You've drained the antifreeze, given your boat a fresh coat of wax, and checked all the belts and hoses. Mom's Mink thanks you. But don't stop with these standard-procedure spring maintenance chores-give your boat the royal warm-weather treatment, and it'll serve you better all season long.
Shape Shifter. Sure, you looked at the props to make sure they weren't dinged or damaged, but did you check for what you can't see at a glance? Subtle blade bends-which can lead to trashed bearings and lower unit seals-aren't always visible. Make sure your props are proper by holding a ruler (or other straight edge) against the bottom of the anti-ventilation plate and sliding it forward until it contacts the edge of a propeller blade. Then hold it in place as you spin the prop (by hand, of course). If any blades are bent, they'll either hit the ruler or pass too far in front of it.
Good Stunt. Bottom paint protects your hull from growth, but what about the other parts of your boat that retain water? How do you keep them free of growth? Most boaters wait until midseason before scraping away any barnacles and algae, but a little extra work now can thwart the intruders. For example, you can't put bottom paint on depthsounder transducers, but they need special protection, so apply a coat of Pettit transducer paint ($25; www.pettitpaint.com). Other items below the waterline that can be fouled-the insides of seacocks, raw-water intake grates, and so forth-should get a smear of Boat Armor Easy On Bottom Coating ($47; www.westmarine.com). It lasts only a few weeks, but this wax-like coating can be applied underwater, so you can reapply it throughout the season.
The Seal Deal. Want your T-top or Bimini to last for 10 years instead of 5? Of course you do, so treat it properly. To ward off mildew, fill a spray bottle with 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water and spritz both sides of the top. After it's had a full day to dry, give the top a healthy dose of 303 High Tech Fabric Guard or Starbrite Waterproof & Fabric Treatment ($20; www.starbrite.com). Make sure you apply two coats, spraying the first coat from side to side. After this coat has dried, spray a second coat from front to back. Both products protect and seal the fabric.
Stinger Missile. Bugs love boats, but boaters hate bugs. The worst offenders are wasps, which at this time of year, love to build nests under cockpit coaming. Here's one great way to outfox them. Hang a Waspinator fake wasp nest on your boat ($10; www.naturalinsectcontrol.com). Wasps are territorial and will think that your boat's already taken. Prefer to use a more aggressive approach? Build your own Hotel California for wasps. Cut the top off an empty two-liter soda bottle and pour in some juice or root beer. Place some raw hamburger on an inverted lid, and set it afloat on top of the liquid. Then take the top that you had removed and invert it so it makes a funnel that leads into the bottle. Tape the funnel in place. Wasps can check in any time they want, but they can never leave.
Missing Link. We know you checked your oil this spring, but as you did, we hope you used that dipstick for linkage lube. If not, check it again-and before replacing the dipstick, dab the oily end on your control cable linkages to keep them well-lubed for the rest of the season.