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Shakedowns Prevent Breakdowns

The longer your boat’s operated reliably, the sooner you can expect a failure

      Pulling the weather cover off the stern of my skiff, I saw the first of my problems. Some time last fall I must have had to get into the winter-prepped boat. Why I’m not sure, but it was well forward in the console. That I could tell from the muddy tracks. Since the trail remained on my deck all winter, I knew it was going to take some elbow grease to get it scrubbed out. That job became No. 1 on my shakedown list.
     Next came batteries. Putting a battery gauge on them, I was relieved to see that they still both held about half a charge. They would nonetheless need to be fully charged before I went back out.
      Lifting the cover further, I gasped at a slight trail of hydraulic fluid coming from the rear edge of the center console. It was not extensive but definitely not a good sign, thus becoming the new No. 1 task to be resolved. 
     Before you get on the water, it’s time for you, like me, to do a thorough check of your boat’s operations. A number of areas can be addressed immediately. Begin with your batteries. Nothing is harder on a boat battery than enduring a winter with a depleted charge. Don’t assume that a quick charge will remedy the situation. The unit, quite likely, has suffered cell damage. If you’ve allowed them to discharge over the winter, they may have to be replaced. 
       Next, hook the engine up to a water supply and fire it up to run for at least 10 minutes. That should clear your fuel lines and reassure you that your gasoline has not soured over winter. If you didn’t change or top off your engine lubricants, engine oil, lower unit grease, control line grease and live-well pump (inboard and portable) last fall, now is the time to get on it.
      If you store or maintain your craft on a boat trailer, it, too, needs your attention. Breaking down on the way to the ramp can prove a traumatic start to the year.
      Be sure to check the tires’ air pressure and examine them for dry rot and the wheel bearings for rust. Inspect the trailer’s undercarriage for rust on the axle, on the springs and on the U connections. Be thorough, for rust can accumulate significantly over the years around saltwater.
       Take heed of an experienced captain’s warning: The longer your boat, trailer and systems have operated reliably, the sooner you can expect a failure.
 
Fish Finder
      The yellow perch run continues, and the white perch run is starting. The most likely areas for both lie mostly on the western side of the Bay, from south to north, at Allen’s Fresh and The Cedars near the headwaters of the Wicomico; Wayson’s Corners on the upper Patuxent; Bacon Ridge Branch on the upper South River; Severn Run on the upper Severn; and Beechwood Park on the upper Magothy. Moving toward Baltimore the Belle Grove Ponds on the Patapsco and Joppatown on the upper Gunpowder are possibilities. At the top of the Bay on the upper Bush River try Gray’s Run. Across the Bay on the Eastern Shore look to the Wye Mills spillway, then to the Tuckahoe at Hillsboro and nearby onto Greensboro, Goldsboro and Red Bridges on the upper Choptank. Farther south the Blackwater River has some good spots, as does the Nanticoke.
      Crappie are starting up with the warmer weather, and we’re only three weeks from the start of rockfish season.
 
Hunting Seasons
Snow geese, thru April 15
 
Regulations: www.eregulations.com/maryland/hunting