on the terminals with a steel brush or terminal cleaner. Use a clean cloth to remove dirt from the surface of the battery. Even maintenance-free batteries need a little bit of hands-on cleaning to keep them working perfectly.
Setting sail: Before taking off, inspect the engine to make sure all parts are in good condition. Inspect cables and hoses for cracks and check the propeller for signs of damage. Replace leaky or ill-fitting parts. If you feel uncomfortable, seek professional advice.
Recharge: No one wants to be stuck with a flat battery. Use a battery tester to ensure your battery has a minimum charge of 12.6 volts. If the charge is below this level, you’ll need to charge it in a well-ventilated area or take the battery to the nearest Battery Centre for a free test.
If you’re using an automatic charger, it needs to be connected to sense the voltage and internal current – it’ll switch off when the battery is fully charged. For a manual charger, adjust the voltage and current levels, leave it to charge and remember, you’ll have to switch it off manually when the battery is fully charged.
Battery water levels can evaporate in winter, so they’ll need to be refilled. Batteries that need distilled water have a maximum and minimum indicator to follow, so make sure you fill each panel to the correct level. Never use mineral water – it destroys batteries. Go to your battery specialist for advice and assistant.
Ask the experts: Because a boat’s electrical system is inherently different and presents unique risks, consult a marine electrician to assist with battery installation and charging queries. Remember to have your boat battery wiring inspected by professionals on a regular basis. Battery Centre has experienced electricians who can be consulted for advice on marine batteries, and can give referrals for inspections.
Power up: Make sure your boat is fitted with a suitable and reliable battery. If you’re unsure, consult an expert. Battery Centre stocks Exide batteries for a variety of marine boats – from personal watercrafts to yachts. It all depends on the size of your boat and the power you need. These include marine starting batteries, dual purpose batteries and deep-cycle batteries.
Replace if necessary: As a rule, your battery should be replaced: after jump-starting your boat; when the electronics start to dim; if the boat discharges in between starts; or when you buy a used boat. Your nearest Battery Centre can advise and conveniently fit a new battery for your boat while you wait.
Keep it safe: Ensure everyone on board is protected in case of emergency. Take stock of life jackets to make sure you have enough for all passengers on board. Ensure they’re in good condition and the correct size for each individuals’ body weight.
Fire extinguishers and a first-aid kit are non-negotiables. Make sure everyone knows where they’re stored. If you’re travelling and hauling your boat on a trailer, check trailer chains to ensure your boat is strapped properly. Stop every few hours to re-asses these items for safety.
After a long winter your boat will need a bit of TLC before setting sail. Proper boat maintenance keeps your boat performing at its best – and keeps your crew safe.
For more information about marine battery maintenance, selection, storage and safety visit www.battery.co.za or call toll free 0800 112 600.