Has your boat been sitting idle all winter? If yes, then you have some work to do before you head out on the water this spring. Like any other piece of machinery, continuous use is the best way to keep a boat in top condition. A prolonged period of inactivity can create problems with the battery and fuel systems, as well as cause safety equipment to deteriorate. 

In fact, the Coast Guard in Victoria, notices a spike in callouts each year around October and November, most of them due to flat batteries and stale fuel. So, if your planning on taking your boat out for its first run of the season, check out the following summer boating checklist to help prevent problems on the water.


Engine & Fuel System

The fuel left inside an inactive boat can easily become contaminated with water from moisture build-up within the tank. And it doesn’t take long (approximately 6 weeks) for the leftover fuel inside a boat to become stale. Both problems make the engine hard to start and result in poor performance. If you haven’t used a fuel stabiliser over the winter, it’s safest to drain the tank and fill it with fresh fuel. 

Boat engines need to be maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions, but there are some essential universal tasks. The first is to start the engine and let it idle for a while. Listen for strange noises and check for fuel leaks and smells. Inspect the fuel line, spark plugs, pull cord, propeller nut and pin, and all fluid levels. 



Flat batteries are the main cause of callouts at the start of the season according to the RACV. Even if your engine starts the first time, there may not be enough charge in the battery to start again once you are out on the water. Therefore, if your boat has been idle for months, it is essential to check the charge of your battery as well as the cables, connections and switches. And the golden rule – always replace an old battery or one you have doubts about. 


Safety Gear

By law, recreational vessels in NSW are required to carry all the safety equipment listed here.

Use the printable checklists below to conduct a thorough audit of your safety equipment

Lifejackets are the single most important piece of safety equipment on your vessel. However, just having a lifejacket on board is not enough. A life jacket must be the right size for the person wearing it and be in good working order. If your lifejackets haven’t been serviced in the past 12 months, you need to do this before you head back out on the water this summer. Some lifejackets can be serviced at longer intervals if the manufacturer specifies so. 

Read the full list of lifejacket requirements for recreational vessels in NSW or find your local life jacket servicing kiosk. 


Boat Trailer and Wiring

Don’t forget to give your boat trailer the once over before you head out on the water. Boat trailers are also prone to degradation and tend to be forgotten until something goes wrong. Check the tyres, brakes, bearings and look for signs of rust. Don’t forget, there are also specific rules for towing in NSW. The most important rules to remember are to always have the right trailer for your boat (not the smallest and cheapest!), and always wash down your trailer after you’ve been out on the water to avoid corrosion.


Is Your Boat Ready For Summer? 

If you’ve covered all of the above, you’re ready to get out on the water and enjoy yourself. 

And if you are the captain of your vessel, remember this simple safety message from the Roads & Maritime Services:

You’re the Skipper- You’re Responsible