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Five Things to Ensure a Fun First Float of the Year

A few basics to ensure a great first float of the season.
Tim Romano author.
Tim Romano
March 26, 2024
Drift boat on trailer backlit by sunset

Five Things to Ensure a Fun First Float of the Year

Just like boning up on river etiquette, or revisiting basic safety tips before the season starts, a little bit of planning can make your first outing this spring in a boat a heck of a lot smoother.

Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but the five items below have all stymied me at some point in the past. I know, a few are ridiculous, but I’m a slow learner and need constant reinforcement.

1. Make sure your trailer lights are working. This has to be one of the most common problems facing boaters. Just the other day, I pulled out my boat and sure enough, the ground wire on my harness had worn through and the lights weren't working. A easy fix with some electrical tape and a spare part or two, but many are not. Check the lights now and fix if they’re not working. Take the trailer to a mechanic if you need to. This will keep you from getting pulled over, or not being able to go at all, due to safety issues (at night) or in bad weather.

2. Another trailer ailment: tighten those lug nuts. Ask yourself seriously? When’s the last time you did this?

3. Another major “boo boo” I’ve made is almost never checking the tire pressure on my trailer. I stopped to fill up my truck tires last year and randomly thought to myself, When is the last time I checked the trailer tires? I couldn’t remember putting air in them for years. Sure enough, the trailer tires were dangerously low. Check your trailer tires the first float of the year, and often throughout the floating season.

4. Hard boat owners–do you have a spare drain plug or plugs? My dory has midships drain plugs and halfway through last year, I started noticing an inch, then an inch-and-a-half of water standing in the floor of the boat. I checked the plug tightness and bilged, but the water kept returning. At first, I thought somehow I had a leak in the hull, but that wasn’t the case. The rubber for the drain plugs had dry-rotted and was slowing letting water in. Occasionally, I’ve bumped out my stern drain plug as well on rocks. The bottom line, always carry a spare drain plug, or two, in the boat.

5. Raft owners–check your valves. Do they seem to be leaking air? One of the simplest fixes to this problem is 303 UV Protectant: fill the entire valve and let it soak overnight, or when you put away the boat for the winter. Voila, this almost always fixes slightly leaking valves. This is the same stuff you put on your rubber boat every year for UV protection. Like my rowing friend likes to say, “It’s like sunblock for your dinghy.”

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